The depiction of seasonal farm labour is the essence of modern art for Van Gogh. In July and August 1885, he documents the wheat harvest: the reaping, binding the sheaves, the gleaning and haymaking. Later in Arles and Saint-Rémy, the golden yellow wheat continues to inspire him; he paints dozens of works on the theme of wheat fields or sheaves.
Sheaves of wheat occupies a special place in the oeuvre of Van Gogh due to the striking composition: an emphatically central ‘solitary’ bundle of sheaves. In other works that depict sheaves of wheat, they stand in a row or even several rows of sheaves, often accompanied by a figure binding the sheaves.
Texture and brushwork
In this painted study, Van Gogh seems to focus on practicing texture and brushwork. He depicts the mown wheat field in the foreground with sturdy brushstrokes, while the thin stalks of the bundled wheat sheaves, which are placed in the centre of the picture, are painted very finely with a thin brush. In the background, the wheat is still waiting to be harvested.