In early June, Van Gogh takes to the fields around Arles to study the first harvest of the season. He works until the twentieth, when sudden torrential rains make both harvesting and painting impossible. His ‘campaign’ results in a series of at least five drawings and ten paintings of wavering wheat, haystacks and rows of wheat sheaves, including Wheat stacks in Provence.
Full summer sun
Van Gogh paints the work in the field, under the full summer sun, happy ‘as a cricket’ and in total concentration. Wheat stacks are an unusual motif in landscape painting in his day, but he even places them at the front of the composition. Satisfied, he tells Theo that he created the work in a single session.
Wheat fields are a comforting motif for Van Gogh: ‘Their story is ours, for we who live on bread, are we not ourselves wheat to a considerable extent, at least ought we not to submit to growing, powerless to move, like a plant, relative to what our imagination sometimes desires, and to be reaped when we are ripe’.