Wheatfield with Crows, 1890 by Vincent Van Gogh

Wheatfield with Crows is believed to be the last work of Van Gogh. Writing of this picture shortly before his suicide, Van Gogh conveyed something of its tragic mood."Returning there, I set to work. The brush almost fell from my hands...I had no difficulty in expressing sadness and extreme solitude".

The singular format of the canvas is matched by the vista itself, a field opening out from the foreground by way of three diverging paths. It creates a disquieting situation for the spectator, who is held in doubt before the great horizon and cannot, moreover, reach it on any of the roads before him; these end blindly in the field or run out of the picture. The familiar perspective network of the open field is now inverted; the lines converge toward the foreground from the horizon, as if space had suddenly lost its focus and all things turned aggressively upon the beholder. The blue sky and the yellow fields pull away from each other with disturbing violence; across their boundry, a flock of black crows advances toward the unsteady foreground.

And here in this pathetic disarray, we discover a powerful counteraction of the artist. In contrast to the turbulence of the brushwork, the whole space is of a primordial breadth and simplicity. The colors in their frequency have been matched inversely to the largeness and stability of their areas. The artist seems to count: one is the unique blue of the sky - unity, breadth, the ultimate resolution; two is the complementary yellow of the divided, unstable masses of growing wheat; three is the red of the diverging roads that lead nowhere; four is the complementary green of the untrodden grass of these roads; and as then n of the series there is the endless progression of the zigzag crows, the figures of fated that come from the far horizon.

As a man in distress counts and enumerates to hold on things securely or to fight a compulsion, Van Gogh in his extremity of anguish creates an arithmetical order to resist disintegration. He makes an intense effort to control, to organize. Elemental contrasts become the essential appearances; and in this simple order, the separated parts are united by echoes of color, without changing the larger forces of the whole. Two green clouds are reflections, however dimmed, of the green of the roads. And in the blue of the sky is a vague pulsation of dark and light that resumes the great unrest of the ground below.