Vincent Van Gogh Road with Cypress and Star
Road with Cypress and Star, painted by Vincent Van Gogh between 12-15 May, 1890 was the last painting made during his stay in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Having arrived in Arles in early 1888 full of optimism and determined to create his finest work, Van Gogh had spent the following years sliding further into a deep depression. Having arrived in Arles with his skills finely tuned and his own unique way of seeing the world established, the artist committed himself to the Saint Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence following the catastrophic incident with his fellow painter Paul Gauguin that had ended with Van Gogh slicing off his own ear as penance. He had hoped to establish with Gauguin an artistic collaboration to search out and discover a new form of painting, a new means of expression. Yet rather than signalling a decline in the quality of his work, his rapid mental and physical deterioration seemed to produce visions of stunning breadth and scope. Studying contemporary lithographs, Japanese wood-block prints, and remembering the works of his much loved masters Rembrandt, Delacroix, Daumier and Millet, Van Gogh committed himself entirely to painting the turbulent landscapes within the confines of the Asylum.
In Saint-Remy his paintings were characterized by a sudden insurgence of bold colours and dynamic brushstrokes. In Road with Cypress and Star, the intense contrast of the colour scheme is offset by the dynamic and monolithic figure of the Cypress tree. Frequently writing to his beloved brother Theo, Van Gogh repeatedly mentioned his love of the cypress trees that were to be found littering the Saint-Remy countryside. He compared them to Egyptian obelisks, rising from the landscape like ominous harbingers of time passing by. Having begun the work in Saint-Remy and finishing it on the next and final leg of his life’s journey, Auvers-sur-Oise, Road with Cypress and Star is a poignant reminder of the artist's almost inexhaustible ability to find consolation in his work. Although pervaded by a sense of the imminence of death, the pair of travellers walking towards the artist from the winding path recover a sense of solace in the joys of human companionship. Yet the dominant theme of his remarkable canvas is the sentience of the natural world; the vortex-like sky seems to throb and hum, ushering in the fall of night. Van Gogh placed his hope in the condolences of the landscape that surrounded him, and reflected his trust in works of such stunning scope as Road with Cypress and Star.
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