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Van Gogh’s cypresses in “The Starry Night” and “A Wheat Field with Cypresses”: This is the first time
since 1901 that the two iconic paintings are seen together. Van Gogh must have been
happy in southern France. But he could have been happier in La Mancha…


by Ann Fox


The Met

I was indulging my bibliomania while engaged in vinicultural pursuits, okay, so I was drinking wine and browsing Amazon books, and came upon  Sonia Castaño’s “Van Gogh in La Mancha”.  Why not La Mancha? Maybe Van Gogh’s stay at the asylum in St. Remy was fake news and he slipped over the border into Spain.  In any case, it goaded me to see the exhibit at The Met titled “Van Gogh’s Cypresses” which ends on the 27th of August.

Most of the forty paintings on display were done in southern France in the last two years of Van Gogh’s life and all were outdoor scenes. They were beautiful and uplifting – no self-portraits with a bandaged ear or lone chairs in a sparse room. What could have been a plain landscape of fields and trees became a colorful motion-filled feast for the eyes. Yellows and blues were used in abundance. The starving artist didn’t have money for canvasses and used whatever painting surface at hand. I wondered how he got money for paint? He used an extraordinary amount in each picture. In fact, some paint was so thick I wondered if it weren’t still drying…

This is the first time since 1901 that “Starry Night” and “A Wheat Field with Cypresses” have been seen together. In the former you see not just swirling stars and sky but a village with red-roofed cottages and in the latter you can almost feel the wind blowing the wheat as the distant trees stand still and tall. Van Gogh must have been happy in southern France. The paintings don’t indicate a disturbed mind, but…

La Mancha (Castilla-La Mancha)

He could have been happier in La Mancha… Think about it. Lots of plains, wheat fields, olive trees, even a cypress here and there. I’m sure the gnarly grape vines would have could his artist’s eye. It would be thrilling to see a windmill amongst all those trees.  He could have painted al aire libre with a bocadillo of queso manchego. (That French brie is hard on the liver).  And the always poor artist could have bought lots of vino campestre for the price he paid for a bottle of Bordeaux. Besides, La Mancha embraces its “off-kilter” folk.  They even immortalize them in literature. 

Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Doctor Rey,”1889: good enough only to plug a hole in the chicken coop

La Mancha, Province, the poor guy just couldn’t get a break. He painted a picture of his doctor and gave it to him in lieu of payment. The doctor hated it and used it to cover a hole in his chicken coop. He finally gave it away and it’s now in the Pushkin Museum and worth fifty million dollars.


> Featured image  (The Starry Night/Rawpixel Ltd, CC BY2.0 via Flickr.  Wheat Field/Art Gallery ErgsArt-by ErgSap’s photostream, PD via Flickr)
> Quote mark/Oakus53, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
> The Met/TomasEE, CC BY3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
> Van Gogh en La Mancha /uploaded in Casa del Libro (, Fair use
> Castilla-La Mancha/Jrodri 14, CC BY-SA4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
> Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Doctor Rey”, PD via Wikipedia (