The web offer plenty of information on “Wheatfield with Crows,” and here’s a link to Britannica article on Vincent van Gogh. I’d like to discuss some of my thoughts on this painting, which hangs in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam — and which I had the privilege of seeing while visiting this great European city.
Trying to find a new angle to look at the crows, I kept asking myself simple questions: why are the birds there? What are they doing above the wheat field (besides flying)? Why are they so many?
First, it may be that the artist himself scared the crows, which might have been feeding on the crops. Of course, it is difficult to guess whether this scene is indeed a reflection of what actually happened, or more of an artificial construct, with the crows, added later. If it was the painter who scared the crows, then he is the scarecrow, a comparison which brings along many sarcastic and ironic meanings, that somehow connect with the man’s life story.
Second, when we hear one or two crows croaking, we can tell that they are few but, when there are three or four , or more, it becomes impossible to discern the voices and make out the number. So, five crows will sound just the same as a twenty birds strong flock would. If seeing can be interchanged with hearing, then seeing five birds would render the same effect as seeing twenty. Hence, it is possible to assume that the number of birds on this painting is more of a guide than an accurate rendering.
The three paths at the foreground form a bird: the middle path shapes the head and the body, the other two are the wings. Taking into account the crows, the allegorical implications of this patterns are infinite, and can also correlate to Van Gogh’s emotional and psychological state.
Moreover, the paths divide the painting into harmonious segments, a two (field patches) by three (paths) rhythm . This dissection, two thirds, appears again in color distribution: the ominous blue fills one third of the canvas, the warm yellow and green two thirds. This recurrence contributes to harmony, and unity.
From my purely subjective point of view, the painting instills a sense of harmony and inner calm despite strong color contrasts. If I were to guess on what was the emotional state of the artist while working on this canvas, I would bring up acceptance and resignation besides emotional torment and turmoil, with the former taking the upper hand. Paradoxically, this is a serene painting, where compositional and rhythmic effects contribute to the sense of peace no less than light and color itself.
*this article has been edited at a later date