The painting was made during July-August 1885 in the rural area of Nuenen in the Netherlands where he spent his last summer, before his move to the south of France to start a new chapter in his life. Wheat as a symbol of the cycles of life played a very important role in Van Gogh’s life and he would paint several paintings with wheat as the subject that would reflect different cycles from sowing, growing, reaping, to the harvesting of the wheat. Van Gogh regarded these cycles as metaphors for the different cycles of life that humans would experience. Van Gogh expressed his connection to nature and the appreciation of the work being done by the rural labourers in these paintings and drawings.
The painting is important for many reasons which include the following:
Van Gogh had a peculiar bond with wheat and manual labourers in the fields that were reflected in his paintings and sketches, of which he painted dozens with wheat as the subject. In this painting, which is the first with wheat as subject Van Gogh breaks away from the grey and dark colours previously used by him to portray scenes like the Potato Eaters, and it can be viewed as a turning point for the artist in his quest to free himself of the grey colours of his life and work, to develop into an artist who uses colour and light more imaginative. This was painted before his move to France where he would depict more scenes with wheat as the subject but this time using more colour, light, and shadow when painting.
The painting is in that sense the turning point between van Gogh’s previous work and the more colourful and imaginative art that he produced in France. The painting is an excellent example of this dedication to painting outside in the fields where he could reflect the natural light much better than inside a studio. Vincent van Gogh used his mastery of brushstrokes and natural light, to paint the ripe wheat stalks tied in the bulging sheaves and the short stubble left in the field after the reaping, by the workers. The painting is dominated by the stacked sheaves while in the background the field extends to what seems to be some buildings and trees. Van Gogh used natural yellow, brown, green and pale blue colours in different shades to paint the scene. This painting showed his dedication to painting in the outdoors where he could reflect the natural light. Vincent van Gogh used oil on canvas to paint the painting in the realism style with its dimensions of 40 x 30 cm. The painting is currently housed in the Kröller- Müller Museum, Otterlo in the Netherlands.