Vincent van Gogh – Die in the Summertime

29 Jul

“Every time I stare into the sun
Trying to find a reason to go on
All I ever get is burned and blind…”

(Chris Cornell, Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart)

Vincent van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows, July 1890

Exhausting heat of summerr day. Golden wheat against the electric blue sky. A crooked, brown path through the wheat that leads to nowhere. Crows flying aimlessy, low above the wheat field – without direction, without control. Their hoarse cawing disturbs the otherwise heavy silence in the field. No trace of wind. The sky is turning a darker shade of blue with each passing moment. This is not the tender, soft baby blue sky from a Monet painting. This is not a tame wheatfield. These wild, energetic, passionate brushstrokes are not for the faint of heart. Thick, quick, short strokes are a work of an artistic maniac who is led by emotions that arose from a soul as troubled and dark and deep as a waterwell. Dark clouds are pressing down down to the ground and it all feels dense and claustrophobic.

This very dramatic painting was painted on the 10th July 1890, and is, unfortunately, not the last painting Vincent van Gogh painted, although it is one of his best and one of his most emotionally raw. Vincent died on the 29th July 1890 and there is a tendency to see this painting as Vincent’s suicide note because of the obvious ominous, disturbed mood, and while I agree with that I think it also shows the very thing that Vincent strove to capture on his painting; all the life, energy and vibrancy that was inside him, despite the depression, in his own words: “What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart. (…) Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners…”

This brooding wheatfield was a visual expression of a huge stream of feelings swelling up inside the artist; the feeling of enormous, incurable loneliness and immense sadness. It might be unusual to use yellow to portray sadness, but this is not the cheerful, harmless yellow we might find in a painting by Fragonard. The ripeness of the field may also symbolise the ripeness of the artist’s life and after ripeness comes either death or decay. The crows add to the ominous feeling of dread and the arrival of death, or the end. As is typical for the paintings he made in the summer of 1890, he used a double-canvas and this horizontally elongated canvas helps in creating the dramatic mood because the sky is pressing down to the field whereas in a vertically elongated painting the sky would have much more space to breathe and shine. It is also important to note that the unusual long form of a painting was typical for the Japanese Ukiyo-e prints which Vincent loved, admired and took inspiration from. This form was just one of the many ways in which he experimented with his art and used the Japanese influence. The final days of Vincent’s life were days of extreme sadness and extreme creativity and this painting, although not his last one, is the explosion of this creativity.

The title of the post comes from the Manic Street Preachers’ song “Die in the Summertime” from their third album “The Holy Bible” (1994):

“Scratch my leg with a rusty nail, sadly it heals
Colour my hair but the dye grows out
I can’t seem to stay a fixed ideal
Childhood pictures redeem, clean and so serene
See myself without ruining lines
Whole days throwing sticks into streams
I have crawled so far sideways
I recognise dim traces of creation
I want to die, die in the summertime, I want to die”

12 Responses to “Vincent van Gogh – Die in the Summertime”

  1. Upside-down Land 30th Jul 2021 at 12:41 pm #

    Thanks for your writing and the detailed images from this painting. It is my favorite Van Gogh.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So Sweetly She Sings 30th Jul 2021 at 1:50 pm #

    Ah, van Gogh. Sometimes I can’t stand his paintings but then other times I absolutely love them! I guess it just depends on my mood. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lautreamont 31st Jul 2021 at 6:49 pm #

    Good post.But how many people if they saw that picture slung in a skip with no frame would drag it out and take it home or even give it a second look.l call it “the skip test”. It always comes to mind when I’m looking at pictures. An art dealer of my acquaintance once pulled a Burne Jones out of a skip .I used to buy Surrealist stuff when I was young.My best hit was a Roberto Matta-got it for £150. My worst hit was when the boat in Paris sank along with a couple of small Odile Redon drawings! Not so cool eh?Not bad your Richie Manic verse. BTW I do like Cornfield with Crows.Best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 31st Jul 2021 at 10:57 pm #

      Hmm I know what you mean, there are paintings I wouldn’t glance at twice, but this one is something special for me, I even made a pastel copy of it years ago, on a stormy summer afternoon. I guess I go by judging art from the heart and not from the name of the artist. Willem de Kooning for example, not impressed, and all that modern banana-on-the-wall style of shit-art, I don’t care for it either, not art for me. I feel like a lot of modern art is the emperor’s new clothes type of situation; it’s only great if we are all collectively in denial and pretend it is , but I am a type of person who has to point out the elephant in the room (truth is dearer to me than wine), so I could never play the art game and say pretentious things whilst sipping my champagne… Oh no, poor Odilon Redon drawings! So sad.


  4. Lautreamont 1st Aug 2021 at 12:42 pm #

    Ha ha, Glad to hear your opinions about de Kooning et al -I fully concur.That Richie Manic though is way better! That song 4stone 7 song! I gave it a second listen,some of the lines in it are superb- she hasn’t yet reached her ideal weight,the dad’s comments,and the mocking of her carers for being too fat! Brilliant stuff.I must listen to more of the Bible album.Best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 1st Aug 2021 at 2:09 pm #

      Also from 4 st 7lbs “I want to walk in the snow and not leave a footprint…”


      • Lautreamont 1st Aug 2021 at 4:41 pm #

        Yeah, it’s a good image.I never paid much attention to them when he was still in that band,just a cursory listen to couple of their songs -just sounded like the Clash with agitprop lyrics. Prolly missed something- mea culpa. Then I heard Motorcycle Emptiness and again it sounded cliched “life’s a slow suicide “ and literary references left me cold .Then those last two lines hit and it was “woah, this is good,this is great stuff! A lot of my music friends kept telling me to listen to “Holy Bible” but I didn’t until you kept mentioning them. Even now I’ve only listened to 4 st and another one where he seems to be advocating savage death for assorted mass murders! I like that one too! I will persevere and get back to you! In your new post you mention Layne Stanley,Alice in Chains,and a few more American Heroin bands- some of its ok,but I reckon with Ian Curtis and Richie,we win hands down.”Someone take these dreams away”Best

        Liked by 1 person

        • Byron's Muse 1st Aug 2021 at 10:56 pm #

          Holy Bible is their most accomplished album, and the last with Richey. After that they have good stuff but it’s like the spark is gone in a way. Sometimes we don’t see the beauty the first time we listen to something, like when I first heard The Stone Roses song I didn’t like it, and just like a year later I was like: wow, amazing! Yeah, Syd, Richey and Ian Curtis are my musical holy trinity.


          • Lautreamont 2nd Aug 2021 at 3:14 pm #

            Great! Kind of an Unholy Trinity! Having said that,I’ve met the Holy Ghost a couple of times – a brutally nasty experience! I’ve heard bits of The Stone Roses. “ She Bangs the Drums” is great the rest doesn’t move me much. This site is strange; I just remembered – many years ago I bought a guitar amp from a guy in a studio near Islington.We were talking about bands we liked and he told me he played guitar in a band.I asked him the name “The Manic Street Preachers” he replied. I’d never heard of them. I remember driving home and thinking what a strange name for a band. This place brings back memories! Best.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Byron's Muse 2nd Aug 2021 at 11:23 pm #

              Yeah, an Unholy Trinity haha. Don’t tell me that James Dean Bradfield sold you the amp!? Cause he is the guitarist. What a cool coincidence.


  5. Lautreamont 3rd Aug 2021 at 12:53 pm #

    Ha ha.Sorry I don’t know which one it was- this was maybe 30 years ago,but I’ll say it was Riche if it makes you happy! I’ve always played guitar,and back then I used to buy and play vintage guitars and amps.we were gigging all around the London indie clubs and a lot of bands would sell me stuff,and we’d swap stuff too.Jesus! I just remembered a Stone Roses thing too. I’d better stop right now,fore I start egregious name dropping.I very much enjoy your posts on this site btw.Best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 3rd Aug 2021 at 2:29 pm #

      I will happily imagine it was Richey! Thank you for adding fuel on the bonfire of my fantasies haha


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