Christmas came early at the National Gallery of Art, which has just received Vincent van Gogh’s “Green Wheat Fields, Auvers” from the estate of museum benefactor Paul Mellon. The painting will go on display Friday in the Gallery’s West Building and will hang between two other works by van Gogh: the still life “Roses” and the portrait “La Mousmé.” “Green Wheat Fields, Auvers,” which depicts the French countryside, was painted months before the artist’s death in 1890. It is the ninth van Gogh painting to enter the National Gallery’s collection.
The story behind the work adds to its power. During the spring of 1890, van Gogh painted many “pure landscapes” following his voluntary confinement in an asylum. Mary Morton, curator of French paintings at the museum, says the tranquility of “Green Wheat Fields, Auvers” runs counter to the narrative of a tormented van Gogh, whose lifelong struggle with mental illness ended in suicide. Unlike his haunting “Wheat Field With Crows,” which some scholars say is van Gogh’s last work, many works in the “Auvers” period depict calm landscapes, a respite from his torment.