Vincent Van Gogh lived with his parents in Nuenen from December 1883 until November 1884, where he constructed a makeshift studio in the back of the house in which to do his work. There he created some of his most remarkable paintings and sketches depicting human existence happening in daily life. After spending time catching the scenes out in the small village and surrounding countryside, he would finish bringing their essence into being in the solitude of the little room of the vicarage. ln Avenue of Poplars in Autumn, 1884, (oil on canvas on panel, 99cm x 65.7cm) a lone wanderer cloaked all in black moves through the canvas, with the face folded under the heavy garments. At first view it seems a peaceful image, reflecting a departure from the cheerful blooming of summer towards the more contemplative muted, darker hues of the quiet season of the mind. However, as one spends more time observing, subtle forebodings that parallel the reflective, golden, mood begin to creep out from the intense, heavy brushstrokes.
The sunlight casts itself in unpredictable directions-bright spots of light in contradiction with the shadows that bend and fall in crooked patterns beside the forms. The orange glow of the treetops seem to be closing out the canopy of the bright, blue sky that hovers above-a symbol perhaps, of a joyous time now past.
The tall trees lurk in rows on either side of the road, as if silent observers, as the soul makes its way across a small bridge. The long, knotted, trunks appear animate as if in motion, as the very tips, brimming with yellow leaves brush against the blue above. In the distance there is a cottage, with only one small window with shutters, the doorway hidden from view, making one wonder what is inside the closed-up house that the character is walking away from. The painting has the ability to pull the observer into the inner workings of an artist who had his own lonely strolls through a troubled, but highly perceptive mind. However, it is also a beautiful study of light and shade. The artist moves away from conventional form, and positions the hues in his own interpretation, abandoning how they would behave in true Autumn sunlight. Despite the simplicity of the landscape, the use of moving brushstrokes, dark colors in contrast with a lighter sky, and the visual personification of nature, heightens the complexity and meaning of the painting. The villager, in what would seem like an ordinary day in the glow of Autumn’s foliage, becomes restless, and transcendent despite the quietude of the manner. Created with a masterful, suffering hand, Avenue of the Poplars is a gateway into a stranger, more confounding understanding of the season of change. Through the inception of this landscape, Vincent Van Gogh gave the world a compelling new way to examine, and experience reality.
Avenue of the Poplars in Autumn
'Avenue of Poplars in Autumn' by Vincent van Gogh Nuenen, October 1884. oil on canvas on panel, 99 cm x 65.7 cm