Into the Wood – Van Gogh’s last painting?

This week I uploaded this painting as my contribution to the Dutch Vincent Van Gogh contest which is organized by AVROTROS Kunst in The Netherlands because Vincent died 125 years ago.


As you can see I was inspired by below work of Van Gogh which he painted in july 1890, 1 month before his suicide death, my painting has the same size and format.


Undergrowth with Two Figures, June 1890. Vincent Willem van Gogh, Dutch, 1853 – 1890 Oil on canvas, 19 1/2 x 39 1/4 inches (49.5 x 99.7 cm), Cincinnati Art Museum

When he painted this he was living at Auvers-sur-Oise, not far from Paris and this painting is dated June or July 1990, at that time Van Gogh was very productive, the exact date of all of his work is not known. He often painted couples strolling arm-in-arm down wooded paths, but there is something strange in this painting ‘ Undergrowth with Two Figures’ which presents a pair walking through the wood,  there is no path in sight and the man and woman are dressed in funeral black and gray in the dark forest. The painting has a lonely and depressive style in line with one of the last letters he wrote to his brother Theo, “I feel…a failure. That’s it as far as I’m concerned…I feel that this is the destiny that I accept, that will never change”. Was Van Gogh while paiting this work visualizing his funeral soon to happen?

When I had chosen to repaint this painting I was not aware of the story behind it, why had I chosen this painting? Was it Van Goghs’s last painting? And why did I think this was one of Van Gogh’s early paintings? Also, why did I leave the couple out while painting this? Who is the couple painted? His brother Theo and wife Johanna maybe? They just had their first child and supported him financial for a long time, he just visited them in Paris and Theo had told him they had now financial problems themselves. Or are these his parents? Or is this the couple he always wanted to be part of? And why did Van Gogh paint a lot of small unrecognisable people on his paintings? What are you painting when everything goes wrong in your life and you want to step out?

Question still open, maybe I should follow Van Goghs trail back in time to get some answers…

October 2017: Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, The Netherlands

Visited the Voorlinden museum today and saw this painting from Anselm Kiefer – Karfunkelfee 2009 – and recognised the Van Gogh trees in the background. Karfunkelfee stands for both good and bad and I think both van Gogh and Anselm Kiefer want to express the same emotion in these paintings: when everything goes wrong you can withdraw yourself from society into the wood and be confronted with your inner self.

Investigating this further, I was not surprised to find this painting from Anselm Kiefer – Mann im Wald 1971 – on the internet, Kiefer made more paintings with the same background, must have been inspired by van Gogh..


About Gerard Geerlings

Gerard Geerlings, socioloog en schrijver, schrijft online over wat er zoal aan de hand is op het terrein van de digitale samenleving, de troost van kunst, praktische levenskunst en de actuele politiek.
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