Every artist explores dimensions of space and place, orienting themselves and their works in the world, and orienting their viewers. Then there are artists like Vincent van Gogh, who make space and place a primary subject. In his early paintings of peasant homes and fields, his figures’ muscular shoulders and hands interact with solid walls and knotted trees. Later country scenes—whether curling and delicate, like Wheatfield with a Reaper, or heavy and ominous, like Wheatfield with Crows (both below)—give us the sense of the landscape as a single living entity, pulsating, writhing, blazing in brilliant yellows, reds, greens, and blues.
Van Gogh painted interior scenes, such as his famous The Bedroom, at the top (the first of three versions), with an eye toward using color as the means of making space purposeful: “It’s just simply my bedroom,” he wrote to Paul Gauguin of the 1888 painting, “only here color is to do everything… to be suggestive here of rest or of sleep in general. In a word, looking at the picture ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination.”