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Vincent van Gogh, Long Grass with Butterflies

Key facts
Full title Long Grass with Butterflies
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Artist dates 1853 - 1890
Date made 1890
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 64.5 × 80.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, Courtauld Fund, 1926
Inventory number NG4169
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Chimei Museum, Tainan City, Taiwan
Collection Main Collection
Long Grass with Butterflies
Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh painted this patch of meadow when he was a patient at the psychiatric hospital at Saint-Paul de Mausole, near the village of St-Rémy in the south of France. While at the hospital he made a number of sketches and paintings that look down at small areas of meadow or undergrowth.

Although there is no horizon or sky, the path near the top of the picture creates an effect of depth. In contrast to the boundary formed by the path, the remaining space is open and potentially extends beyond the sides and bottom of the canvas. The grass is painted with distinct brushstrokes of varying length, laid down in clusters like the clumps they describe.

Van Gogh’s interest in depicting nature in detail may have been encouraged by what he had read about Japanese culture, and his belief that ‘the wise Japanese man...studies a single blade of grass’. But there were also important precedents in Renaissance art and in seventeenth-century Dutch painting.

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