From Sotheby's: Fine Art Auctions
Van Gogh's dramatically atmospheric Paysage sous un ciel mouvementé is one of the finest of the artist's Arles landscapes. Painted amidst the most fruitful period of the artist's career, when his canvases were flooded with rich passages of densely-painted color, the composition depicts a verdant field under threat of an explosive rainstorm. Van Gogh creates a scene of intense anticipation here, replete with psychological drama as the laborers hurry to finish their work before the heavens rain down upon them. This painting was completed only two months before Van Gogh executed what is arguably his most celebrated work, The Starry Night, now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Paysage sous un ciel mouvementé can be considered the thundering precursor to the MoMA picture and the first act of Van Gogh's grand celestial exploration. Both of these paintings celebrate the majestic beauty of nature and the uncontrollable and often turbulent forces that shaped Van Gogh's world.
In his analysis of Paysage sous un ciel mouvementé, Sjraar van Heugten discusses the events that led to Van Gogh's completion of this important painting in April of 1889:
"This Provençal landscape of a meadow in Spring is among the last paintings which Van Gogh made in the countryside near Arles. Known by the title, Paysage sous un ciel mouvementé, as well as Meadows, it was painted in the first half of April 1889, just a few weeks before Van Gogh would leave Arles and admit himself to the asylum of Saint-Paul-de Mausole in Saint-Remy.
During his Dutch years (1881-1885), Van Gogh’s main goal had been becoming a painter of the human figure, following in the footsteps of painters like Jean-François Millet, Jules Breton and Joseph Israëls. But even in that period, his landscape paintings and drawings show his unusual talent for that genre. In the South of France, where he found an abundance of motives in nature, this capacity would lead to an astonishing number of masterpieces.
To Anthon van Rappard. Nuenen, between about Tuesday, 21 and Friday, 24 July 1885.
My dear friend Rappard,
To my regret I’ve still not had your reply as of today. The more I think about it, the more I, for my part, really do not mind cutting off relations unless you take back once and for all a communication which — in my view — does you no credit. However, I say once more that I’m willing to regard the whole question as a misunderstanding and change nothing in the friendship.
But expressly on condition that you yourself realize — that you’ve made a mistake. Since on no account do I want to keep it dragging on, I ask you to answer me this week. And then, according to your letter, will know what to decide.
Should you not write this week — then I will no longer desire your answer. And time will just have to tell whether your comments on my work and on my person will prove to be justified or not — in good faith or not.