Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Nuenen, May-June 1885
oil on canvas,
65 cm x 80 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
Van Gogh lived near this ruined church tower in Nuenen, in the Dutch province of North Brabant. The tower had remained standing when the church collapsed a century earlier, but at the time of this painting it was being demolished. The steeple is already gone.
In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent explained what he wanted this painting to express. He saw the dilapidated church tower as a symbol of the ephemeral nature of religion. In his eyes, it formed a stark contrast with the country graveyard next to it. There, farmers lay buried in the same soil they once had tilled. This showed that their lives were rooted in the eternal truths of death and rebirth.