Justin K Thannhauser Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum/Photo by David Heald

“The Mountains of St. Rémy,” by Van Gogh. Shortly after cutting off part of his own ear, Van Gogh voluntarily admitted himself to the asylum of St. Paul de Mausole in St. Rémy. This marked the end of his quarrelsome few months living with Gauguin in Arles in 1888.

The churning mountains in this painting, bathed in yellow sunlight, symbolic of a divine, comforting presence, gently encompass the dark hut below. The golden sunflowers, a familiar motif in Van Gogh’s golden sunflowers, a familiar motif in Van Gogh’s work, reflect the radiance of the mountains.

Surrounding the peasant hut, the olive trees recall Christ in the olive grove of the Garden of Gethsemane. The olive trees, a motif featured in more than 20 of Van Gogh’s St. Rémy paintings, like the sunflowers, represent a divine, consoling presence. As with the “Pietà,” this work reveals Van Gogh’s overwhelming concern with healing and regeneration.

Van Gogh failed to recover at St. Rémy. His epileptic seizures occurred more frequently and more severely. Despairing of his ill-health, Van Gogh shot himself on July 27, 1890, and died two days later.