Seeing the Forest

Van Gogh’s Cypresses was as peak-Met as we’re likely to see in our lifetime

Cypresses, which traditionally line cemeteries in Mediterranean countries, serve as a reminder of life even amid death. Van Gogh likened them to an “Egyptian obelisk.” By the time he moved to an asylum in Saint-Rémy, he had started painting the trees as pairs of dark green figures in profile reaching toward a swirling baby blue sky. Their ominous, flame- like forms dominate the frames, looming over the yellow fields and flower beds. The technique would result in Starry Night and continue to occupy the artist in his mysterious final years. All this I learned on my visit to Van Gogh’s Cypresses, as peak-Met as we’re likely to see in our lifetime. Everyone else seemed to have the same thought. A QR code posted by the entrance estimated the wait to enter the exhibition at two and a half hours. I passed the time by—what else?—roaming the Impressionist collection, where visitors swarmed around Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat.