The nearly two years spent in Nuenen, in the southern Netherlands, were very productive in van Gogh’s early artistic career. The present work was painted in 1885, at the very end of this period, just before his departure for Antwerp; his celebrated masterpiece De Aardappeleters (The Potato Eaters), now in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, was painted at this same time. In March of 1885, van Gogh’s father, the Reverend Theodorus van Gogh, collapsed on the threshold of the family home, where the artist still lived. The experience was profoundly influential on this transitional period in van Gogh’s oeuvre. By May, following his father’s death, the artist left the parsonage and rented a small studio and sleeping quarters on his own in town.
“I have lately been making some studies of the fall landscape outdoors,” wrote van Gogh in October of 1885 (quoted in Jan Hulsker, op. cit., p. 208). The works created in October and November of this year, the present painting included, are all the more poignant and emotive when considered in context of the changes the artist experienced during this year, and the looser application of paint that defines the foliage prefigures the more fiercely dramatic brushwork so characteristic of his later pictures.