Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type





Susan Libby


I attempt to show how Vincent Van Gogh turned to nature as a tool for him to both understand religion and portray it through his paintings. Finding commonalities between a version of Calvinism that saw God's hand in the smallest piece of the natural world and secular inspiration such as Transcendentalism, Vincent expressed his beliefs in his paintings of nature, in particular the Wheat Field series of paintings and his pictures featuring cypress trees created toward the end of his life. While distancing himself from the traditional ministry of Christianity, Van Gogh used depictions of nature in his art to satisfy his need for spirituality at the end of his life. Vincent found religious success in using his art as a form of preaching, creating sermons full of religious symbols through each of his paintings. Through the selection of paintings with explicit references to Christianity, as well as the concrete symbols of wheat fields, cypress trees, and sowers, I will explore Vincent’s journey as a visual preacher. This thesis will contribute to scholarship on Vincent by furthering connections between his religious beliefs, specifically his family’s Dutch form of Calvinism, and his art, helping to complete the picture of Vincent Van Gogh as an artist.