This painting depicting a reaper in a sun-drenched wheatfield was painted in Saint-Rémy, a small village near Arles. In the wake of several mental crises, Van Gogh had decided to commit himself to the hospital there at the end of April 1889.
In September 1889, Van Gogh wrote about the meaning of this painting, referring to the well-known biblical metaphor: "A reaper, the study is all yellow, terribly thickly impasted, but the subject was beautiful and simple. I then saw in this reaper – a vague figure struggling like a devil in the full heat of the day to reach the end of his toil – I then saw the image of death in it, in this sense that humanity would be the wheat being reaped. (...) But in this death nothing sad, it takes place in broad daylight with a sun that floods everything with a light of fine gold."