In May 1890 Van Gogh moved from Arles in Provence to the village of Auvers-sur-Oise, north of Paris. There he lodged at the Café Ravoux and received treatment from Dr Paul-Ferdinand Gachet. Between 17 June and 27 July, Van Gogh painted thirteen double-square canvases of the gardens and fields around Auvers.
In his last letter he expressed himself 'quite absorbed in the immense plain with wheat fields against the hills, boundless as a sea, delicate yellow, delicate soft green, the delicate violet of a dug-up and weeded piece of soil'.
His treatment of the rain as diagonal strokes derives from the woodcut Bridge in the Rain by the Japanese artist Hiroshige, which the artist had copied in 1887. The atmosphere recalls one of Van Gogh's favourite poems, Longfellow's The Rainy Day 'My life is cold, and dark, and dreary; It rains, and the wind is never weary...Into each life some rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary.'
Van Gogh shot himself and died on 29 July 1890, shortly after painting this work. It was purchased by Gwendoline Davies at Paris in 1920.