Quinces, Lemons, Pears and Grapes, 1887

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Canvas, 48.5 X 65 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
    (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)
  • F 383

Van Gogh painted this exceptional still life with fruit in 1887. He was not so much interested in depicting the fruit itself as in making a color study; specifically, of the color yellow. The composition is built up in related tones of ocher, yellow and brown, complemented with a little pink, red, green and a bit of blue. The frame, too, is painted in yellow and ocher. Van Gogh dedicated this bright, Impressionist work to his brother Theo, who was responsible for his introduction to modern art.

Painted Frames

The frame, however, was not always completely yellow. At first, the inner perimeter was red. Only later did Van Gogh decide to make the frame a part of his “harmony in yellow.” This is the only one of Van Gogh’s painted frames to have survived. In accordance with changing taste all the others have, unfortunately, been replaced.

Painted frames were popular with the Pointillists in this period; with painters like Paul Signac and Georges Seurat, whom Van Gogh greatly admired.

More information about "Quinces, Lemons, Pears and Grapes"

Balls of Wool

Van Gogh devised a simple aid to help him with his color studies: a box containing balls of wool. This box – which has survived and is now in the Van Gogh Museum – contains balls of wool made up of strands of different colors or of several shades of the same color. The painter either held them next to each another or wound the strands of different colors together in order to study the effect of various combinations.

Some of these balls of wool appear to have been used for a specific painting; one of them even has the same combination of yellows and ochers found in the Still Life with Pears and Lemons.

Still Lifes as Color Studies

During his Paris period, Van Gogh painted a number of still lifes. Based on scientific theories of color, they were designed to help him understand the effects of various color combinations. He experimented with contrasting pairs of colors, such as blue and orange, red and green, or yellow and purple. He first painted a series of flower still lifes in which the subdued tones are increasingly replaced by bright, unmixed colors. He then turned his attention to various other subjects – books, fruit, plants, shellfish, glass – all captured on canvas in brilliant color and with a loose brushstroke.

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