Trees and shrubs in the asylum garden, 1889

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Brush in thinned oils and ink (now brown), black chalk on wove paper, 47 x 62 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
    (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)
  • F 1533

During the initial period of Van Gogh’s voluntary committal at the asylum in Saint-Rémy the artist was not allowed to leave the grounds of the institution. His doctor first wanted to obtain a good picture of his new patient’s illness. So Van Gogh’s immediate surroundings, the neglected garden of the asylum, became his new source of inspiration. This work is one of the seven brush drawings in which the artist represented the garden in late May and early June 1889. He depicted the foliage with a sure hand in rapid, rhythmical brush strokes. In the background is a sketchy figure.

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It was previously thought that Van Gogh painted these seven views of the garden in watercolour. However, recent research has shown that Van Gogh actually used heavily thinned oils. The artist probably had no canvas and just enough remnants of oil paint to produce these ‘paintings on paper’. As well as oils the artist also used one or more coloured inks, which have unfortunately lost their colour and turned brown.

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