The olive tree is fundamental to Southern French landscapes, just like the pollard willow in the Netherlands. Van Gogh enjoyed painting what he saw around him. This exhibition reveals how Vincent’s choices and extraordinary skill resulted in 15 variations on this one subject.
The ambiance of the South
Vincent was fascinated by the ever-changing ambiance and colours of the trees in the Southern French landscape, which he tried to capture as expressively and powerfully as possible in his paintings. The exhibition Van Gogh and the Olive Groves explores the significance of olive trees to Van Gogh, and his ambitions when painting this series.
The murmur of an olive grove has something very intimate, immensely old about it’. (To Theo from Arles, April 1889)
Technique, colour and composition
The exhibition also reveals how Van Gogh experimented with different techniques, colours and compositions. He used swirling and rhythmic brushstrokes, bold contours, stylised forms and carefully-considered colour combinations. In his own words:
‘The olive trees are very characteristic, and I’m struggling to capture that. It’s silver, sometimes more blue, sometimes greenish, bronzed, whitening on ground that is yellow, pink, purplish or orangeish to dull red ochre’. (To Theo from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, September 1889).
Painting at the asylum
Vincent van Gogh spent a year at the asylum in Saint-Rémy, in the South of France. Despite his instable mental health, he was very productive during his time there. He made a total of 15 paintings of olive groves. Three of these works are now in the Van Gogh Museum collection, and the rest are spread around Europe and America. This is the first time that this group of paintings is being reunited and exhibited together.
The result of years of research
The exhibition is the result of years of research into Van Gogh’s olive groves. This research was conducted in collaboration with our colleagues at The Dallas Museum of Art and the other museums that are now home to the paintings. Before the exhibition opens in Amsterdam, it will first be on display in Dallas (US) this autumn.