Artistul lunii aprilie - Vincent van Gogh
Almond Blossoms is a group of several paintings made in 1888 and 1890 by Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Saint-Rémy, southern France of blossoming almond trees. Flowering trees were special to van Gogh. They represented awakening and hope. He enjoyed them aesthetically and found joy in painting flowering trees. The works reflect the influence of Impressionism, Divisionism, and Japanese woodcuts. Almond Blossom was made to celebrate the birth of his nephew and namesake, son of his brother Theo and sister-in-law Jo.
In 1888 van Gogh became inspired in southern France and began the most productive period of his painting career. In connection with his painting Farmhouse in Provence (1888), the National Gallery of Art notes that:
It was sun that van Gogh sought in Provence, a brilliance and light that would wash out detail and simplify forms, reducing the world around him to the sort of pattern he admired in Japanese woodblocks. Arles, he said, was "the Japan of the South." Here, he felt, the flattening effect of the sun would strengthen the outlines of compositions and reduce nuances of color to a few vivid contrasts. Pairs of complements—the red and green of the plants, the woven highlights of oranges and blue in the fence, even the pink clouds that enliven the turquoise sky — almost vibrate against each other.
1. Van Gogh painted one of his favorite subjects
Vincent loved nature. Blossoming trees, like in the painting Almond Blossom, were one of his favorite subjects to paint. He painted a number of variations on the theme: ranging from a small flowering sprig in a glass to lavishly blossoming trees.
Almond trees flower early in spring. The tree, therefore, marks the arrival of spring and the start of new life. And that was very appropriate in this case, as Vincent didn't paint this work for just any old reason.
2. Van Gogh made this painting as a gift
The painting was a gift for Vincent's newborn nephew. The boy was born on 31 January 1890, and Theo and his wife Jo named him Vincent, after his uncle. Van Gogh was delighted to hear the news: 'It does me, too, better and gives me more pleasure than I could express in words'.
He started work on this painting straight away. He painted the blue sky very precisely around the branches. If you look closely, you can see how many different shades of blue he used, just like in a real-life sky.
3. The painting is one of the Van Gogh family's most cherished
The painting became a treasured possession as soon as Vincent presented it to Theo and Jo as a gift. At first, it hung prominently above the piano in Theo and Jo's living room. Later, once Jo had moved to Bussum following Theo's death, the work hung in her and her son Vincent's bedroom.
Following the death of Vincent and Theo, all of Vincent's paintings passed into Jo's hands. She sold a number of works during her lifetime, but Almond Blossom was so precious to Jo and her son that it was never to be sold. And that's why to this very day, it is on display at the Van Gogh Museum.
4. Van Gogh made this painting during a special period in his life
For Van Gogh, painting Almond Blossom signified a new start. At the time, he had already been at an asylum in Saint-Rémy for almost ten months. Due to an attack of his illness, Vincent had not worked for weeks. He was now allowed back outside to paint, surrounded by nature.
Vincent worked hard, but that cost him dearly. Once he had completed the painting at the end of February, he had an attack that lasted for two months; his longest-ever crisis. Once he had recovered, a new disappointment awaited: Vincent had missed his beloved flowering season.
'If I'd been able to continue working, […] I would have done others of the trees in blossom. Now the trees in blossom are almost finished, […] I have no luck'.
5. For the painting, Van Gogh was inspired by Japanese prints
Vincent chose an unusual perspective for Almond Blossom. He painted the branches from below and very close up. It is as if you are lying on your back on the grass, looking up at the branches above you, so that you can no longer see the entire tree. Vincent had seen this approach in Japanese printmaking and was inspired by it. These prints often zoom in on details from nature, and the image was sometimes cropped.
The subject itself also feels very Japanese, as blossom played a significant role in Japanese printmaking. Watch the video to see what else Van Gogh learned from Japanese prints.