My eyes opened as the first blush of the sun rose in the valley of beautiful surroundings, where birds were only passing by to wake me and remind me not to miss anything from my last camping trip. It is late winter, and everything I see has worn a foggy layer of atmosphere in a lately gorgeous way. At that moment, I asked God not to give me the kingdoms of heaven if this beauty could be found in hell. To me, beauty has always been absorbed through my eyes and mind as if I were consuming it with such devotion rather than depending on a camera. And so, when I kept my foot on the lush grass, which also tingled me, I began following my instinct to discover something new. To find one more moment of peace, as if I still craved to enjoy the affectionate lap of my beautiful mother nature, I always considered getting lost in the woods, but I always backed it up with the thought that what if I did find something I could never forget? A similar thought occurred to me: what if nature were simply acting as a femme fatale? However, I was again backed up by another statement that if destruction is so beautiful, who would want to live longer? And so, carried by these double-sided words, I continued walking for a few more miles, and I saw something amusing that I swear I have never seen in my life. They were beautiful white almond blossoms on the thin branches of a long tree. At that particular time, I was driven by its highly aromatic fragrance and its unconditional beauty, which led me to forget every single worry and thought of my life. There was absolute peace! As I stared at them through my closed eyes, I instantly got hit by my stupid alarm, breaking away from my most aspiring dream. But I was sure that one day I would experience every detail of my dream. However, today, as we spoke of almond blossoms, I would like to introduce their beauty through one of the spectacular paintings of Vincent. Taking a closer look at Vincent’s eyes and heart, let’s see what Almond Blossoms mean to him.
General Information About the Artwork.
1. Artist Statement.
“What I’d like to advise now is the following: Don’t let the time slip by Let me work as much as is in any way possible and keep all the studies from now on yourself. I would rather not sign any of them yet, though, because I wouldn’t like to have them circulating like paintings so that one would have to buy them back later should one make something of a name.”Vincent Van Gogh, in letter #492 to Theo
2. Subject Matter.
The painting of almond blossoms was Vincent’s first attempt at depicting the motif of fruit trees in bloom. In Arles, two years earlier, Vincent had chosen this very motif for his first studies of the spring season. The Almond Blossom painting has subject matter as branches of almond blossoms on the sky blue background. The blossoming flowers are the symbolic association of the emergence of new life.
Vincent van Gogh, one of the most famous post-impressionist artists, painted the Almond Blossoms. With his exceptional choice of colors, brushstrokes, and commanding imagination, he portrayed excellent emotions in his paintings. Whether it be domestic scenes like his Bedroom in Arles, Van Gogh’s Chair, or landscape art like Farmhouse in Provence, Starry Night, or Café Terrace at Night, Vincent nailed every single one of his artworks through distinctive vibrancy, energy, and emotion.
The painting dates back to February 1890.
A little provenance of the artwork is that Vincent painted these branches over the sky-blue background to mark the birth of Theo and Jo’s child, Vincent, named after him. Theo informed Vincent in one of his birthday letters to Vincent on 29 March 1890, informing him that little Vincent would love to see his uncle’s work,
“he is particularly fascinated by the blossoming tree which hangs above our bed.”
The canvas, which should have been the first in a series, acquires a poignancy in light of subsequent events. In the weeks following its completion, Van Gogh fell ill and was unable to work. When he recovered, the trees had stopped blooming. It grieved him deeply that he wasn’t able to paint as many variations on this theme as he had done at Arles. Because he had been pleased with the canvases, his regrets must have been exacerbated. According to his statement, it was the best work he produced before his illness as it was painted patiently and confidently.
The painting Almond Blossom is on exhibition at Rijksmuseum Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent Van Gogh Foundation).
7. Technique and Medium.
Vincent painted the artwork with medium oil on canvas. Despite being still closed, the buds are clearly on the verge of blossoming, and the artist gave each one a pretty but unemphatic touch of red. White blossoms against a background of blue sky, painted with broad and skillful strokes, are certainly a tour de force. Unlike his earlier, more traditional studies of trees in bloom, this striking composition may have been influenced by Japanese prints.
|Artist||Vincent van Gogh|
|Painting (Also called)||Blossoming Almond Tree|
|Year Painted||February, 1890|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||73.5 x 92 cm|
|Price||Not on sale|
|Where is it housed?||Rijksmuseum Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent Van Gogh Foundation)|
Now that you have a brief knowledge of the artwork, let us finally get going towards the detailed description.
Almond Blossoms | Fast Knowledge
Detailed Description of Almond Blossoms.
About the Artist: Vincent van Gogh.
It is a real dilemma for me to explain my beloved artist through a few words, which I have briefly done in a few articles like Sunflowers, Cafe Terrace at Night, and Wheatfield With Crows. However, as always I am taking out instances of life of Vincent which most of you might not know. Today, in this section, I will tell you about the adorable bond between Vincent and his brother, Theo, in addition to the importance of his letters.
“We must write each other plenty of letters,” Vincent wrote to his brother Theo on 13 December 1872. As he wrote these words in one of his early letters, then began the mighty oak of correspondence which two brief decades witnessed to tell us all about Vincent, his life, and his bond with Theo. Over eight hundred letters tell us about the intricate details of Vincent and his artworks.
“A female figure in a black woolen dress is lying before me; I am certain that if you had her for a day or so you would be reconciled to the technique.”#Letter 195
It is one of the letters on a drawing that Vincent wrote as if he were writing to the closest person to him, Theo. It is important to note that Van Gogh always believed painting and writing were sister arts, and he was always striving to link art and reality.
With his writing, Vincent was able to take his bearings from the eloquence of writers like Zola, which gave flexibility and immediacy to his letters beyond statements of personal involvement. All of his paintings were referred to in some way, whether by subject, color choice, or circumstance that led to their creation in his letters, as they provided a running commentary on them.
One of the absorbing facts about our beloved Vincent is that he always signed his works with a simple Christian name; Vincent. And often, you might have noticed it. For those who are unaware of the reason, let me tell you that this was because he sought to put distance between himself and his origins in a family of careerists and petit bourgeois piety. As his supporting statement, let me tell you what exactly he told Theo on this matter while he lived at home, chafing at his parent’s cast-iron moral attitudes,
“How do we relate to each other- are you a Van Gogh too? For me, you have always been Theo. I myself am different in character from the other members of the family, and really I am not a van Gogh at all.”
In another letter to Theo, he wrote,
“Now I feel that my pictures are not yet good enough to compensate for the advantages I have enjoyed through you. But believe me, if one day they should be good enough, you will have been as much their creator as I, because the two of us are making them together.”
Sometimes, I feel that the letters that both the brothers write to each other are so loving and beautiful that they explain their amazing brother bond. Next, let us understand the circumstances under which Vincent painted this masterpiece, Almond Blossoms.
Historical Background of Almond Blossoms.
I think the best way to narrate the story behind the artwork is telling you through the letters, where Vincent explained everything in detail.
In one of the letters to Theo of March 1886, Paris, Vincent explained about Almond Blossoms,
“Before getting to Tarascon, I noticed a magnificent country of huge yellow rocks piled up in the strangest and stateliest forms. In the little village between these rocks were rows of small, round trees with olive-green or grey-green leaves; but here at Arles, the country seems flat. I have seen some splendid red stretches of soil planted with vines, with a background of mountains of the most delicate lilac. The landscapes in the snow, with the summits white against a sky as luminous as the snow, were just like the winter landscapes that the Japanese have painted.
During the journey, I thought of you at least as much as I did of the new country I was seeing. I said to myself that later on you might be coming here often yourself. It seems to me almost impossible to work in Paris unless one has some place of retreat where one can revive, and regain one’s tranquility and poise. Without that one would get hopelessly brutalized.
I now have a study of a landscape in white with the town in the background; also two little studies of a branch of almond already in flower in spite of the snow. This is more than I could have man aged in Paris these days. I could not have stood it much longer. I have thought now and then that my blood is actually beginning to think of circulating. I am letter, except that is real forced labor to eat, as I have a touch of fever and no appetite; but it’s only a matter of time and patience.”
Next, in the letter of February 1888, Arles, Vincent wrote to Theo, mentioning the almond trees again. He said,
“This morning, at long last, the weather turned milder- and likewise, I have already had an opportunity to learn what a mistral is: I have been for several walks in the country round here, but in this wind, it is impossible ever to do anything. The sky is a hard blue, with a great bright sun which has melted almost all the snow, but the wind is cold, and so dry that it gives you goose-flesh. But I have seen lots of beautiful things- a ruined abbey on a hill covered with holly, pines, and grey olives. We’ll have a try at that soon, I hope. The almond trees are beginning to flower everything.”
Now, I have just given you a background of the Almond Blossoms, but it has nothing to do with the circumstances under which the painting is composed.
As Theo and Jo marked the birth of their child, who was named after the artist, Vincent set to work on his size 30 canvas, which he intended for the bedroom for the new parents. At this time, he painted the Almond Blossoms. #Letter 627 explains this more conveniently. Let me also tell you that Theo wrote a birthday letter to Vincent on 29 March 1890 to inform him that little Vincent showed a great interest in his uncle’s work. Theo wrote,
“he is particularly fascinated by the blossoming tree which hangs above our bed.”#T30
Hence, after this letter, in light of subsequent events, Vincent thought to make a long series of these Almond Blossoms. But his deteriorating health didn’t let him work for many weeks. By the time he recovered, the trees had ceased to flower. And hence, he deeply regretted not painting other variations on this theme, which he did in Arles with most of his subjects. One of the classic examples which falls in this category is Sunflowers. Hence, we can conclude that the Almond Blossoms were the best work from the period preceding his illness. And most importantly, it was the gift to Theo and Jo as they marked the birth of their child. Never before had he seen the blooms in such close-up; never before had he been able to appreciate such color. By painting the picture, he hoped to grant his godson what he had been denied; a carefree, happy future.
This painting was done towards the end of this Saint-Remy. From the #Letter 601, Vincent set a new goal for himself, which was to start everything again with a palette, which he did in the north. He wrote to his sister,
“When I have such thoughts… I want to become a new, different person and be forgiven for painting pictures that are almost a cry of fear, even when the rural sunflower symbolizes gratitude. As you see, I can still put my thoughts together coherently- though it would be better if I knew how to work out what a pound of bread and a quarter pound of coffee cost, as the peasants do. Which brings us back to the old point. It was Millet who set the example: he lived in a cottage, amongst people unacquainted with our foolish arrogance and stupid high-flown notions. Rather a little wisdom, then than a great deal of energy and elan.”
In the #Letter 847 announcing the new arrival, Theo wrote,
“As we told you, we’ll name him after you, and I’m making the wish that he may be as determined and as courageous as you.”
Understanding Almond Blossoms Meaning.
Well, I have given you a lot of references to the painting in the previous section. However, I would be putting my words in a little crisply to tell you the meaning of the painting.
The foremost reason to paint this composition was the arrival of little Vincent. Next, there is a message to his godson, which I narrated in an earlier section. Unlike his stay during Arles, this time, his flower paintings were not a mere imagination filled with melancholy but were a sense of relief.
This still life by Vincent van Gogh has a certain kind of classical equilibrium and could just as well have been painted in Arles- it takes obvious pleasure in color and does not attempt to distort or remake shapes. That said, though, the flowers are also a symbol of longing, recollecting those early days in Paris when Van Gogh had devoted almost all of his time to still-life painting.
This painting was the final reminiscence of Vincent’s utopian, optimistic days. However, he didn’t revive his own optimism here instead he wished to give an offering to his ever-caring brother. There is hope in the painting bound up with human life and thoughts of the future. Unlike previous paintings, this is about the celebration of family life, where Vincent was the godfather.
Subject Matter and Dominant Elements.
The subject matter of the Almond Blossom painting is small white flowers over the branch of the tree. Against a blue sky, Vincent portrayed large blossom branches showcasing the almond tree flower in the early spring. The subject, the bold outline, and the position of the tree in the picture plane were borrowed from Japanese printmaking by Vincent.
Formal Analysis of Van Gogh’s Almond Blossoms.
Each tree branch in the painting displays diagonal lines in a complex fusion. However, these lines don’t represent the complexity or mental trauma, instead, they display relief and calmness.
2. Color Analysis.
It is evident that the artist has paid great attention to each individual flower, highlighting each bud with a touch of red that is subtle, but nevertheless noticeable. With broad, skillful brushstrokes, the artist paints branches of white blossom against a backdrop of nothing but blue sky. In contrast to earlier, more traditional studies of trees in bloom, this composition is strikingly different. Japanese prints may have inspired it. A more stylized version of these blossom branches is likely to have followed. The colors chosen are red, yellow, blue, and white with tints of black.
Vincent Van Gogh is an inspiration who has portrayed Almond Blossom in a very sensitive and loving way. Personally, I found it intriguing and calming, unlike other paintings of the artist, which are somehow disturbing and emotional.
1. Van Gogh. The Complete Paintings by Ingo F. Walther and Rainer Metzger.
2. Van Gogh by Ingo F. Walther.
3. Vincent Van Gogh, Paintings by Uitert Evert Van, Tilborgh Louis Van & Heugten Sjaar Van.
4. Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh by Irving Stone and Jean Stone.