`For Van Gogh, Olive Trees 'Too Beautiful to Dare Paint' - Olive Oil Times

For Van Gogh, Olive Trees 'Too Beautiful to Dare Paint'

Apr. 22, 2013
Tara Vassiliou

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Olive Trees in a Mountainous Landscape, 1889

Olive trees have pro­vided not just a source of nour­ish­ment for the body but a source of inspi­ra­tion for the soul, and for no one more so than Vincent Van Gogh who painted at least eigh­teen art­works fea­tur­ing them.

Most of these were pro­duced around Saint Remy de Provence in the South of France. This spec­tac­u­lar part of the world attracted many artists, but in Van Gogh’s case his mas­ter­pieces were cre­ated while he con­va­lesced at the St. Paul de Mausole asy­lum. You can visit this for­mer monastery and still func­tion­ing clinic along with its beau­ti­ful gar­dens and vis­tas that so inspired Van Gogh.

Some of his more well-known works include the aptly named Olive Trees in a Mountainous Landscape painted in 1889 as a com­pan­ion piece to his most cel­e­brated paint­ing of all time, Starry Night. The vibrant col­ors of Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun express per­fectly the late after­noon hues of the Provençal land­scape. The instantly rec­og­niz­able brush­work of Van Gogh with his gen­er­ous use of paint seems to make his art res­onate with a vis­ceral energy that is only dis­cernible when you have the priv­i­lege of see­ing his paint­ings in the flesh.

Another series of his paint­ings denote the olive farm­ers work­ing the land, show­ing the con­nec­tion between nature and man. Because Van Gogh asso­ci­ated the beauty of nature with a spir­i­tual force. He was fas­ci­nated by the chang­ing splen­dor of the scenery and the ven­er­a­ble, gnarled olive trees.” His attempts to cap­ture this beauty proved ther­a­peu­tic for Van Gogh, reliev­ing him at least tem­porar­ily from his emo­tional tur­moil.

Art his­to­ri­ans believe that to Van Gogh the olive tree was some­thing sacred, sym­bol­iz­ing both the divine and the cycle of life.” This notion was exquis­itely described in a let­ter he wrote to his brother Theo: The rus­tle of the olive grove has some­thing very secret in it, and immensely old. It is too beau­ti­ful for us to dare to paint it or to be able to imag­ine it.”


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