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Branch of an Almond Tree in Blossom (1890) by Vincent Van Gogh


"The almond blossom is ubiquitous in the Japanese prints Van Gogh would have seen. But it was not merely a motif for him. The almond branch was a symbol of life itself, of life opening up and joy in its presence. This painting is one of many images he made of blossoming fruit trees. Van Gogh became intrigued with the subject shortly after arriving in Arles. Within several weeks, he saw the Proven├žal orchards begin their spring bloom. Eventually Van Gogh made twenty canvases depicting them especially the peach, almond, and pear trees.

For this work Van Gogh chose a young almond tree, with just a few branches. Standing beside a path, which moves asymmetrically across the canvas, its blooms stretch literally out of the composition to form a lacelike screen before the middle and far ground of the work. Strong, vertical brushstrokes contribute to a mood of tranquillity and an oriental aesthetic. In the distance the red rooflines of houses can be seen.

Perhaps Van Gogh's most momentous painting of almond branches in blossom was one that he would later produce to celebrate the birth of his nephew. Theo had married, and in February 1890 his wife Johanna gave birth to a son, whom they named Vincent Willem after his uncle. Van Gogh was very pleased. To mark that event he produced a beautiful painting shown above on the right of large branches of almond blossoms against a blue sky for the proud mother and father, intended for their bedroom. Produced near the end of Van Gogh's life, it assumes special poignancy as a symbol of hope and joy amid pain and turmoil.The almond blossom is ubiquitous in the Japanese prints Van Gogh would have seen. But it was not merely a motif for him. The almond branch was a symbol of life itself, of life opening up and joy in its presence. This painting is one of many images he made of blossoming fruit trees. Van Gogh became intrigued with the subject shortly after arriving in Arles. Within several weeks, he saw the Proven├žal orchards begin their spring bloom. Eventually Van Gogh made twenty canvases depicting them especially the peach, almond, and pear trees.

Perhaps Van Gogh's most momentous painting of almond branches in blossom was one that he would later produce to celebrate the birth of his nephew. Theo had married, and in February 1890 his wife Johanna gave birth to a son, whom they named Vincent Willem after his uncle. Van Gogh was very pleased. To mark that event he produced a beautiful painting shown above on the right of large branches of almond blossoms against a blue sky for the proud mother and father, intended for their bedroom. Produced near the end of Van Gogh's life, it assumes special poignancy as a symbol of hope and joy amid pain and turmoil."

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