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The surroundings of Saint-Rémy

Cypresses are still a characteristic sight in Provence.

Van Gogh in

Cypress Trees

  1. 8 May 1889
     - 15 May 1890

During his first month in the asylum, Vincent was not permitted to work outdoors. When he finally did go outside in June, he decided to paint characteristic Provençal subjects, such as the Alpilles, the olive trees and the omnipresent cypress trees. In late June 1889, he wrote to his brother Theo that he was busy painting cypresses. He explained why he was drawn to them:

“The cypresses still preoccupy me, I’d like to do something with them like the canvases of the sunflowers because it astonishes me that no one has yet done them as I see them. It’s beautiful as regards lines and proportions, like an Egyptian obelisk. And the green has such a distinguished quality. It’s the dark patch in a sun-drenched landscape, but it’s one of the most interesting dark notes, the most difficult to hit off exactly that I can imagine.” Read the complete letter

The imposing trees constituted a defining theme of his work in Saint-Rémy; he painted and drew them dozens of times, never tiring of them. In early December 1889, he wrote to his brother:

“I have a great desire to do more of both the cypresses and the Alpilles, and often going on long walks in all directions I’ve noted many subjects and know good places for when the fine days come.” Read the complete letter

He would not get the chance, however. In December and February, Vincent suffered severe attacks that barely left him able to work outside of the asylum.

Useful links

Relevant letters from Vincent

Continue reading

  1. Vojtēch Jirat-Wasiutyński

    Vincent van Gogh's paintings of olive trees and cypresses from St.-Rémy
    In: The Art Bulletin, vol. 75, no. 4, 1993
  2. Ronald Pickvance

    Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy and Auvers
    New York, 1986
  3. Marije Vellekoop, Roelie Zwikker

    Vincent van Gogh, tekeningen, deel 4: Arles, Saint-Rémy, Auvers-sur-Oise
    Amsterdam, 2007