National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Olive Orchard Vincent van Gogh (artist)
Dutch, 1853 - 1890
The Olive Orchard, 1889
oil on canvas
overall: 73 × 92 cm (28 3/4 × 36 1/4 in.) framed: 97.5 x 114.9 x 10.1 cm (38 3/8 x 45 1/4 x 4 in.)
Chester Dale Collection
1963.10.152
On View
From the Tour: Vincent van Gogh
Object 3 of 7

During the last six or seven months of 1889, Van Gogh did at least fifteen paintings of olive trees—a subject he found both demanding and compelling. He wrote to his brother Theo that he was "struggling to catch [the olive trees]. They are old silver, sometimes with more blue in them, sometimes greenish, bronzed, fading white above a soil which is yellow, pink, violet tinted orange . . . very difficult." He found that 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."

In the olive trees—in the expressive power of their ancient and gnarled forms—Van Gogh found a manifestation of the spiritual force he believed resided in all of nature. His brushstrokes make the soil and even the sky seem alive with the same rustling motion as the leaves, stirred to a shimmer by the Mediterranean wind. These strong individual dashes do not seem painted so much as drawn onto the canvas with a heavily loaded brush. The energy in their continuous rhythm communicates to us, in an almost physical way, the living force that Van Gogh found within the trees themselves, the very spiritual force that he believed had shaped them.

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