Blossoming Peor Tree, 1888 by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh headed to Arles full of preconceptions about the area. He thought of the south of France as a type of idyll, a place where the sun shone and the landscape reverberated with beauty. He hoped that it would be his 'Japan' in France. On his arrival - unusually for that area - it was blanketed with snow, but when the snow melted the trees burst into blossom and for a time at least it seems that it lived up to his expectations. In the spring of 1888 he set about painting with renewed vigour and concentrated on blossoms and landscapes, taking long walks into the countryside and exploring with his paints and easel.

The influence of Japan was highly apparent, and can be seen clearly in this painting of a pear tree in blossom. His work had become more stylized with a brilliant use of colour and bold outlined forms similar to those seen in woodcuts. These early works in Arles were amongst some of the most positive done by the artist, who briefly enjoyed something of a respite from the troubles that plagued him.