Olive Grove, 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh
The olive groves around Saint-Rémy were a rewarding subject for Van Gogh. He was fascinated by the ever-changing colour of the olive trees and tried to find a good way of painting their irregular growth. His solution was to use swirling brushstrokes, bold outlines around the trunks and stylized blue shadows. In Vincent van Gogh's letter to his brother Theo, he wrote:
The countryside is very beautiful here in the autumn, I'm working on a picture at the moment: women gathering olives, which might be suitable, I think. These are the colors: the ground is violet and in the
distance yellow ochre; the olive trees have bronze trunks and green-gray foliage; the sky is entirely pink and there are three small, pink figures too. All of it in a very restrained range of color.
It,s a canvas I,ve been working on from memory from a tudy of the same size done on site, because I want something distant, like a vague memory softened by time. There are only two pink and green notes, which harmonize with one another, neutralize each other, and also form a contrast. I shall probably do two or three copies, as it is, after all, the product of half a dozen studies of olive trees.
I'm going to work outside again for a while; the mistral is blowing. Around sunset it usually quiets down a little and then there are some superb effects, with skies of pale lemon and desolate pine trees standing silhouetted against them like exquisite black lace. Sometimes the sky is red, sometimes an extremely delicate neutral tone, or again pale lemon, but neutralized by a delicate lilac.