While in the asylum in Saint-Remy, Van Gogh received from his friend Emile Bernard a letter describing his new painting of Christ in the Garden of Olives. He replied that he would rather paint the olive trees just outside his window than
the imaginary olive garden of christ's Agony. He believed that reality was the only source of strength, although in his torment Van Gogh's thoughts often led him back to the religious ideas of his youth.
His painting of the olive trees is fervent, carried along by a single wave of intense feeling, which traverses the entire canvas, imparting the same irregular undulation to the earth, the trees, the sun, and the sky.