Peach Trees in Blossom, 1888 by Van Gogh

On about 30 March, when Van Gogh was in Arles, he received from his sister a posthumous tribute to the Dutch painter Anton Mauve, his first and indeed only teacher, who had died a few weeks before. Although he had heard the news previously, Van Gogh was deeply moved on seeing his portrait in the article. 'Something took hold of me and I was choked with emotion', he wrote to Theo, 'and I wrote on my picture "Souvenir de Mauve, Vincent & Theo" and if you are agreeable we will send it to Madame Mauve from both of us. I specially took the best study I have produced here'.

The painting in question was Peach Trees in Blossom. The idea of sending a gift was rather less spontaneous than Van Gogh's letter suggests, as he had proposed giving Mauve's widow a painting some three weeks previously. By doing so, he hoped indirecdy to find favour with the art dealer Tersteeg in The Hague, 'Mauve's personal friend', and thereby improve his chances of acquiring a reputation in the fashionable circles of The Hague. In order to give his brother an impression of the colours he had used, he sent him a watercolour after the 'Peach Trees in Blossom'.

Like The Langlois Bridge, Van Gogh considered Peach Trees in Blossom too important simply to give away. The painting he had made en plein air and in a single session was, he felt, 'probably the best landscape I have done'.