Almond Blossoms by Vincent van Gogh in 1888 and 1890

Almond Blossoms is from a group of several paintings made in 1888 and 1890 by Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Saint-Rémy, southern France of blossoming almond trees. Flowering trees were special to van Gogh.

Almond Blossom was painted immediately before one of his attacks; “My work was going well,” he informed his brother, “the last canvas of branches in blossom – you will see that it is perhaps the best, the most patiently worked thing I had done, painted with calm and with greater firmness of touch. And the next day, down like a brute.” Poised between lucidity and desperation, this lacework of light and color is kept aloft by the confidence Van Gogh had acquired in the previous two or three years and the sheer technical finesse now at his command.

In painting the Almond Blossom, Van Gogh was not out to revive his own optimism, but to make an offering to his ever-caring brother. In spring 1889, Theo had married Jo Bonger, and in February 1890 she gave birth to their son, whom they named Vincent after the boy’s godfather. The Blossoming Almond Tree was van Gogh’s present to the infant that would perpetuate his name. Never before had he viewed the bright buds in such close-up; never before had he lavished such colour on the glorious blossoms. The hope expressed in the painting is bound up with human life and thoughts of the future. It is not exactly Utopian in character; rather, the keynote of the painting is longing. And it is not really a reminiscence of Aries at all – in a sense, the painting is a celebration of family life, which Vincent the godfather now felt part of again. In the picture he tried to call forth for his godson what was denied to him: a carefree, happy future. “My dear brother, later one occasionally finds it necessary to remember”, he wrote rather inscrutably in a letter when Theo married. Now, painting this picture, van Gogh’s own remembering looked back to his origin, and the family again became the epitome of security on earth, with the birth of a boy who bore his name.

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