| Vincent van
Olive Trees, 1889
oil on linen
29 x 36 1/2 in.
When Vincent van Gogh painted landscapes, he used more than paint
and a brush. He also used his heart and his emotions. Other painters
in earlier times wanted to paint landscapes exactly as they appeared.
To van Gogh, however, the environment was not just what he saw, but
what he felt as he stood in it and observed it. He said, "To paint
nature, one must live in it a long time." This painting, with its
bold colors and uninhibited brushstrokes, goes beyond a depiction
of olive trees. It shows the trees as van Gogh saw them, with all
the frenzied emotion they inspired in him.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, artists no longer felt
the need to create works that showed nature exactly as it appeared.
Photography now provided an accurate record of the world. Paint
became available in small portable tubes in a wider variety of colors.
Artists were now able to bring their canvases outside and were free
to experiment with light and color, and to express their feelings
The French Impressionists were interested
in painting light and how it reflected off objects and surfaces.
They painted "impressions" of the world with short, expressive brushstrokes
and dabs of brilliant colors. Van Gogh met many of the Impressionist
painters at his brother's gallery in Paris. Van Gogh learned much
about painting from the Impressionists, but he went on to develop
his own style.
Trees, detail of
trees and branches
Van Gogh often painted outdoors, directly from nature, rather than
in a studio from his memory or imagination. However, van Gogh did
not paint exactly what he saw. Instead, he used bright, bold colors
and exaggerated lines. He distorted the shape of objects in order
to communicate the intensity of his thoughts and emotions. He did
not sketch his scenes first, but painted directly on the canvas,
applying his paint with thick, strong strokes.
This is a photograph
of real olive trees.
In what ways has van Gogh exaggerated
the appearance of real olive trees in his painting?
Olive Trees is an exaggeration of reality. The branches
of the trees curve and twist, the ground rolls like waves, and the
sun blazes in a brilliant bright yellow. The short, powerful brushstrokes
seem almost to have a life of their own, and are exploding with
energy. The colors van Gogh used were often symbolic.
To him, yellow symbolized love and light, red and green conveyed
passion and conflict, blue was infinity, and gray was associated
movement of the paintbrush as it appears on the painting surface.
movement in painting in which the emphasis on light and color, loose
brush strokes, ordinary subject matter; creates the "impression"
of a moment in time. Dabs and strokes of color are used to depict
the natural appearances of objects and reflected light.
practice of using something, usually an object or sign, to represent
something else, usually intangible, such as an idea or concept.
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