Blossoming Almond Tree

Blossoming Almond Tree

" I’d much rather that he’d called his boy after Pa, whom I’ve thought about so often these days, than after me, but anyway, as it’s been done now I started right away to make a painting for him, to hang in their bedroom. Large branches of white almond blossom against a blue sky." Vincent To his Mother. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Wednesday, 19 February 1890
Currently Located:
Painting Date
19th of February 1890
Detailed Image Links

In the winter of February, 1890 in St. Remy, Vincent paints an almond tree in blossom for his newborn nephew and namesake and surprises Theo and Jo with it in March.  He is pleased with the painting as are his brother and sister in law when he arrives with it in Paris (on his way to Auvers Sur Oise). Theo and Jo hang it prominently above the piano in their living room.  When Vincent leaves for Auvers, he has less than six months to live.  It is perhaps the Van Gogh family’s most prized piece of art through the years that follow.

The related images were all painted by Vincent almost two years before the blossoming almond on blue background, just after Van Gogh had moved to Arles.  The winter of 1887-88 was long lasting as Vincent arrived in Arles in Provence and he was forced inside by the snow and storms.  He would take what he had learned in Paris into his first Spring in Provence, the Japan of the south in his mind, and paint budding almond branches in glasses and later fruit trees in their orchards just outside of town.  He hones his skills further in Arles and in the two years between the blossoms he paints there and these he creates on a bright blue sky in Saint Remy.

In the Blossoming Almond Tree, Vincent sets his eye below a branch and looking up towards the blooms under a brilliant turquoise sky of cross-hatched brushstrokes.  The perspective and execution of the painting nicely honors his and Theo’s shared love of Japanese woodblock prints.  They had collected them ardently while living together in Paris adding them to the number they had purchased in the years before that.  Vincent paints the blue striped tree branches in shades of green, complimenting the reds of the blossoms.  Vincent uses bare canvas along with shades of whites and grays for the carefully stroked petals with pistils of yellow.  A serene and graceful composition, it is one of the families cherished favorites and hangs now in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam:

“Van Gogh painted this sparkling still life of delicate almond blossom against a clear blue sky for his new-born nephew Vincent Willem. His brother Theo wrote, in the letter announcing the new arrival: ‘As we told you, we’ll name him after you, and I’m making the wish that he may be as determined and as courageous as you.’

As a symbol of this new life, Van Gogh chose the branches of an almond tree – a variety that blossoms as early as February in the south of France, where it announces the coming spring. The subject, the bold outlines and the positioning of the tree in the picture plane are borrowed from Japanese printmaking. The white blossoms were originally more pink but have faded on exposure to light, losing some of their chromatic intensity.

Van Gogh meant the painting to hang over Theo and his wife Jo’s bed. The couple preferred, however, to display it over the piano in their living room. Unsurprisingly, it was the work that remained closest to the hearts of the Van Gogh family. Vincent Willem went on to found the Van Gogh Museum.”


Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

“Dear Mother,
I’ve been meaning to answer your letter for days, but didn’t get round to writing because I was painting from morning till night, and so the time passed. I imagine that your thoughts, like mine, are with and Theo. How glad I was when the news came that it had gone well; very good thing stayed. I’d much rather that he’d called his boy after Pa, whom I’ve thought about so often these days, than after me, but anyway, as it’s been done now I started right away to make a painting for him, to hang in their bedroom. Large branches of white almond blossom against a blue sky.”

Vincent To his Mother. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Wednesday, 19 February 1890



My dear sister,
Thanks very much for your last two letters, the one dated from Paris and today’s.  What you write further about Jo’s confinement touches me, yes you were very brave and very kind to stay by her side. In circumstances where fright seizes us, I’d probably be more of a milksop than you.
But anyway, the result is that the child’s here – and as I wrote to his grandmother, I’ve started painting for him these last few days – a large sky-blue canvas against which branches covered in blossoms stand out. Possible that I may see him soon – I hope so at least – towards the end of March. I’m going to try to go to Arles once more tomorrow or the day after tomorrow to see if I can bear the journey and ordinary life without the attacks recurring.

Vincent To his sister Willemien. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Wednesday, 19 February 1890



“Work was going well, the last canvas of the branches in blossom, you’ll see that it was perhaps the most patiently worked, best thing I had done, painted with calm and a greater sureness of touch. And the next day done for like a brute.”

Vincent To Theo. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Monday, 17 March 1890.



“I fell ill at the time I was doing the almond-tree blossoms. If I’d been able to continue working, you can judge from that that I would have done others of the trees in blossom. Now the trees in blossom are almost finished, really I have no luck.
Yes, I must try to leave here, but where am I to go? I don’t believe one can be more shut up and imprisoned in the places where they don’t pretend to leave you free, such as at Charenton or Montevergues.
If you write home, give them my warm regards and tell them I think of them often.  Then good handshake to you and Jo.
Believe me
Ever yours,

PS:  Please send me what you can find of figures among my old drawings, I’m thinking of redoing the painting of the peasants eating supper, lamplight effect. That canvas must be completely dark now, perhaps I could redo it entirely from memory. You must above all send me the women gleaning and diggers, if there are any left.  Then if you like I’ll redo the old tower at Nuenen and the cottage. I think that if you still have them I could now make something better of them from memory.”

To Theo. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Tuesday, 29 April 1890



“For Theo and Jo’s little one I brought back a rather large painting — which they’ve hung above the piano – white almond blossoms – big branches on a sky-blue background”

Vincent To his Sister, Willemien. Auvers-sur-Oise, Thursday, 5 June 1890



Van Gogh Letters related to this painting


Painting, Oil on Canvas
Saint-Rémy, France: February 19, 1890
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 671, JH: 1891

Where Vincent Was:
Saint Remy

Start Discussion

Leave your email address and Vincent will write you with a painting and his thoughts...

(Don’t worry, Vincent is busy painting and doesn’t send more than one a week!)

You have Successfully Subscribed!