The Mulberry Tree

The Mulberry Tree

"That said, I’ll tell you that we’re having some superb autumn days, and that I’m taking advantage of them. I have a few studies, among others a mulberry tree, all yellow on stony ground standing out against the blue of the sky, in which study I think that you’ll see that I’ve found Monticelli’s track."
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Details:
Painting Date
5th of October 1889
Detailed Image Links
Description:

Vincent was finally feeling well enough to write after the longest of his debilitating episodes to date – a 45 day incapacitation from mid-July to mid-September during which time he did not leave the grounds of the asylum at Saint Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy.  He paints the Mulberry Tree in these weeks after his incapacitation.

In The Mulberry Tree, Vincent depicts a cobalt and ultramarine blue sky in thick diagonal strokes from bottom left to upper right.  Against this dark blue backdrop, Vincent creates a brilliant yellow serpentine mulberry tree in Autumn light.  The alpilles outside of St. Remy slope from middle center to upper left in grey and white diagonals going opposite the direction of the brushstrokes of the sky.  In the center, a trunk of browns and outlined in black like a Japanese print, Vincent places his mulberry tree and applies yellows complimentary to the blues thickly to the canvas in curved and meandering strokes.  Seemingly bursting from the canvas, the viewer can see and feel Vincent’s passion and energetic scene of autumn outside the asylum in Saint Remy de Provence.  His reverence for color a la Delacroix combined with his worship of Monticelli and the thick, impasto application of paint to canvas come together in The Mulberry Tree in an example of how Vincent was lucid and capable when not incapacitated by periodic breaks of illness.

Vincent was very pleased with The Mulberry Tree and submitted it for inclusion in the Salon Des Independentes of 1890, the largest exhibition to show his work at that point in his life.  He will leave the asylum in six months to come back to the suburbs of Paris where he will paint and live in Auvers sur Oise for three months before dying there of a gunshot wound with his brother at his bedside. In August 1890 Theo exchanged Vincent’s Mulberry tree for a painting by Pissarro.

 

The Related Items include a photo of the Mulberry Tree with coloring that is more orange-red tinted but reveals brushstrokes in some detail not seen in the more color-accurate image.  Also included is a canvas completed around the same time as the Mulberry Tree, Poplars in the Mountains. The Street View image is of a mulberry tree at present just outside the asylum walls at Saint Paul Mausole in St. Remy de Provence.

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“That said, I’ll tell you that we’re having some superb autumn days, and that I’m taking advantage of them. I have a few studies, among others a mulberry tree, all yellow on stony ground standing out against the blue of the sky, in which study I think that you’ll see that I’ve found Monticelli’s track.”

To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Saturday, 5 October 1889.

 

“My dear Theo,

Yesterday I sent three packets by parcel post containing studies which I hope you’ll receive in good order. I really must thank you for the 10 metres of canvas, which have just arrived.  Among the studies you’ll find the following, which are for our mother and sister. Olive trees – Bedroom – Reaper – Working with plough – Wheatfield with cypresses – Orchard in blossom – Portrait.
The remainder is above all autumn studies and I think the best one is the yellow mulberry tree against a very blue sky. Then the study of the house and of the park, of which there are two variants. The studies on no. 30 canvases weren’t yet dry and will follow later. They’re giving me a lot of trouble, and sometimes I find them very ugly, sometimes they look good to me – perhaps you’ll have the same impression when you see them. There are a dozen of them, so it’s more substantial than what I’ve just sent.”

To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Saturday, 7 December 1889.

 

“And the garden too, with its espalier mulberry tree. As regards mulberry trees, there are a lot here. I painted one not long ago when its bushy foliage was a magnificent yellow against a very blue sky and a white, stony, sunlit field behind.”

To Willemien van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Monday, 9 or Tuesday, 10 December 1889.

 

“For the Impressionists’ exhibition in March, I hope to send you a few more canvases which are drying at the moment.”  The Mulberry Tree was one of the paintings Vincent selected for display at this important and biggest exhibition for him to date.”

To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Wednesday, 12 February 1890.

Chrome Yellow applied with brush handle, pissarro trades for this one.  crosshatch canvas marks visible on painting.

Norton Simon Mulberry Tree

 

“Van Gogh reveled in the textural richness of oil paint. Called ‘Impasto,’ his application of the paint is so heavy in ‘The Mulberry Tree in Autumn’ that it appears nearly three-dimensional. We cannot discern individual autumn leaves, for the tree limbs are like twisting yellow tentacles. The fiery branches reach upward and are framed by a brilliant blue sky created from thick, short strokes of blue paint. The space surrounding the tree is rendered with a dynamism that echoes the tree’s electric energy. Short, thick brush strokes of lighter yellow, with intermittent strokes of green, light brown, and white constitute the rocky field described in van Gogh’s letter. There is no human presence here, but the box which leans against the brown tree trunk suggests that the land has been or will be worked and harvested. In this work, an ordinary tree is painted in an extraordinary way. While it attests to van Gogh’s keen observation of the tree and its natural surroundings, this painting is no mere record of sheer visual observation. Rather, van Gogh’s vibrant color and vigorous brush strokes express his passionate feelings about what he saw. This painting was so important to van Gogh that he wrote about it three times in letters to his brother and sister, commenting that he believed it was the best of his mulberry tree paintings.”     Fulcrum Gallery


Provenance:

Mrs. C. Pissarro Paris France
Ambroise Vollard Art Gallery Paris France
Alphonse Kann Saint Germain-en-Laye France
Mr. and Mrs. Norton Simon Los Angeles United States
Norton Simon Museum of Art Pasadena, California United States 1976

 

 

Painting, Oil on Canvas
Saint-Rémy: October, 1889
Norton Simon Museum
Pasadena, California, United States of America, North America
F: 637, JH: 1796

Where Vincent Was:
Saint Remy

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