Tree Roots and Trunks

Tree Roots and Trunks

Painting Date
1st of July 1890
Detailed Image Link

Tree Roots

July 1890
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
oil on canvas, 50.3 cm x 100.1 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Van Gogh had already made several drawings of tree roots in The Hague in 1882. He wrote at the time of his wish ‘to express something of life’s struggle […] in those gnarled black roots’. It is tempting to see the same symbolism in these twisted tree roots, painted eight years later.

The work seems to consist at first sight of a jumble of bright colours and abstract forms, prompting some art historians to identify Van Gogh as an important forerunner of abstract art. If you keep looking, however, you make out the tree roots, plants and leaves, and beneath them the brown and yellow of the sandy forest floor, all laid down on the canvas with powerful brushstrokes and oily gobs of paint.

Many people believe that the more dramatic Wheatfield with Crows is Van Gogh’s final work. This colourful painting is a much likelier candidate, however, as he was unable to complete it, which helps explain its irregular, unfinished character. Theo’s brother-in-law, Andries Bonger, described it as follows in a letter: ‘The morning before his death, he had painted an underwood [sous-bois], full of sun and life.’

7-1-1890 Tree Roots and Trunks Painting, Oil on Canvas Auvers-sur-Oise: July, 1890 Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe F: 816, JH: 2113

Where Vincent Was:
Auvers Sur Oise

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