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Van Gogh and The Olive Groves
By Nienke Bakker and Nicole R. Myers
Van Gogh and the Olive Groves reunites for the first time the important series of paintings that Vincent van Gogh (1853–90) dedicated to the motif of olive trees during his stay at the asylum of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The book contextualizes this work within Van Gogh’s artistic production and explores its deeply personal, often religious resonance. It also features in-depth findings on the artist’s technique, materials, and palette resulting from a three-year cross-disciplinary conservation science research project that rigorously examined all 15 paintings. Of particular interest are new discoveries concerning Van Gogh’s use of unstable pigments, his application of paint en plein air versus in the studio, and the chronology of the series. Produced between June and December 1889, this bold and highly experimental series employs the motif as a constant in the artist’s passionate investigation of the expressive powers of color, line, and subject. Painting the olive trees at different times of day and in different seasons was a quest to unlock their quintessential features, which to him represented the spirit of Provence.