Art & Nature: Vincent van Gogh Olive Trees

One thing you will see a lot of on this account is art. Trees have featured in art for as long as humans have been making it and we are here to celebrate and share it. We hope that art will inspire you to connect with nature and find the awe and beauty in Mother Earth’s details. It’s simple - people protect what they love and hopefully through art you will be reminded of all that you love in nature.

We are starting with one of our favourites, Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh painted at least 15 paintings of olive trees, mostly in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in 1889. This painting Olive Trees with Les Alpilles (on display at MoMA if you live in NYC), was painted on the same day as his famous Starry Night.

In his own words, he found that the "rustle of the olive grove has something very secret in it, and immensely old. It is too beautiful for us to dare to paint it or to be able to imagine it” 💘 and we would agree!

It was among the blossoming trees, the olive orchards and fields that van Gogh most often found profound meaning, seeing their cycles as an analogy to human life. He often spoke about their representation of life, the divine and the cycle of life. The ancient, gnarled olive trees, displayed a manifestation of the spiritual force he believed resided in all of nature 💚.

“The effect of daylight and the sky means there are endless subjects to be found in olive trees. For myself I look for the contrasting effects in the foliage, which changes with the tones of the sky. At times, when the tree bares its pale blossoms and big blue flies, emerald fruit beetles and cicadas in great numbers fly about, everything is immersed in pure blue.” van Gogh.

Van Gogh found respite and relief in interaction with nature. When the series of olive tree paintings was made in 1889 he was subject to illness and emotional turmoil, yet the paintings are considered to be among his finest works. His brushstrokes make the soil and even the sky seem alive with the same rustling motion as the leaves, stirred to a shimmer by the Mediterranean wind. The energy in their continuous rhythm communicates to us, in an almost physical way, the living force that van Gogh found within the trees themselves, the very spiritual force that he believed had shaped them.

When van Gogh was in good enough health to live the asylum he painted the countryside as well as depicting the olive harvest. Here are some of our favourites and some of the letters he wrote around that time where he spoke about the colours and feelings of being in nature:

Above letter reads: "Yesterday at sunset I was on a stony heath where some very small, twisted oaks grow, in the distance a ruin on a hill and wheat in the valley. It was romantic in the extreme, like a Monticelli, the sun shining its bright yellow rays on the bushes and the ground, an absolute shower of gold. And all the lines were beautiful; the whole thing had a charming nobility. One wouldn't have been in the least surprised suddenly to see knights and ladies returning from hawking or to hear the voice of some old Provencal troubadour. The land seemed violet, the distances blue.

Here's a new subject - a corner of a garden with round bushes and a weeping tree, and in the background clumps of oleander. And the grass, which has just been cut, with long trails of hay drying in the sun, and a small piece of blue-green sky at the top."

Above reads : "Here's a part of the woods in the evening after rain. I can't tell you how superb that effect was in nature, with the bronze of the greenery and the fallen leaves here and there.

I wish you could walk there in the evening sometime, in the superb autumn woods here. What I'll bring out of it this year will be only a meagre harvest. Well, a few things nevertheless I hope, and with time more and more."