In the blazing heat of this Mediterranean afternoon, nothing rests. Against a ground scored as if by some invisible torrent, intense green olive trees twist and crimp, capped by the rolling, dwindling hillocks of the distant Alps, beneath a light-washed sky with a bundled, ectoplasmic cloud.
After van Gogh voluntarily entered the asylum at Saint-Rémy in the south of France in the spring of 1889, he wrote his brother Theo: "I did a landscape with olive trees and also a new study of a starry sky." Later, when the pictures had dried, he sent both of them to Theo in Paris, noting: "The olive trees with the white cloud and the mountains behind, as well as the rise of the moon and the night effect, are exaggerations from the point of view of the general arrangement; the outlines are accentuated as in some old woodcuts."
Van Gogh's letters make it clear that he created this particular intense vista of the southern French landscape as a daylight partner to the visionary nocturne of his more famous canvas, The Starry Night. He felt that both pictures showed, in complementary ways, the principles he shared with his fellow painter Paul Gauguin, regarding the freedom of the artist to go beyond "the photographic and silly perfection of some painters" and intensify the experience of color and linear rhythms.
from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 34
Provenance Research Project
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, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
▪ June – September 1889, Vincent van Gogh, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence ▪ September 1889 – January 1891, Theo van Gogh, Paris, acquired from his brother Vincent van Gogh ▪ January 1891 – February 1906, Johanna (Jo) van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam, in trust for her son, Vincent Willem van Gogh, Amsterdam, inherited from Theo van Gogh ▪ February 1906 – ?, Karl Ernst Osthaus, Hagen, purchased through Jo van Gogh-Bonger ▪ 1924, Collection Kunsthandel D. Komter, Amsterdam ▪ By 1928 – at least 1938/39, Salomon (Sam) van Deventer, Wassenaar, The Netherlands [▪ 1940, unknown German buyer, purchased from Sam van Deventer] ▪ By 1947 – April 1947, Katz Galerie (Nathan Katz), Basel, Switzerland ▪ April 1947 – 1982, John Hay Whitney, New York, purchased from Katz Galerie through Knoedler Galleries, New York ▪ 1982 – 1998, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, New York, inherited from John Hay Whitney ▪ The Museum of Modern Art, acquired by bequest from Mrs. John Hay Whitney (Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney)
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