Thursday, 30 March 2017
Here, to mark the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh (born on this day in 1853), is something seasonal, beautifully painted and almost jolly. It's one of the studies of almond blossom that he painted in 1888 to celebrate the birth of his nephew, whom his brother Theo named after Vincent.
The paintings are suffused with the happiness of their occasion and the joy and promise of new life, but are too honest to be merely pretty, or merely jolly. The pink-edged impasto blossom is vividly present, but no more so than the gnarled and knotted branches, their visual counterpoint, sharply outlined and firmly drawn in the manner of the Japanese artists whose work had such a powerful effect on Van Gogh. The blossom will soon be gone, but those assertive branches will live on, jagged, difficult, undeniable. Vincent's moment of happiness too was soon gone, and his troubled life did not have much longer to run - but is that to be read in these bright images of almond trees in flower? Better perhaps just to enjoy them as things of beauty. That they undoubtedly are.