Vincent Van Gogh’s Peace
Van Gogh is known mostly for his vibrant impressionist landscapes and portraits, and much less attention is paid to his still life pieces. In 1890, close to the end of his lifetime, he created Almond Blossom as a special gift for his brother’s newborn son. Van Gogh was a great admirer of Japanese Prints, & he occasionally borrowed some elements of style from the culture – bold color, dark outlines, flowering trees, etc.
In earlier studies, Van Gogh often painted branches in a vase as a still life. However, this piece has a more vibrant, exciting energy, as it is showing the branches against a soft blue, floating, seemingly untethered to gravity. These fluid branches have an almost coral-like look and texture, adding to the illusion that this fallen piece of a flowering almond tree has become submerged under water and soon afterwards been captured this perfectly still moment. One can easily imagine the tendrils of moss beginning to grow, flowing amongst the disintegrating flower petals and transforming this fallen branch into an eerie sanctuary for newly hatched tadpoles and tiny fish.
Blue is heralded as a grounding, calming color, and almond trees flower early in the Spring, making this painting a symbol of rebirth, new life, and hope, all subjects upon which Van Gogh often pondered. It is obvious that he put much thought and soul into this piece for his nephew, for not only was this painting meant to be a meaningful gift, its creation was likely quite beneficial for Van Gogh as well. He spent his entire adult life struggling to manage his imbalanced mental health, so for him to be able to imagine this immortal moment of peace and tranquility was a huge accomplishment in his life.