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New Exhibition at Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam: Van Gogh and the Olive Groves

Posted on Mar 10, 2022 by

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From March till June 2022, Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam presents a new, very cool exhibition: Van Gogh and the Olive Groves. The star of the exhibition is a series of paintings that Vincent van Gogh made during his year-long stay at the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (between June and December 1889, when he could go out for walks).

I had the pleasure to be invited to the opening of the exhibition and to be among the first people to see it. Van Gogh being one of my most favourite painters since I was about eight years old, I was excited to be there, and having a tour by the people who made this exhibition possible was even more exciting!

Van Gogh Opening 01

The olive groves paintings are spread throughout the world, and this exhibition reunites them for the first time. It was made possible by loans from other museums and personal collections. Some of these artworks were never exhibited in the Netherlands, and some return here after almost a century. It’s the first exhibition to explore the significance of olive trees to Van Gogh, and what he set out to achieve when painting this remarkable series. Van Gogh and the Olive Groves is a collaboration with Dallas Museum of Art, which hosted the exhibition until February.

Van Gogh Olive Groves 02

A soul project

During his stay at the asylum in the South of France, Vincent Van Gogh was completely charmed by the landscape, the light and colours that surrounded him. He always found peace in nature, and it was the same with the olive groves. He wrote in one of his letters to Teo: ”The murmur of an olive grove has something very intimate, immensely old about it”. Fascinated by these trees, their twisted shapes and the ever-changing colours, he set out to create a series of paintings that will encapsulate their beauty. Vincent experimented with various techniques and colour combinations to capture the exact colours and the feel of the olive groves, at various times of the day and in various seasons. He worked outside, in nature (we know this because there are traces of insects and seeds in the paintings), and sometimes in the studio. He put a lot of work and passion in this project, which he thought to be his best work from that period in France. Van Gogh believed that art should bring comfort, and I think he manages just that with this series. Watching his olive groves paintings, you are instantly transported to Provence, under the pink skies or under stormy clouds, you walk among and under the trees, you watch the olive pickers doing their job. You can almost feel the hot summer air and the rich scents of the nature, hear the rustling of leaves.

Van Gogh Olive Groves 03

I loved learning the details behind the creation of the series by Van Gogh, as well as the ones behind the creation of this exhibition, directly from the curators: Nienke Bakker (Van Gogh Museum) and Nicole R. Myers (Dallas Museum of Art), and Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam conservator, Kathrin Pilz. I also loved the display design: brown, curvy shapes to make you think about the olive trees, and a blue-pinkish sky surrounding the entire room. It was like walking on the meandering alleys of an olive grove.

During the exhibition, Van Gogh Museum organises painting workshops for adults and children, challenging them to capture their emotions in a painting. Also, for the first time since the pandemic started, the “Vincent on Friday” is back! This will be a special evening to help you “find comfort, inspiration and peace in your surroundings”, and includes a walking tour through the beautiful Vondelpark.

If you’d like a souvenir and to have all the impressive research done about the olive groves series in your home, you can buy the book “Van Gogh and the Olive Groves”, by Nienke Bakkers and Nicole R. Myers (in English), or the Van Gogh en de olijfgaarden (in Dutch), by Nienke Bakkers, Teio Meedendorp and Louis van Tilborgh.

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