Olive Trees,

Vincent van Gogh Dutch

This is one of five pictures of olive orchards that Van Gogh made in November 1889. Painted directly from nature but animated by Seurat-like stippling and stylized passages of broken color, these works responded to recent compositions by Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard. "What I’ve done is a rather harsh and coarse realism beside their abstractions," Van Gogh observed, "but it will nevertheless impart a rustic note, and will smell of the soil."

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 822

Public Domain

Object Details

Artist: Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)

Date: 1889

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 28 5/8 x 36 1/4 in. (72.7 x 92.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 1998, Bequest of Walter H. Annenberg, 2002

Accession Number: 1998.325.1

the artist's brother, Theo van Gogh, Paris (1890–d. 1891; sent to him by the artist on January 3, 1890); his widow, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam, in trust for their son, Vincent Willem van Gogh (1891–her d. 1925); Vincent Willem van Gogh, Amsterdam (1925–26; sold in 1926 to A. Mak, Amsterdam, apparently as agent for Wildenstein, with Paul Rosenberg, Paris, as intermediary); [Wildenstein, New York and London, 1926–37; sold on November 1, 1937 for £5,750 to Schuster]; Sir Victor Schuster, London (1937–47; purchased, in part, through exchange of "Women Picking Olives" by Van Gogh [MMA 1995.535]; sale, Sotheby's, London, July 26, 1939, no. 76, bought in for £4,000 by Carlson as agent for Schuster; deposited with Schuster collection for safekeeping at The Tate Gallery, London, from July 1940; with The Lefevre Gallery [Alex. Reid & Lefevre], London, until no later than December 1946, when consigned by Schuster to Wildenstein; sold by Schuster about September 1947 to Mayor); [Mayor Galleries, London, 1947–50; sold in May 1950 to Feilchenfeldt]; [Walter Feilchenfeldt, Zurich, from 1950; sold to Simon]; Simon, Switzerland (until d. 1953); his widow (1953; sold on October 27 via Francart S.A., Zug, Switzerland, to Lefevre); [The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid and Lefevre), London, 1953–54; sold on May 11, 1954 to Salz]; [Sam Salz, New York, 1954; sold on May 15 to Annenberg]; Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, Rancho Mirage, Calif. (1954–98; jointly with MMA, 1998–his d. 2002)
Amsterdam. Stedelijk Museum. "Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en Teekeningen door Vincent van Gogh," July–August 1905, no. 202 [see La Faille 1928].

Rotterdam. Kunstzalen Oldenzeel. "Schilderijen en Teekeningen door Vincent van Gogh," January 26–February 28, 1906, no. 48 [see La Faille 1970].

New York. Armory of the Sixty-ninth Regiment. "International Exhibition of Modern Art (The Armory Show)," February 17–March 15, 1913, no. 430 (as "Le grand olivier," lent by MM. Artz & de Bois [from the Van Gogh family collection]) [see Heijbroek and Wouthuysen 1993].

Art Institute of Chicago. "International Exhibition of Modern Art (The Armory Show)," March 24–April 16, 1913, no. 414 (as "The big olive tree," lent by Artz and Du Bois [from the Van Gogh family collection]) [see Heijbroek and Wouthuysen 1993].

Copley Hall, Copley Society of Boston. "International Exhibition of Modern Art (The Armory Show)," April 28–May 19, 1913, no. 219 (as "The Big Olive Tree," lent by M. Artz and De Bois [from the Van Gogh family collection]) [see Heijbroek and Wouthuysen 1993].

New York. Montross Gallery. "Vincent van Gogh," October 23–?, 1920, no. 49 (as "Olive Orchard," possibly this work, though F707 is more likely).

New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc. "French Masters of the XIX Century," March–April 1927, no catalogue [see Art News 1927 and Fisher 1969].

St. Louis. City Art Museum. "An Exhibition of Paintings & Prints by the Masters of Post-Impressionism," April 4–26, 1931, no. 36 (as "The Olive Grove," lent by Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York).

Detroit Institute of Arts. "Modern French Painting," May 22–June 30, 1931, no. 47 (as "Olive Trees," lent by the Wildenstein Galleries, New York).

Los Angeles Museum. "European Paintings by Old and Modern Masters: An Exhibition Arranged by Wildenstein and Company, Paris, London, New York," June 13–August 5, 1934, no. 17 (as "Les Oliviers").

Montreal. W. Scott & Sons. "French Paintings by the Impressionists and Modern Artists," December 1934, no. 16.

London. Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd. "French Paintings of the XIXth & XXth Centuries," August 7–29, 1942, no. 9 (as "Oliviers").

London. Lefevre Gallery. "Delacroix to Dufy: French Paintings of the 19th and 20th Centuries," June–July 1946, no. 55.

Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. "Vincent van Gogh," July 3–August 4, 1957, no. 16 (as "Olive Trees," lent by Mr. and Mrs. M. W. [sic] Annenberg, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Summer Loan Collections," July 4–September 2, 1963, no catalogue.

London. Tate Gallery. "The Annenberg Collection," September 2–October 8, 1969, no. 20 (as "Les Oliviers, St.-Remy").

Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," May 21–September 17, 1989, unnumbered cat. (as "Olive Trees: Pale Blue Sky").

Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," May 6–August 5, 1990, unnumbered cat.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," August 16–November 11, 1990, unnumbered cat.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection," June 4–October 13, 1991, unnumbered cat.

THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.

Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Émile Bernard. [on or about November 26, 1889] [Thaw Collection, Morgan Library & Museum, New York; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. B21; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 822], writes that he is working in the olive trees, describing the sort of effects he is seeking in his paintings, and states that he has just finished five size 30 canvases of this subject.

Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [November 26, 1889] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. nos. b664 V/1962 and b2970 V/1982; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 615; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 823], writes that he has painted five size 30 canvases of olive groves, including this work.

Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his sister Willemien. [December 9 or 10, 1889] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b716 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. W16; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 827], states that he has "12 large canvases on the go, above all olive groves," including this work.

Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [on or about December 19, 1889] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b666 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 617; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 829], mentions "a half-dozen studies of olive trees," including this work.

Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [January 3, 1890] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b670 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 621; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 834], writes that among the group of canvases sent to Theo that day are four of olive trees, including this work.

Theo van Gogh. Letter to his brother Vincent. January 22, 1890 [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b752 a-b V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. T25; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 843], states that when he again saw the "olive trees," including this work, he "found them more and more beautiful".

Vincent van Gogh. Draft of a letter to his sister Willemien. [on or about May 21, 1890] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b721 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. W21; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. RM19], writes that he would have liked for her to see his paintings of olive groves with their different skies of yellow, pink, and blue.

Vincent van Gogh. Draft of a letter to Joseph Jacob Isaäcson. [May 25, 1890] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. no. b663 V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 614a; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. RM21], states that in the olive grove paintings he sought "some effects of opposition between the changing foliage and the tones of the sky, probably referring to ths picture and F707 (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

"Exhibitions in New York; Paintings from the Rosenberg Collection; Wildenstein Galleries." Art News 25 (March 19, 1927), p. 9, mentions this painting among sixteen on view from the Paul Rosenberg collection [Exh. New York 1927].

J.-B. de La Faille. L'Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh: Catalogue Raisonné. Paris, 1928, vol. 1, p. 201–2, no. 708; vol. 2, pl. 199.

"St. Louis Shows Art of the Post Impressionists." Art News 29 (April 18, 1931), p. 5.

W. Scherjon. Catalogue des tableaux par Vincent van Gogh décrits dans ses lettres. Périodes: St. Rémy et Auvers sur Oise. Utrecht, 1932, pp. 20, 78, 80–81, no. 8, ill.

W. Scherjon and Jos. De Gruyter. Vincent van Gogh's Great Period: Arles, St. Rémy and Auvers sur Oise (complete catalogue). Amsterdam, 1937, pp. 210, 268, 270–71, St. Rémy no. 8, ill.

J.-B. de La Faille. Vincent van Gogh. London, [1939], pp. 498, 559, 577, 589, no. 723, ill., as in the Wildenstein collection.

Vincent van Gogh. The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh with Reproductions of All the Drawings in the Correspondence. Greenwich, Conn., 1958, under letter nos. 614a (probably this picture), 615, 617, 621, W16, W21, B21, T25.

Joseph S. Trovato in 1913 Armory Show: 50th Anniversary Exhibition, 1963. Exh. cat., Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute Utica, NY. New York, 1963, p. 191, tentatively identifies it as no. 434 in the New York venue of the Armory Show [Exh. New York 1913].

M. Roy Fisher. The Annenberg Collection. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. London, 1969, unpaginated, no. 20, ill. (color).

J.-B. de La Faille. The Works of Vincent van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam, 1970, pp. 275, 639, no. 708, ill. p. 274, as "Olive Trees: Pale Blue Sky"; dates it September–November 1889.

Paolo Lecaldano. L'opera pittorica completa di Van Gogh e i suoi nessi grafici. Vol. 2, Da Arles a Auvers. repr. [1st ed., 1966]. Milan, 1971–77, pp. 223–24, no. 738, ill., dates it September–November 1889.

Jan Hulsker. The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches. [1st ed., Amsterdam, 1977]. New York, 1980, pp. 422, 424, 427, no. 1855, ill.

Evert van Uitert. "Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin in Competition: Vincent's Original Contribution." Simiolus 11, no. 2 (1980), p. 103 n. 83.

Ronald Pickvance The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy and Auvers. New York, 1986, pp. 16–17, 53, 55, 58–59, 98, 160–61, 166–67, 304, 318, ill. p. 306 and fig. 37.

Milton W. Brown. The Story of the Armory Show. 2nd ed. [1st ed., Greenwich, Conn., 1963]. New York, 1988, p. 272, ill. p. 199 (installation photo), provides the De la Faille number for this painting (F708) but refers, by title and owner, to a different work by the artist (F695, Foundation E. G. Bührle Collection, Zürich) in identifying the work shown as "Paysage d'Arles/Landscape, Arles" in the 1913 Armory show (no. 434 in the New York venue; 418 in Chicago; 223 in Boston); publishes an installation photo of the Chicago venue.

Roland Dorn in Vincent van Gogh and the Modern Movement: 1890–1914. Exh. cat., Museum Folkwang, Essen. Freren, Germany, 1990, pp. 158, 160.

Jan Hulsker. Vincent and Theo van Gogh: A Dual Biography. Ed. James M. Miller. Trans. and rev. ed. [1st ed. Weesp, Holland, 1985]. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1990, p. 386.

Joseph J. Rishel in Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Colin B. Bailey, Joseph J. Rishel, and Mark Rosenthal. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1991, pp. 106–7, 199, ill. (color and black and white).

Jérôme Coignard. "Le Salon de peinture de Mr. et Mrs. Annenberg." Beaux arts no. 92 (July–August 1991), p. 72, ill. in color, front cover, pp. 5, 62–63 (overall and details).

Jan Hulsker. Vincent van Gogh: A Guide to His Work and Letters. Amsterdam, 1993, pp. 17, 42, 56–57, 61, 76.

J[an]. F[rederik]. Heijbroek and E[ster]. L. Wouthuysen. Kunst, Kennis en Commercie: De Kunsthandelaar J. H. de Bois (1878–1946). Amsterdam, 1993, p. 197, ill. pp. 44 (installation photo), 197, record that Artz & de Bois handled this work in 1912 and lent it to the 1913 Armory Show as "Le Grand Olivier/The Big Olive Tree," with an asking price of $5,200.

Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 498, ill.

Jan Hulsker. The New Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches. rev. ed. Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 424, 426–27, no. 1855, ill.

Håkan Larsson. Flames from the South: On the Introduction of Vincent van Gogh to Sweden. Eslöv, 1996, p. 37.

Ira Berkow. "Jewels in the Desert." Art News 97 (May 1998), p. 147, ill. p. 145 (color, installation photo).

Susan Alyson Stein in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1998–1999." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Fall 1999), p. 46, ill. (color).

Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov. Van Gogh in Provence and Auvers. [New York], 1999, pp. 248–50, ill. p. 251 (color).

Joan E. Greer. "A Modern Gethsemane: Vincent van Gogh's 'Olive Grove'." Van Gogh Museum Journal (2001), p. 109 n. 5.

Madeleine Korn. "Collecting Paintings by Van Gogh in Britain Before the Second World War." Van Gogh Museum Journal (2002), p. 137, states that Sir Victor Schuster bought this picture by 1939.

Viviane Rosé. Temps, Affect, Sensation: de Cézanne à Matisse. PhD diss., Universite de Toulouse-Le-Mirail. Lille, [2003], pp. 229–30.

Martin Bailey in Van Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collectors. Exh. cat., Compton Verney, Warwickshire. Edinburgh, 2006, p. 126.

Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten, and Nienke Bakker. Vincent van Gogh: Painted with Words, The Letters to Émile Bernard. Exh. cat., Morgan Library & Museum. New York, 2007, pp. 345, 353 n. 15.

Susan Alyson Stein in Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein and Asher Ethan Miller. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, p. 224.

Joseph J. Rishel in Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein and Asher Ethan Miller. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, pp. 212–16, 218, no. 40, ill. (color).

Vincent van Gogh. Vincent van Gogh—The Letters. Ed. Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten, and Nienke Bakker. London, 2009, vol. 5, pp. 148–49, 153, fig. 14 (color), under letter no. 822, pp. 154–55, fig. 8 (color), under letter no. 823, p. 161, under letter no. 827, p. 166, fig. 4 (color), under letter no. 829, p. 175, fig. 13 (color), under letter no. 834, p. 189, under letter no. 843, p. 317, under letter no. RM19, p. 320, fig. 2 (color), under letter no. RM21 (identify it as possibly the picture referred to in letter no. RM21).

Walter Feilchenfeldt. Vincent van Gogh: The Years in France. Complete Paintings 1886–1890. London, 2013, pp. 231, 312, 319, 322, 343, 347, ill. (color) [1st German ed., 2009], as "Olive Trees: Pale Blue Sky," dated December 1889.

Julian Bell. Van Gogh: A Power Seething. Boston, 2015, pp. 130, 132.

Sjraar van Heugten in Van Gogh and Nature. Exh. cat., Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2015, p. 201, fig. 172 (color), calls it "Olive Grove: Pale Blue Sky" and discusses the impetus for the series of olive grove pictures.

Laura Prins in Van Gogh: Into the Undergrowth. Exh. cat., Cincinnati Art Museum. Cincinnati, 2016, fig. 2 [1913 Armory Show installation photograph, Art Institute of Chicago].

Cornelia Homburg in Van Gogh & Japan. Ed. Tsukasa Kodera, Cornelia Homburg, and Yukihiro Sato. Exh. cat., Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo. Kyoto, 2017, p. 150 n. 64.

Cornelia Homburg in Van Gogh & Japan. Exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Brussels, 2018, p. 182 n. 65.

Martin Bailey. Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum. London, 2018, p. 202 n. 6 (under ch. 8).

In late November 1889 while in Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh wrote to both his brother Theo and Émile Bernard that he had completed five paintings of olive trees on size 30 canvases, his second group of pictures of olive orchards. The five works include this one and versions in the Göteborgs Konstmuseum (F586), Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (F587), Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (F707), and Minneapolis Institute of Arts (F710).

Of the two candidates proposed for the Olive Orchard shown in the 1920 Montross exhibition, it seems more likely that the Van Gogh Museum's picture (F707) was exhibited, and not this picture, on the basis of a review that described the skies as "morose." See Peyton Boswell, "Van Gogh Art Revealed in Big Show. Thirty-two Paintings Included in Exhibition of the Dutch Post-Impressionist's Works Here. Displays in Other N.Y. Galleries," New York American, October 24, 1920 [Van Gogh Museum press clippings, Akboek Andries Bonger, PVG 3117].