The Mulberry Tree
Vincent van Gogh's Mulberry Tree is an oil painting on canvas with van Gogh's unique brush stroke technique. It made in October of 1889. The size of the painting is 54 x 65 cm. I visited the Norton Simon Museum on November 8th 2009, but this painting impressed me a lot. The reason is when I was watching this painting, I felt so energetic. This is the painting can make you full of energy.
This oil painting is showing the white-yellow field, yellowish tree and the blue sky. The yellowish mulberry tree with short brown trunk and a big explosive yellow leaves located at the center of the painting. For this painting, van Gogh used a lot of diagonal and curvilinear lines. For example, he used a lot of curvilinear lines to make the leaves and the leaves diagonal stroke into the blue sky. Also, the way van Gogh painted his sky used a lot of short diagonal lines too. The tree, filed, and the snow mountain appear to be organic in shape, and the sky and the upper part of the leaves make up a pyramidal shape. The pyramidal shape also showed on the left side which is the snow mountain. Open palette is the color method of this painting. The darkest color was used for the tree which was far behind the yellow mulberry tree. This dark tress can cause extra attention to the appreciator. The highlight of the painting is the complexity of the color which has been selected for the leaves. He used orange-yellow, green-yellow, and black to make the tress more impressive. Van Gogh did not seem like to create an illusion space for the painting. He did not use a unified light source. However, I still can tell the light is from the upper right because the colors he used for the tree in the lower left were darker. The texture of the image is actual texture. Van Gogh used his unique technique which called impasto. He enjoyed in the textural richness of oil paint; therefore, the paint laden with heavy in The Mulberry Tree. It seems almost three dimensional. The painting is full of layers .We cannot tell every leaf individually. They are all tangled together. Each branches reach upward to the blue sky which was drew by short strokes. This piece of work has an asymmetrical balance. At the lower left side of the background, appears lighter visually because of the snow mountain. In this work, he painted a normal tree in an extraordinary, emotional, and vibrant way. Under the surrounding of the sky, snow mountain, field, and the little green tree, the mulberry tree is full of electric energy. After I noticed this painting was done in October, no wander that the leaves were yellow. However van Gogh expressed his passionate feelings through the yellow withered mulberry tree.
For Vincent van Gogh, one of the greatest artists, his life was not proceed smoothly without a hitch. He spent his final fifteen months of his life in a private asylum in Saint-Remy-de-provence, in the South of France. In the small village of Auvers -sur-Oise, he committed suicide in late July 1890 (Pickvance 25). This painting was done at that time period. Van Gogh who is famous at brilliant colors and emotional impact was a Dutch Impressionist painter (Schapiro 18). He suffered from his mental illness through his life. Though he was died at age of 37, his fame was well-known after his death. More than 2000 artworks were produce by him. All of his early works comprise mainly of dark tones and no brilliant colors were used compare to his later work. After he arrive Paris, his style has been change totally, he start to use brighter color and His unique style which using a lot of bright colors was identifiable in Arles in 1888 (Gruitrooy 45).
Vincent Van Gogh lived during the latter part of the 19th Century. While short, his life reached the industrial revolution which made European change into the modern world. Various effects such as take control of polity, society, and economy were the result of the raising of the position of middle class. Christianity was the religion which most people believed in during that time; And Van Gogh was a Christian. He served almost as a clergyman in the Dutch Reformed Church (Bronkhorst 6). During that time, a lot of work had been created such as Barbizon School, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Symbolism, Nabis, Art Nouveau, and Pictorialism. Though van Gogh was unique, his works were reflected by other artists. During 1884-1885, The Barbizon artists, in particular Jean-François Millet, influenced his mind to paint countrified life (Gruitrooy 19). In 1886, after he moved to Paris, he saw the work of the Impressionists directly and also beheld the newest conception by the Neo-Impressionists Paul Signac and Georges Seurat. As a result, Van Gogh brighter his color and tried with the brush strokes of the Impressionists (Gruitrooy 23). After that, impasto became famous by van Gogh.
For The Mulberry Tree van Gogh wrote to his sister, "As for the mulberry trees…I painted one, when its dense foliage was a magnificent yellow color against a very blue sky, on a white stony field with the sunshine from behind." in a letter (Pickvance 48). This painting has a significant meaning to him because he said about The Mulberry Tree three times in his letters to his sister and brother. He wrote that he feel this one was the best of his all mulberry tree paintings(Pickvance 49). This painting represents the height that van Gogh could reach in his art.
In conclusion, The Mulberry Tree is the most moving and meaningful work I have ever seen. The mulberry tree means van Gogh himself, and the weather and surroundings mean all the difficulty he was suffering. He not only drew an energetic mulberry tree but also show all his passion for art. Every time I imagine that van Gogh was trying to use the mulberry tree to reflect himself, I am more respect to him.
Bronkhorst, Hans. Vincent Van Gogh, Portland House, New York: 1990.
Gogh, Vincent van, and Schapiro, Meyer. Vincent van Gogh. New York: 1982.
Gogh, Vincent van,and Gruitrooy, Gerhard. Van Gogh: an appreciation of his art. New York:1994.
Pickvance, Ronald. Van Gogh in Saint-ReÌmy and Auvers . New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986.