From Foundation E.G. Bührle, Zurich:
After the end of May 1890, Vincent van Gogh lived in Auvers-sur-Oise, spending a lot of time with his doctor Paul Gachet. Gachet was not only a painter himself; he also knew several Impressionist artists personally. Working intensively, van Gogh was now producing one or more paintings each day. For the work that you see here, he chose an especially imposing format. The level of detail is consistent throughout and the structure is that of a carefully composed still life. Placed at the centre is a vase, which, under a branch with white chestnut blossom, also holds a sprig of rhododendron. The vase stands on a round table, casting a shadow onto its surface. Only the blue that encompasses the blossom and leaves above it is imaginary, recalling the sky against which they appeared before being cut for the floral arrangement. The style of painting reveals how van Gogh had continued to develop the methods of neo-Impressionism in his own way. The dashes of paint of his earlier style have coalesced into thicker, more plastic brushstrokes. The pattern made by them has become an essential part of the pictorial content, lending the static motif a dynamic quality of its own. It is worth noting that the original matt texture of this painting's surface has survived un-tampered with. After the death of van Gogh, the still life initially remained in Gachet's house, as a gift of the artist's family. Then it was bought by a private collector in Berlin, in whose family it stayed for over forty years until Emil Bührle purchased it in 1951. The painting was only ever on the art market for a very short time. It was thus spared the fate of many other works by van Gogh, which completely disregarding the artist's intentions were subsequently coated with glossy varnish.
To Willemien van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Saturday, 4 January 1890.
My dear sister,
A few lines to tell you that I’m very pleased that you’re in Paris with Theo and Jo. And no need to tell you that I think of all of you every day.
Fortunately, a quite violent attack of exaltation or delirium is again behind me and I don’t feel any after-effects, so to speak, I am as I am every day.
And I’m going to begin work again first thing tomorrow if the weather permits. Today we have a very mild day with a spring sun, one would say. And yesterday while out walking I saw dandelions already in flower in the meadows, which will be shortly followed by the daisies and violets. I find the winter very beautiful here and absolutely the same thing as in the north, only a bit brighter.
Yesterday I sent some paintings to Paris – and the one of the women picking olives I designated for you and Mother. You’ll see, I think, that in a white frame it takes on quite a soft colour effect, the opposition of the pink and the green. Soon I’ll send a few more that are drying at the moment, some more mountains, and a view of the garden here with tall pines I shan’t write any more to you today because the letter must go off. I’m very glad that you’re there, and I hope that the great event will pass happily for Jo.