Undergrowth: A Discovery

I discovered if you search Vincent van Gogh’s paintings using the word “undergrowth” rather than, say, trees or forest, the results are paintings that remind me more of Klimt’s forests than a Van Gogh, for example, these four at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. He was in Paris at the time he did the one below, so no surprise really they also remind me of Monet.

“It had struck me how firmly the saplings were rooted in the ground – I started on them with the brush, but because the ground was already impasted, brush-strokes simply vanished into it. Then I squeezed the roots and trunks in from the tube and modelled them a little with the brush.”
Letter to Theo van Gogh, 3 September 1882

Every now and then I think my long-time love of Van Gogh’s paintings might have worn thin, only to find paintings new to me, fresh inspiration and a reminder of what I so enjoy — the colour, the mark making, the determination. You’d think I might have realised by now I’ll never stop learning from his paintings and drawings because as my painting develops what I see and learn changes. This week it was “undergrowth”. Look at that glow of a shaft of sunlight in the painting below for starters!

Van Gogh "Trees and Undergrowth", 1887 painting
Van Gogh “Trees and Undergrowth”, 1887

4 Replies to “Undergrowth: A Discovery”

  1. Thank you for sharing this discovery – Though I’ve read many articles and a big book about Van Gogh, I don’t recall seeing these “Undergrowth” works. I wonder why his Sunflowers and Starry Night paintings became the ones most associated with his name – Was it perhaps because their style deviated more from accepted norms back then and affirmed the rumor that he was mentally unstable – and unfortunately, “gossiped” opinions are more readily accepted and promoted than unbiased appreciation of talent.
    So very sad and unfair!

    1. I’ve wondered if it’s got to do with what paintings of his the big museums have, so Starry Night is at MoMA, Sunflowers at London National Gallery, and that these have been in the wider public eye.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m with you on the feelings about his work. It’s irresistibly beautiful.

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