Van Gogh’s Autumn Colors

Vincent van Gogh, The Large Plane Trees (Road Menders at Saint-Rémy), 1889. Oil on fabric, 28 7/8 x 36 1/8 in. The Cleveland Museum of Art. Gift of the Hanna Fund, 1947

Vincent van Gogh, The Large Plane Trees (Road Menders at Saint-Rémy), 1889. Oil on fabric, 28 7/8 x 36 1/8 in. The Cleveland Museum of Art. Gift of the Hanna Fund, 1947

During his stay at the mental institution in Saint- Rémy, van Gogh painted a few autumn studies amid the changing colors. In a letter to his brother Theo, he described his progress: “The last study I did is a view of the village – where people were at work – under enormous plane trees – repairing the pavements. So there are piles of sand, stones and the gigantic tree-trunks – the yellowing foliage, and here and there glimpses of a house-front and little figures.”

The bright leaves inspired him so much that he quickly captured the moment on a piece of cloth, resulting in The Large Plane Trees.

How would the leaves on the trees look different if he had waited a few more weeks to paint this picture? How would the colors be different? How might the composition look different? Would the mood have changed?

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