The Large Plane Trees (Road Menders at Saint-Rémy)

  • Creator: Vincent van Gogh 1853-1890
  • Year: 1889
  • Location: Saint-Rémy, France

In May 1889, Van Gogh voluntarily committed himself to an asylum near the small town of Saint-Rémy in Provence. His doctors soon gave him permission to paint on day excursions to surrounding fields. While walking through Saint-Rémy that November, he was impressed by the sight of men repairing a road beneath immense plane trees. “In spite of the cold,” he wrote to his brother, “I have gone on working outside till now, and I think it is doing me good and the work too.” Rushing to capture the yellowing leaves, he painted this composition on an unusual cloth with a pattern of small red diamonds visible in the picture’s many unpainted areas.

FUN FACT: Van Gogh sometimes created what he called “repetitions,” in which he painted the same subject and composition again. This painting has a repetition, currently in the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. Conservation research has shown that the Cleveland painting is the first version.

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