Almond blossoms overcome the long winter and bloom earliest in spring. “Almond Blossom” is the first present Vincent van Gogh gave to his nephew and the last painting of a flower in the last spring of his 37-year-old life.
In February 1890, Gogh, who was staying in a St. Remy asylum, received a delightful letter from his brother Theo, announcing the birth of his son. “As we told you, we’ll name him after you. I’m making the wish that he may be as determined and as courageous as you,” wrote Theo.
Gogh, who felt sorry that his nephew was named after him, who was neither healthy, happy nor successful, and drew a beautiful painting of a flower tree as a present for his newborn nephew. It was an almond tree with pink and white blossoms and the blue sky in the background. He drew many paintings of flowers from the period he stayed in Arles but it was his first time to paint flowers and buds up close, not least using such bright colors. Gogh also regarded this as the best work that he painted with patience. The bold structure that reminds us of oriental paintings, the thick outline of twigs, absence of perspective, bright colors, and flat background, which were influenced by the Japanese woodcuts popular among impressionist artists.
Theo, who received the painting, hung it on top of the baby’s bed, saying it was “very beautiful.” Almond blossoms, which bloom in early spring, symbolize new life and hope. Furthermore, the almond tree is known to be the symbol of revival. Ironically, Gogh painted the most hopeful and brightest work during the most depressing and difficult time of his life. Five months later, Gogh committed suicide by shooting himself with a gun five months later, and Theo, who cherished his brother during his whole life, followed him six months later.
Then, what happened to baby Vincent? Gogh’s nephew, who treasured the flower painting from his uncle all his life, established the Van Gogh Museum and donated it with all his other posthumous works. Gogh never would have imagined his nephew to build a museum that is visited by so many people from across the world with the name and the present from his uncle.