I first saw one of van Gogh’s olive trees paintings more than 30 years ago and I’m still entranced by them. A reproduction of one hangs over my office desk, and I wrote today’s devotional based on these paintings.
There seems no better day of the year to reflect on this collection of at least 15 paintings than Good Friday. Most were painted in the summer of 1889 when van Gogh voluntarily admitted himself to the Asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole at Saint-Rémy in Provence, France. Struggling with depression, van Gogh found comfort as he painted in the abundant olives groves that surrounded the asylum.
According to the National Galleries of Scotland, Olive Trees was “a subject which held deeper significance for Van Gogh. The previous summer he had abandoned an attempt to paint a religious subject showing Christ on the Mount of Olives. He found it difficult to work from his imagination and he now felt that it was important to use nature as a starting point. In his paintings of olive groves he found a subject that could carry religious associations in a way that was natural and unforced. In the exaggerated brushwork and vivid colour of paintings like the Olive Trees he was able to express the underlying forces of nature that for him conveyed something passionate, supernatural and eternal.”
Consider reflecting on the eternal truths brushed into Olives Trees that held such meaning for van Gogh and gave him such comfort as he struggled with his faith in the midst of depression. The weighty struggle to choose obedience that Jesus faced in the Garden of Gethsemane. And the many struggles we know today that can be viewed in light of those drops of red.
All is well,