The Yellow Sail

Paul Signac, French Artist, 1863-1935
Venice, the Yellow Sail, 1904, Oil on Canvas, 73×92 cm, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (In deposit to the Museum of Fine Arts and Archeology of Besançon since 1972) – Photo Credit: Amalia Spiliakou, Neo-Impressionism in the Colours of the Mediterranean Exhibition (10.01 – 07.04.2024), February 2024

The Exhibition Neo-Impressionism in the Colours of the Mediterranean (1891-1914) was held in Athens at the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation. This event was organized in collaboration with several prominent European museums and institutions, including the Musée d’Orsay, the National Gallery in London, the Centre Pompidou, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Besançon, the Musée de l’Annonciade, the Musée de Grenoble, the Musée national d’archéologie, d’histoire et d’art – Luxembourg, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, as well as various European private collectors. The exhibition showcased works by renowned artists such as Paul Signac, Henri-Edmond Cross, Maximilien Luce, Théo van Rysselberghe, Henri Matisse, Henri Manguin, and Louis Valtat, many of which were being displayed in Greece for the first time. One piece that particularly, captivated me was Paul Signac’s 1904 painting, Venice, the Yellow Sail.

Let’s explore the Exhibition ‘Neo-Impressionism in the Colours of the Mediterranean’ through Paul Signac’s painting, Venice, the Yellow Sail, by posing questions about When, How, What, and Who…

How would you define Neo-Impressionism? Neo-Impressionism is an art movement that emerged in the late 19th century as a reaction to the spontaneity and subjectivity of Impressionism. It is characterized by a systematic and scientific approach to painting, primarily focusing on the use of colour and light. Neo-Impressionists employed techniques such as Pointillism or Divisionism, where small dots or strokes of pure colour are applied to the canvas. When viewed from a distance, these dots visually blend to create vibrant, luminous compositions. The movement was led by artists like Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, who sought to bring a greater sense of order and structure to their works through meticulous planning and an emphasis on colour theory.

What is Pointillism or Divisionism? Divisionism or Pointillism is a painting technique developed by Neo-Impressionist artists like Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in the late 19th century. This method, which sought to establish a scientific foundation for the Impressionist exploration of light and colour, involves applying small, distinct dots of pure colour to a canvas, which blend visually in the viewer’s eye to create a cohesive image with enhanced vibrancy and luminosity. Inspired by M-E Chevreul’s 1839 colour theory on simultaneous contrast, aimed to enhance luminosity, as optically mixed colours tend toward white, the technique significantly influenced French painters, especially among the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and Neo-Impressionists.

Théo van Rysselberghe, Belgian Artist, 1862-1926
Portrait of Paul Signac at the helm of the Olympia (detail), 1896, Oil on Canvas, 93×114 cm, Private Collection – Photo Credit: Amalia Spiliakou, Neo-Impressionism in the Colours of the Mediterranean Exhibition (10.01 – 07.04.2024), February 2024

Who is Paul Signac? Paul Signac was a French Neo-Impressionist painter renowned for pioneering the Pointillist technique alongside Georges Seurat. Born in Paris, Signac initially trained as an architect before dedicating himself to painting. Influenced by Impressionism, he soon embraced a more scientific approach to colour and light, leading to his collaboration with Seurat to develop Divisionism. Signac travelled extensively, drawing inspiration from the Mediterranean and its vivid landscapes. His works often depicted harbours and coastal scenes, capturing the interplay of light and water. In addition to his artistic contributions, Signac authored several important texts on art theory, including From Eugène Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism, which articulated the principles of Neo-Impressionism. His legacy endures through his innovative techniques and his role in shaping modern art.

How would Signac’s painting Venice, the Yellow Sail be described? Paul Signac’s painting Venice, the Yellow Sail, housed in the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, is a vibrant and luminous depiction of Venice’s iconic waterways. The focal point is a sailboat with a striking yellow sail, which stands out against the intricate interplay of blues and greens in the water and sky. Signac captures the essence of Venice with a keen eye for the effects of light and colour, imbuing the scene with a sense of movement and radiance. The painting reflects Signac’s love for sailing, his fascination with maritime subjects and his mastery of Divisionism, resulting in a visually captivating representation of Venice’s beauty.

When did Paul Signac visit Venice? The artist visited Venice for the first time in the spring of 1904. Initially planning to visit in the summer of 1903, Signac’s fascination with the city, partly influenced by John Ruskin’s “The Stones of Venice,” led him to postpone his travels until the following year. Arriving at the end of March 1904, he stayed until late May, producing a significant number of watercolours during his visit. The oils he created were exhibited at the 1905 Salon des Indépendants, where they garnered praise from both the public and critics. Louis Vauxcelles, for example, remarked… nothing is more vibrant, more atmospheric, than the shimmering Venice of M. Signac.

Paul Signac, French Artist, 1863-1935
Venice, the Yellow Sail (detail), 1904, Oil on Canvas, 73×92 cm, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (In deposit to the Museum of Fine Arts and Archeology of Besançon since 1972) – Photo Credit: Amalia Spiliakou, Neo-Impressionism in the Colours of the Mediterranean Exhibition (10.01 – 07.04.2024), February 2024

How is Louis Vauxcelles’s remark nothing is more vibrant, more atmospheric, than the shimmering Venice of M. Signac applied to Signac’s painting Venice, the Yellow Sail? In Signac’s painting Venice, the Yellow Sail, Signac captures the essence of Venice’s shimmering beauty with remarkable vibrancy and atmosphere. The painting radiates with the luminous colours of the city’s water canals and buildings, soft and hazy pinks, lilacs, and greens, evoking the play of light and shadow characteristic of Venice. The focal point of the yellow sail adds a dynamic burst of colour against the serene backdrop, further enhancing the painting’s vibrancy. Signac’s meticulous use of Divisionism infuses the scene with an ethereal quality, as the carefully placed dots of colour blend harmoniously to create a captivating and immersive depiction of Venice’s unique atmosphere.

For a PowerPoint on Paul Signac, please… Check HERE!

La Passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864-1901
La Passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht, 1893-1899, Album of 12 lithographs printed on superior Vélin paper, 448/750, 52.6 × 36 cm, Printed by Mourlot Frères, Paris, and André Thiry, Brittany, published by Librairie Gründ, Paris, 1948, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens

In the summer of 1895 Lautrec embarked on a voyage from Le Havre to Bordeaux with Maurice Guibert, on the steamer Le Chili.  During the voyage he discovered a young woman, one of his fellow passengers, in cabin No. 54, who was on her way to join her husband, a colonial official in Senegal. He was so fascinated by her beauty that, despite protests from Guibert, he determined to stay on board once the ship reached Bordeaux and continue south with the vessel.  It was not until they reached Lisbon that his friend succeeded in getting Lautrec — who was determined to carry on as far as Dakar — off the ship. Guibert then took the artist via Madrid and Toledo to the spa of Taussat, and the trip ended in late summer near Bordeaux, at the Château de Malromé, the main residence of Lautrec’s mother. This is how La Passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was inspired and created! A fascinating story…,%20Passagere.html  

Back in Paris, Toulouse-Lautrec carefully and swiftly developed his, now-famous, lithograph La passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht. The stylish young, red-haired woman of the lithograph was apparently unaware of the artist’s presence, the two were never introduced, and her name is unknown. What apparently captured the artist’s eye was the way the young woman leisurely reclined in a striped chair on the yacht’s deck. What captivated his soul was her air of nonchalance, the way she gazed at the sea and the ships sailing by… her dreamlike demeanor that beautifully captured the essence of opulent living.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864-1901
La Passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht, 1896, Lithograph in olive green, 596 by 400 mm, Private Collection

Working with a few scant references… his memory, a photograph secretly taken on board by his friend, the photographer Maurice Guibert, and sketches he did, based on the photograph, Toulouse-Lautrec finished his coloured lithograph by the end of autumn 1895. The lithograph skillfully depicted the casual and fleeting nature of a quick glance, reflecting a style that Lautrec had honed in his paintings and prints during the 1890s. He executed the work with a keen and swift hand, using graphite for precise touches. The focus was on the figure, delicately outlining details such as the upper edge of the straw boater hat, the swept-back hair, the contours of the shirt and jacket lapel, the seam and fold in the puffed shoulder of the sleeve, the meticulous upturn of the glove cuff, the graceful curves of the deck chair, and the smooth shading on the cover of the open book. These adjustments appear to correspond to the red highlights that were included in the coloured version.

The warm, yellowish tones of the deck, chair, and the woman’s hair harmoniously blend with the vibrant blues of the sea and the text (in the later, poster version), showcasing the artist’s masterful understanding and application of colour. This skillful use of colour invites the viewers to immerse themselves in the private world of the young woman, allowing them to intimately experience the cozy and tranquil atmosphere depicted in the artwork.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864-1901
La Passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht, 1895–96. Color lithographic poster, 60.4 × 39.7 cm, Princeton University Art Museum
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864-1901
La Passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht, 1895, Lithograph on cream Japon Impérial paper in olive green, 600×400 mm, Private Collection

Maurice Joyant, gallerist, and biographer of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec wrote for the poster of the beautiful passagèreChose exquise de ton, d’élégance, d’expression de laisser-aller, de la douceur de vivre, le regard errant, par beau temps.,%20Passagere.html

For a Student Activity titled Exploring Toulouse-Lautrec’s Iconic Posters, please… Check HERE!

A short Video of La Passagère du 54 – Promenade en Yacht, created by NGA of Australia, is recommended…

Memories steeped in dream, The Art of the Multiple, from the Collection of the Basil & Εlise Goulandris Foundation (05.08 – 03.12 2023) is an upcoming Exhibition in the B&E Goulandris Foundation, in Athens, Greece. Artworks by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Aristide Maillol, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Joan Miró, and Balthus will be presented. The lithograph of La Passagère will be among the Stars of the Exhibition!

Photo Credits: and and and,%20Passagere.html

Irises by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, Dutch Artist, 1853 – 1890
Irises, 1889, Oil on Canvas, 74.3 × 94.3 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA

Well. Then we had the irises, rising beautiful and cool on their tall stalks, like blown glass, like pastel water momentarily frozen in a splash, light blue, light mauve, and the darker ones, velvet and purple, black cat’s ears in the sun, indigo shadow, and the bleeding hearts, so female in shape it was a surprise they’d not long since been rooted out… writes Margaret Atwood describing Serena Joy Waterford’s Spring Garden in The Handmaid’s Tale. Well, how can we best describe the Getty painting of Irises by Vincent van Gogh?

In May 1889, write the Getty experts, after episodes of self-mutilation and hospitalization, Vincent van Gogh chose to enter an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. Within the first week, he began Irises, working from nature in the asylum’s garden. These deep violet-blue coloured Irises are popularly known as Iris Vulgaris or Iris Germnica, and they seem to grow, even unattended, in Southern France, like in the overgrown “deserted” garden of the Saint-Rémy Asylum. and, page 21

If you are wondering why van Gogh painted Irises… consider the following two reasons. Vincent van Gogh loved to paint flowers! They are colorful, and they allowed the artist to experiment with tints, and shades, intensity, and value. Like Eugène Delacroix, who he considered to be “the greatest colorist of all,” van Gogh used colour to offer contrasting effects and create depth by projecting specific parts of his paintings. The simplest explanation, however, is that Irises, magnificent in every aspect, were at the time available, in full bloom, in the Asylum garden… “begging” van Gogh to paint them! The artist considered the Getty Irises painting a mere study. His brother Theo, however, quickly recognized its quality and submitted it to the Salon des Indépendants in September 1889, writing Vincent of the exhibition: “[It] strikes the eye from afar. It is a beautiful study full of air and life.” Could these magnificent flowers provide the artist’s troubled psyche with feelings of hope? Did they help him ease the pain and temporarily appease his mental state? One can only hope! and  

Vincent van Gogh, Dutch Artist, 1853 – 1890
Irises (detail), 1889, Oil on Canvas, 74.3 × 94.3 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA

The Vincent van Gogh Getty Irises painting is unique. He carefully studied the flowers’ movements and shapes to create a variety of curved silhouettes bounded by wavy, twisting, and curling lines. It is only right to mark that the French art critic Octave Mirbeau, one of Van Gogh’s earliest supporters, wrote: “How well he has understood the exquisite nature of flowers!”

For a PowerPoint on Irises by Vincent van Gogh, please… Click HERE!

It is interesting to Watch the Getty Museum Video presentation Van Gogh’s Irises: A Closer Look and Read the results of this examination…

A Rare Opportunity to Study Van Gogh’s Irises, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA

Listen to a Getty Museum Podcast on Irises by Vincent van Gogh…

Another interesting Video of an in-depth analysis of Irises by Vincent van Gogh…

Vincent van Gogh, Dutch Artist, 1853 – 1890
Irises (detail), 1889, Oil on Canvas, 74.3 × 94.3 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum, CA, USA

Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864 – 1901
Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden, 1891, Oil on Board, 60,7 × 55 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece

How vainly men themselves amaze / To win the palm, the oak, or bays, / And their uncessant labours see / Crown’d from some single herb or tree, / Whose short and narrow verged shade / Does prudently their toils upbraid; / While all flow’rs and all trees do close / To weave the garlands of repose …     /     Fair Quiet, have I found thee here, / And Innocence, thy sister dear! / Mistaken long, I sought you then / In busy companies of men; / Your sacred plants, if here below, / Only among the plants will grow. / Society is all but rude, / To this delicious solitude… writes Andrew Marvell (1621 – 1678) back in the 17th century… and I think that maybe… Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden, sitting uptight with fingers intertwined, seeks in the wild garden of Père Forestdelicious solitude… a place of repose and restfulness… an escape from the more frenetic world of public life that lies beyond the boundaries of the garden. and

In Montmartre, in Paris, where Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lived, at the bottom of rue Caulaincourt, not far from Place de Clichy, Père Forest, an enthusiastic Parisian archer, owned a half-wild, half-cultivated garden where he often welcomed friends to walk in the undergrowth. Among Père Forest’s friends was Toulouse-Lautrec, whose studio was nearby, and upon the arrival of spring, used to walk down to his friend’s garden, where he would receive his models, paint en plein air surrounded by a large group of onlookers, and share many drinks with old friends and acquaintances till the late hours of the afternoon.

From 1889 to 1891, Lautrec experimented with the plein-air approach of the Impressionists, producing a group of studies showing figures set against the foliage in the garden of Monsieur Forest, his neighbor in the Paris district of Montmartre. Lautrec referred to these self-imposed exercises in technique as “impositions,” for which friends, as well as models, posed. One such “imposition” is the Basil and Elise Goulandris’s Foundation painting titled Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden of 1891. and

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864 – 1901
Woman in Monsieur Forest’s Garden (detail), 1891, Oil on Board, 60,7 × 55 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece

The woman depicted in the Lautrec painting in Athens was named Honorine. She was most probably not a professional model or prostitute, and she was painted at least twice. In the Athens version, according to the Goulandris Foundation experts, the model appears in a three-quarter pose, looking the viewer straight in the eye, with her fingers intertwined, without wearing accessories. The painter opted for a minimalist palette with white, green, violet, and a warmer touch for the reddish-gold hair. The face is undoubtedly more treated: the thin brush strokes are small and precise; the features are subtly rendered, refuting the accusations that the painter constantly pursued caricature at that time. The gaze, reflecting a subtle worry, is not at all distant, but straight and gracious.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French Artist, 1864 – 1901
Woman with Gloves (Honorine Platzer), 1891, oil on cardboard, 54×40 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France  

Toulouse-Lautrec painted Honorine Platzer three times as he clearly had some affection for her. In the Musée d’Orsay painting Woman with Gloves, the artist captured his model almost in spite of herself, her gaze focused elsewhere… ignoring the painter. Honorine was a slim, elegant woman with beautiful strawberry-blond hair and a gentle yet strong character. Both paintings show how close Toulouse-Lautrec approach to portraiture was to the Impressionists, who frequently painted outside using colours splashed with sunlight. But whereas the Impressionists searched out the passing moment, the ephemeral nature of the effects of light, and did not linger over the features in this type of portrait, Lautrec, in contrast, would disregard the changing elements to capture the inner personality of his models.

For a PowerPoint on Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Portraits of Women in the Garden of Père Forest, please… Check HERE!

Suzanne Valadon

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Self Portrait with Family (Suzanne Valadon is in the center, flanked by André Utter and her mother, with her son at the foreground), 1912, oil on canvas, 97 x 73 cm, Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

The French artist Suzanne Valadon is the protagonist of a unique Exhibition at the Barnes, in the heart of Philadelphia, that introduces to the general public a late 19th – early 20th-century Woman of extraordinary qualities. The Exhibition will be open to the public until the 9th of January, 2021, and so far, the Artist and the Exhibition have been described as… A thrilling tour of [her] portraits, nudes, still lifes, and drawings by The New York Times, or… A brilliant artist making breathtaking paintings that have the flat, colorful solidity of Gauguin, but a piercing intelligence and emotional insight by The Washington Post, or… She is a maverick artist, who often drew from her own life to create a body of work that envisions the 20th-century woman by WHYY, and Breathing new life into rebellious early 20th-century art by the Broad Street Review.

Maurice Utrillo and his mother Suzanne Valadon, c. 1890 by an unknown photographer

Born Marie-Clémentine, Suzanne Valadon, was born into poverty, as the daughter of an unmarried domestic worker. She grew up in Montmartre, the bohemian quarter of Paris, supporting herself from the age of ten with odd jobs: waitress, nanny, and circus performer. A fall from a trapeze led her in a new direction…that of modeling for some of the most important artists of her time. She was more than a model… she became the muse and the friend of artists like Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Amedeo Modigliani, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Miguel Utrillo, who agreed to give Maurice, Valadon’s son, born out of wedlock, his last name and legally recognize him as his son. Suzanne was artistic. She loved to draw while in the company of her artists/friends, practice her skills by observing them paint, and with the encouragement and tutelage of her mentor Edgar Degas, learn how to master the art of drawing and etching techniques. Valadon soon transitioned from an artist’s model into a successful artist with …a complicated personal life. She was a free spirit and a bohemian in every sense of the word… Suzanne Valadon, her second husband André Utter, and her son Maurice Utrillo were known as the trinité maudite (cursed trinity) because the family environment was characterized by violent outbursts, reconciliations, and alcoholism. and and

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Self-Portrait, 1898, Oil on Canvas, 40×26.7 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA

The artist is famous for her unapologetic female and male nudes… bold, controversial, and provocative! My favourite Valadon painting is her 1912 Self Portrait with Family…odd, disturbing, and unconventional.

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Self Portrait with Family (Suzanne Valadon is in the center, flanked by André Utter and her mother, with her son at the foreground), 1912, oil on canvas, 97 x 73 cm, Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

The Centre Pompidou painting shows Suzanne Valadon in the center, flanked by André Utter, her second husband, her mother Magdeleine Valadon, and her son in the foreground, Maurice Utrillo. Suzanne Valadon is the only one directly facing the viewer, but she does so tentatively, with her hand on her chest… Utter and Madame Valadon are gazing to their right, each foreseeing a different future: the young man looks confident and rather content, while the woman – all wrinkled and slightly hunchbacked, with the corners of her mouth turned downwards – appears resigned. Maurice Utrillo’s depiction earns the most sympathy, for he seems to be the most miserable and out of place, gazing melancholically with his head leaning on his hand, as if he simply cannot muster the energy to stand or sit upright… What an unusual family portrait!

For a Student Activity inspired by the Exhibition at the Barnes, in Philadelphia, please… Check HERE!

Suzanne Valadon (Marie-Clémentine Valadon), 1865-1938
Portrait of the painter Maurice Utrillo, 1921, Collection of the City of Sannois, Val d’Oise, France, on temporary loan to the Musée de Montmartre, Paris,_par_Suzanne_Valadon.jpg

Still Life à la cafetière

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Still Life à la cafetière, Still Life with Coffee Pot, May 1888, Oil on Canvas, 65 × 81 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens

The three primary colours, red, blue yellow, a touch of orange… and how you can create a masterpiece! Still Life à la cafetière in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, at Athens, is a case to study!!!

“Painting Still Lifes is the beginning of everything,” Van Gogh said back in the winter of 1884/85, and as Dutch in origin, he was so right! Let’s not forget the Netherlandish attachment to this genre. During his prolific career that did not last more than a decade, from 1881 until his death in 1890, Van Gogh painted more than 170 Still Lifes!

He started by “paying tribute” to his Dutch, 17th-century tradition of painting Still Lifes with sombre, melancholy, earthy tones. We can describe these early Still Life paintings as experiments in colour! Direct, powerful, and sincere, these early Still Life studies were created while living with his parents in Nuenen. Across a dark background, he used humble everyday objects that were probably used by his family for their everyday meals. By mixing primary colours himself, his palette was dark, brown and greyish, and the objects he was presenting were brought to life with touches of white paint. His painting, titled Still life with three bottles and earthenware, is a perfect example.

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Still Life with three bottles and earthenware, 1884/5, oil on canvas, 39,5 x 56 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

That was not enough for Van Gogh! He felt the need to develop and evolve, to practice and struggle in getting better… and so, he travels to Paris, gets in touch with Impressionism, and his Still Life paintings gradually acquire the bright Mediterranean colours of Southern France, which he so loved. Painting Still Lifes during the Paris period is very important for him. He studies every book he can get on the fundamentals of “Colour Theory” and experiments until his colour palette dramatically changes. He doesn’t mix colours any more, he uses them separately, he combines complementary colours and gets rid of the use of browns. In Paris, painting flowers fascinates him, changing his technique intrigues him, communicating his feelings as well as what he sees becomes his objective. The newly authenticated Vase with Poppies at the Wadsworth Atheneum is such a representative example of his efforts at the time.

Vincent van Gogh, 1853 – 1890
Vase with Poppies, ca. 1886, oil on canvas, Wadsworth Atheneum, 56.0 cm × 46.5 cm, Hartford, Connecticut

Vincent van Gogh moved to Arles in early 1888, and his palette positively explodes with colour and vibrant brushstrokes. The Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation painting Still Life à la cafetière is an amazing example of his final period. Quoting a description of the painting in a Van Gogh letter to his brother Theo, we read… “A coffee pot in blue enamel, a cup (on the left) royal blue and gold, a milk jug checkered light blue and white, a cup (on the right) white with blue and orange patterns on a plate of earthenware yellow-grey, a pot of barbotine or majolica blue with red, green, brown patterns, finally two oranges and three lemons; the table is covered with a blue cloth, the background yellow-green, thus six different blues and four of five yellows and oranges.” The art of simplicity at it’s best. Once more, dispassionate items of his everyday life, search for immediacy and turn into a moving painting of extraordinary vitality. The three primary colours, lots of blues and greens, an amazing red borderline that encloses the painting, juxtapose to “touches” of complementary oranges. A diagonal composition with crossed lines animates the composition. Incredible brushstrokes forcefully convene in the enamel coffee pot, creating a sense of perspective. He works like a man in a frenzy and creates a world, his world, that feels ALIVE! Color, Space, and Creativity: Art and Ontology in Five British Writers, by Jack Stewart, 2008, Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp., page 224, and

For a Student Activity, please… check HERE!

The Magic of the Olive Tree

Vincent Van Gogh, 1853-1890
Olive Picking, 1889, oil on canvas, 73.5 × 92.5 cm, Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens

The Magic of the Olive Tree inspired so much Vincent Van Gogh that while in Saint-Remy-de Provence in 1889, he painted at least 15 paintings depicting their beauty! The same magic inspired our wonderful Pinewood Kindergarten Teacher… who organized a Unit to remember!

“The Kindergarten theme on Olives began with the intention of it being a transdisciplinary unit so that the children would learn many facets about it. It was introduced in a simple way – when the children reached the letter O in the English alphabet they decided to remember this letter sound by saying ‘O is for olive’… From there they learned that olives are fruit and that they grow on Olive Trees in Greece. Inspired by short videos showing how olives are picked in late Autumn, the children took a sheet, a stick and a basket and went olive picking on the school grounds. They hit the branches of the school Olive Trees and collected the fruit that fell… So enthusiastic about what they did they decided to capture their experience by making their very own olive tree grove Bulletin Board.”

Pinewood Kindergarten students “listened in awe as they travelled back into mythological times, to when Athena bestowed the gift of an Olive Tree to the Athenians. This helped the children understand what a treasure the Olive Tree is because of all the various gifts that it gives: wood (for heat, furniture), oil ( for cooking, eating, light, fuel) and soap… They tasted both green and black olives, they washed their hands with olive soap, they lit an oil-lamp with olive oil and they made olive bread… They created olive wreaths by counting card leaves and plasticine olives to a given number and learned that in ancient times an olive wreath, just like the ones they had made, were placed on the heads of champion athletes.”

Finally, students “realized how thankful they are for this humble fruit and all it provides. So when it came to Thanksgiving Day the children chose to honour the Olive Tree by writing their messages of thanks inside their olive wreaths and entitling their display, ‘In Greece, we are thankful for Olive Trees’.”

Kindergarten student Bulletin Board Art photographed by Kostas Papantoniou

“O is for Olive” is the amazing Lesson Plan prepared by the school’s Kindergarten Teacher, Mrs. Anna Maria Mathias, with assistance provided by Mrs. Kathy Lekkas. The PowerPoint photos that follow HERE! were taken by the school’s photographer, Mr. Kostas Papapatoniou.

For the purposes of this BLOG, The Magic of the Olive Tree, “teachercurator” put together a PowerPoint on Van Gogh and paintings of Olive Trees… please check HERE!

The new Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens has a wonderful Vincent Van Gogh painting of Olive Picking from his 1889 period. Apparently, Van Gogh painted “three versions of this picture. He described the first as a study from nature “more coloured with more solemn tones” (in the Goulandris Collection) and the second as a studio rendition in a “very discreet range” of colours (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).” The third painting is at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and accordingly is “the most resolved and stylized of the three.” The third painting was “intended for his sister and mother, to whom Van Gogh wrote: “I hope that the painting of the women in the olive trees will be a little to your taste—I sent [a] drawing of it to Gauguin… and he thought it good… ” and