Tree Roots

Tree Roots
Artist Vincent van Gogh
Year 1890
Catalogue F816, JH2113
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 50.0 cm × 100.0 cm (19.7 in × 40.6 in)
Location Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Tree Roots is an oil painting by Vincent van Gogh that he painted in July 1890 when he lived in Auvers-sur-Oise, France.[1][2] The painting is an example of the double-square canvases that he employed in his last landscapes.[3]


Van Gogh spent the last few months of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small town just north of Paris, after he left an asylum at Saint-Rémy in May 1890.[4] The painting is considered by some to be his last painting before his death late July 1890.[Works 1]

Jan Hulsker considers it the most original of his double-square canvases. The viewer thinks he can identify tree roots and trunks, but is hard put to identify the subject as a whole.[5] Van der Veen and Knapp comment that in this painting, as also in Undergrowth with Two Figures, the painting itself and not the subject is pre-eminent, heralding abstract painting and German expressionism.[6]

As far back as 1882, while at The Hague, van Gogh had made a study of tree roots, Study of a Tree (below), which he had completed at the same time as a larger version (now lost) of Sorrow. In a letter to his brother Theo, van Gogh said that he wanted to express something of life's struggle in these drawings.[Letters 1] It is not known whether he had returned to the same thoughts with his 1890 Tree Roots. The letters give no hint and the colours are perhaps too bright for such sombre thoughts.[Works 1]


  1. 1 2 "Tree Roots, 1890". Van Gogh Museum.
  2. Brooks, D. "Undergrowth with Two Figures". The Vincent van Gogh Gallery, endorsed by Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. David Brooks (self-published).
  3. "Tree roots in a sandy ground ('Les racines')". Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo.
  4. Brooks, D. "Tree Roots in a Sandy Ground ("Les Racines")". The Vincent van Gogh Gallery, endorsed by Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. David Brooks (self-published).


  1. 1 2 "Letter 222: To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Monday, 1 May 1882". Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum. Paragraph 5. I wanted to express something of life’s struggle ... in those gnarled black roots with their knots.
  2. "Letter 891: To Theo van Gogh. Auvers-sur-Oise, Tuesday, 24 June 1890". Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum. Note 10. ... one that makes a pendant of undergrowth, lilac trunks of poplars ...
  3. "Letter 896: To Theo van Gogh and Jo van Gogh-Bonger. Auvers-sur-Oise, Wednesday, 2 July 1890". Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum. Note 5. Then undergrowth, violet trunks of poplars which cross the landscape perpendicularly like columns ... [includes a sketch]


  1. van der Veen, Wouter; Knapp, Peter (2010). Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days. The Monacelli Press. p. 242. ISBN 1-58093-301-7.
  2. de la Faille, Jacob Baart (1970). The works of Vincent van Gogh. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff. p. 307.
  3. Hulsker, Jan (1986). The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches. Random House. p. 476. ISBN 0-517-44867-X.
  4. Naifeh, Steven; White Smith, Gregory (2011). Van Gogh: The Life. Random House. p. 822 ff. ISBN 0-375-50748-5.
  5. Hulsker (1980) p. 476
  6. van der Veen and Knapp (2010) pp. 164, 242


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