While fresh air is always a good thing, there are perils to painting outdoors. Just ask Vincent van Gogh. According to new research, the famous artist’s 1889 work Olive Trees features a real grasshopper lodged in the paint as the result of a windy day.
Van Gogh worked on Olive Trees as a resident of an asylum just outside Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in France following the self-mutilation of his ear. According to conservators at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, Van Gogh liked to paint outdoors and was busy portraying the olive groves nearby when a strong wind blew a grasshopper into the paint on the canvas.
Close inspection of the painting reveals a grasshopper head and hind legs just off to the center of the piece, though none of the paint around it is disturbed, meaning it was probably deceased and picked up by the wind before being deposited on the canvas. The Rhône Valley, where the asylum was located, has strong winds, and Van Gogh sometimes wrote about the conditions being challenging when he was working.
Van Gogh probably didn’t notice the bug—and if he did, he didn’t seem to care much about removing it.
Olive Trees will be on exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in June through September 2021, as well as the Dallas Museum of Art from October 2021 to February 2022 and the Detroit Institute of Arts from October 2022 to January 2023. If you plan on viewing it, be mindful that the grasshopper is all but invisible to the naked eye.
[h/t The Art Newspaper]