Despite the mistral, the strong wind that often blows in the winter in Provence, Van Gogh still frequently paints outdoors. He seeks to capture the ‘superb effects of pale citron skies, and desolate pines [that] cast their silhouettes’. He writes to his sister Willemien that he is working on a canvas with ‘tall, ravaged pines against a red sunset sky’.

Green tone

But while writing to her, all kinds of undefinable thoughts occur to him. ‘Upon looking at my canvas I told myself, that’s not it’. He decides to rework the sky with a green tone: ‘from a distance it softens the tones by breaking them up’. In the painting it is clear that these light green stripes invigorate the sky.

Broken tones

The green is a colour that ‘appears as matt, dirty white on the palette’. It reminds Van Gogh of his illness. ‘Some of my paintings, when I compare them to others, certainly do bear the trace that it’s a sick man who paints them, and I can assure you that I don’t do it deliberately. But despite myself, my calculations end up at broken tones’.