Oleanders, 1888. Vincent van Gogh. Oil on canvas. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Loeb, 1962.
For Van Gogh, oleanders were joyous, life-affirming flowers that bloomed "inexhaustibly" and were always "putting out strong new shoots." In this painting of August 1888 the flowers fill a majolica jug that the artist used for other still lifes made in Arles. They are symbolically juxtaposed with Émile Zola's La joie de vivre, a novel that Van Gogh had placed in contrast to an open Bible in a Nuenen still life of 1885.