The Van Gogh Museum has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Groupe de pins belongs to a series of drawings that Vincent van Gogh executed in 1889, during a prolific period of creativity while he was in the asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. With rhythmic and decisive lines, Van Gogh has depicted the contorted trunks and dense foliage of a group of pine trees. Drawings occupy a central position within Van Gogh’s oeuvre, demonstrating his skill and originality as a draughtsman. Resonating with a powerful simplicity, Groupe de pins shows Van Gogh’s mastery of line in a series of dynamic, graphic strokes that convey a sense of pulsating energy and expression.
At the beginning of May 1889, Van Gogh left Arles after a period of great mental instability, and admitted himself to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy. In the months leading up to his admission, the artist had been concentrating primarily on painting, however his arrival at Saint-Rémy marked a renewed focus on drawing. Throughout his stay, he constantly returned to this medium, often out of necessity due to a lack of painting materials, but also because his doctors prohibited him from painting. During the summer of 1889, Van Gogh suffered a relapse of his illness. By the early autumn he had recovered and began enthusiastically painting again in an intense period of productivity. Once he had run out of painting materials at the beginning of October, Van Gogh transferred his fervent creativity into a series of dynamic drawings in pencil and chalk that depict pine trees from multiple vantage points in and around the asylum grounds; Groupe de pins, with its cropped composition and rapid execution, was likely drawn at this time.
Surrounded by the extensive gardens of the asylum and the landscape beyond, the artist found a great solace in the observance of nature: he wrote to his sister in July 1889, ‘I myself…am always obliged to go and gaze at a blade of grass, a pine-tree branch, an ear of wheat, to calm myself…The hours of trouble and battle will assuredly come and find us without our going to look for them’ (Van Gogh, letter 785, 2nd July 1889, in Vincent van Gogh – The Letters, Volume 5 Saint-Rémy – Auvers-sur-Oise, letters 772-902, London, 2009, pp. 54-55). In contrast to Van Gogh’s earlier drawings made in Arles, Groupe de pins displays a reduction of detail, emphasising Van Gogh’s interest in the lines, rhythms and patterns that he found in the landscape. The artist expressed his fascination for the landscape at Saint-Rémy in a letter to his brother Theo at the beginning of 1890, after he had completed Groupe de pins, ‘It took me all the time to observe the character of the pine trees, cypresses...in the pure air here, lines which do not change and which one finds again at every step’ (Van Gogh, letter 836, 4th January 1890, in ibid., p. 178). With rapid, angular strokes, Van Gogh has conveyed the scene with a feeling of urgency, infusing the drawing with a vibrating energy that characterises both the artist’s drawings and paintings of this seminal period in Saint-Rémy.