In this work, Van Gogh painted one of his favourite subjects: large blossom branches against a blue sky. Almond trees flower early in the spring making them a symbol of new life. Van Gogh borrowed the subject, the bold outlines and the positioning of the tree in the picture plane from Japanese printmaking.
The painting was a gift for his brother Theo and sister-in-law Jo, who had just had a baby son, Vincent Willem. In the letter announcing the new arrival, Theo wrote:
‘As we told you, we’ll name him after you, and I’m making the wish that he may be as determined and as courageous as you’.