Symphony in yellow
Van Gogh has long had the ambition to create a ‘symphony in yellow’, a work in various shades of yellow. This is a risky undertaking because the image can easily become an amorphous mass of colour. In this still life he is clearly still hesitant to work with yellow on yellow. This is apparent, for example, from the harsh tonal difference between the yellow of the lemons and that of the table.
He also adds other colours: the dark green of the bottle, the light green of the background, the orange of the oranges and the cork on the bottle, and above all the light blue shadows. With these, he increases the contrast between the dark lemons and the light yellow of the basket and the table, while at the same time emphasizing the separation between the table edge and the background.
Helene Kröller-Müller writes with admiration that 'if you can place yourself in the mind of someone who was able to see lemons and interpret them for us in such a way, then you will enjoy art because from it you feel that, despite everything, there is something in the world that we are always seeking and for which we should always have respect'.