vincent in arles: goodbye yellow brick house

… then in February 1888, during a snowstorm, came a Dutchman who saw Arles as the city had been waiting to be seen- a miracle of color beneath the golden sun. Vincent van Gogh adored “the sun pouring down bright yellow rays on the shrubs and the earth- an absolute shower of gold.” He painted in the mistral, fixing his easel to the ground with stakes, and squinting at the blowing corn.

"Captivated by the spectacle of spring in Provence, Van Gogh paints the landscape. He concentrates on blossoming fruit trees and later, in summer, on scenes of rural life. He paints outdoors, often in a single long session: "Working directly on the spot all the time, I tried to grasp what is essential." He identifies each season and subject with characteristic colors: "The orchards stand for pink and white, the wheatfields for yellow." ---Read More:〈=en

He listened to the summer song of the cicada. And as he walked across the burning fields to Montmajour, past houses touched with white and heavy orange, through the yellow grain fields, he turned and saw Arles on its hill in the golden light, a city completely gold now, and of all its work of art, a total work of art in itself. It was all idyllic, and it changed van Gogh’s painting; Arles in the valley of the Rhone, was a golden city of the ancient world founded by Greeks, named by Gauls, made splendid by Roman emperors and holy by Christian saints. It was this sleepy city in Provence that van Gogn unlocked its treasure of thirty centuries and enfolded it into a new work of art.

"Gauguin finally arrives in Arles in October 1888. For nine weeks he and Van Gogh work together, painting and discussing art. Gauguin makes a portrait of Van Gogh in front of one of his sunflower canvases, which Van Gogh describes as "certainly me, but me gone mad." Personal tensions grow between the two men. In December Van Gogh experiences a psychotic episode in which he threatens Gauguin with a razor and later cuts off a piece of his own left ear. He is admitted to a hospital in Arles and remains there through January of 1889. " read more:〈=en

“Many consider Van Gogh’s Arles period to be the most creative of his career. Indeed, many of Van Gogh’s best known works were produced during his time in this provençal town. In a way, the paintings executed in Arles reflect a synthesis of the two previous artistic periods of Van Gogh’s development. In Nuenen, Van Gogh would emerge as a skilled painter with a passion for painting outdoors. In Paris, Van Gogh would refine his evolving talents to incorporate a new world of colour and style introduced by the Impressionists. In Arles, these two would merge and some of Van Gogh’s best-loved works (Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers or Harvest at La Crau, for example) would result. ” Read More: a

"Vincent van Gogh's Encampment of Gypsies with Caravans is an oil on canvas (17-3/4x20 inches) that is housed in Musée d'Orsay in Paris. The thick layers of impasto recorded the action of van Gogh's brush, rising off the canvas to mark the end of every stroke. This approach had become central to his work, giving the process of painting an expressive significance in the result. His technique required so much paint that he regularly asked his brother Theo for extra money to buy new supplies. ---Read More:


While living in relative isolation, Van Gogh dreamed of a brotherhood of artists. Besides Gauguin, another potential member of this group was Emile Bernard. Van Gogh thought that by living together they could reduce their expenses and share any money they earned. But quite apart from these financial advantages, what he most longed for was the company of like-minded people. Gauguin eventually agreed to this plan. Vincent’s brother Theo offered him financial support, and this tempting prospect no doubt influenced his decision. Read More:

"The night that Gauguin moved out because he could no longer tolerate Vincent’s irritability, Vincent cut off part of his own ear and presented it to a prostitute at a brothel that both of them had visited regularly together. When Gauguin returned in the morning to the Yellow House to retrieve the rest of his belongings, the police summoned by the brothel owner were outside and arrested him for Vincent’s murder. Gauguin insisted on going upstairs to the bedroom, where they found Vincent alive, in a fetal position, and took him to a mental hospital. After a brief hospitalization, Vincent returned to the Yellow House alone to paint the Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear." read more: image:

…Van Gogh put a great deal of thought into furnishing the Yellow House so that he could share it with Gauguin. He also spent months working on a series of paintings to decorate the rooms. The bedroom was one of them. Van Gogh wanted not only to turn the Yellow House into a real ‘artist’s house’, b

lso to make an artistic statement to Gauguin, showing off everything he had to offer – both literally and figuratively! As he did with The Sunflowers. Read More:

Perhaps the rift with Gauguin was inevitable. There were both too similar and dissimilar. They were both late comers to art, self taught and had distinct artistic styles before meeting each other. These included mutually exclusive ideas on the  relationship between art and reality. Van Gogh was inclined to paint what he observed, depicting landscapes, people,  and objects as they appeared to him. He imbued this realism with  added force and dynamism through an  exaggerating of colours and characteristics of his subjects. Van Gogh painted etudes or studies at a rapid clip with out pause. Almost the “automatic” style that Breton would later enlarge upon. For van Gogh it was spontaneous versions of often the same subject and it is easy to see this as a precursor to the abstract expressionism of a Pollock.  It was van Gogh’s stated intention to develop these into more harmonized and complete tableaux, ready for sale by an art dealer, but this completion process rarely materialized, since he was continually drawn by a new subject, which in retrospect seemed to push the boundaries towards his imminent breakdown.

Gauguin’s adopted a different tactic through works that were preceded by detailed studies. He took considerable time to size up a subject through preparatory sketches,and unlike van Gogh could not leap into the void. It was a painting from memory as opposed to capturing immediate sensation. The end result was a more mystical, almost alien, mysterious, and dreamy impression as opposed to the spontaneous “unrehearsed” explosive realism   of Van Gogh. Van Gogh and Gauguin also drew from different reference points in the painting tradition;  Van Gogh the realism of Millet and Daumier, and the historical  drama of Delacroix and Gauguin was tuned more to the less chaotic and passionate:  a restrained classicism of Ingres and calm paintings of Puvis de Chavannes. One can see the political differences of an older order and a newer democratized tradition.

---Three versions of The Bedroom Van Gogh later made two other versions. While he was away from home, the painting suffered water damage. Vincent asked Theo to have it lined (that is, attached to a new canvas for reinforcement). But Theo returned it to him, telling him to make a copy first for safety’s sake. In September 1889, Vincent produced a second version of the painting, which is now on display in Chicago. That same month, he also made a smaller copy for his mother and his sister Wil. This third version can now be found in Paris.---Read More:

The different approaches led to different  application of paint. Van Gogh’s work is  painted in vibrant colours. The brushstrokes are  visible, often framed modularly with a relief defining structure. Gauguin used more introverted, and reflective stroke work. He developed a technique where traces of the brush are appear minimalized where the oil is almost rubbed into the canvas giving a primitive feel of being subdued yet hinting at the aggressive.  Different than van Gogh, he applied paint in successive layers, with consistent interventions to adjust, cancel  and correct which was time consuming. Van Gogh was far too impatient for this and was almost a hyper-active afraid to stop, reflect and contemplate.

The bale of jute bought by Gauguin bought shortly after he arrived in Arles  is considered metaphorical of their friendship.  Neither of them had ever worked with jute before, and the rough surface presented them with almost a love triangle situation.  Gauguin applied the paint heavier than was his custom which enhanced the primitive feel to his work. Van Gogh also adjusted by broadening the brushstrokes, which led him to his trademark saturation of color enhanced by experimentation on the absorbancy of the grounds.  These grounds were a source of divisiveness between the two:   more absorbent grounds gave a more matte paint surface which pleased Gauguin and annoyed van Gogh, but since the jute was bought by Gauguin…

As their quarrels were pushing them apart their styles were also showing deeper affinities. There was common subject matter their common subject matter in which the treatment indicates a proximity of style,although the narratives and interpretations were opposed.  The tipping point may have been when van Gogh was persuaded by Gauguin to try painting  from memory,- but recollection for van Gogh was the source of his deepest pain- his paintings became flatter,  decorative, and these compositions, similar to Gauguin’s, had surprising geometry and were cropped and inconclusive. Gauguin also tried  using a palette knife to apply  paint in thicker layers.

Robert Freedman: But he uses Vincent’s own words to conclude that he did not paint because he was mad; rather, he painted to keep from being mad. When his work was grounded in objects, landscape, and people, his art was vibrant. But when he tried to paint Madame Roulin from memory (de tête) as La Berceuse, a woman in French folk tradition who rocks the infant Christ, he became overwhelmed. Gauguin was simultaneously painting his own mother de tête whose face would become Exotic Eve when he moved to Tahiti. Vincent turned to alcohol to calm himself, which provoked the irritability that drove Gauguin away and resulted in his own psychosis. Gauguin had challenged him to paint de tête, but Vincent himself had feared losing reality and told Theo that he would rather be a shoemaker than become a “musician of color.” Read More:

Vincent’s illness remitted for a while, and many of his greatest works lay ahead of him, but his future painting, beginning with the Church at Auver and continuing through Starry Night, would be in cobalt blue. Gauguin, on the other hand, would paint his Yellow Christ the following year, a crucified Christ in a field in Brittany with a yellow background. Read More:

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