Discover Arles and Vincent Van Gogh on Tour
Arles is an excellent example of the adaptation of an ancient city to medieval European civilization. It has some impressive Roman monuments dating back to the 1st century BC. These include the arena, the Roman theatre and the cryptoporticus (subterranean galleries). During the 4th century, Arles experienced a second golden age, as attested by the baths of Constantine and the necropolis of Alyscamps. In the 11th and 12th centuries, Arles once again became one of the most attractive cities in the Mediterranean. Within the city walls, Saint-Trophime, with its cloister, is one of Provence’s major Romanesque monuments.
Vincent Van Gogh’s Arles
Vincent Willem Van Gogh moved to Arles hoping for a refuge at a time when he was ill from drink and suffering from smoker’s cough. He arrived on 21 February 1888 and took a room at the Hôtel-Restaurant Carrel. The local landscape and light enchanted Van Gogh, and his works from the period are richly draped in yellow, ultramarine and mauve. His Dutch upbringing informs his portrayals of the Arles landscape; the patchwork of fields and avenues appear flat and lack perspective but excel in their intensity of colour.
Colourful Natural Reminders
I picked up gingko leaves from the ground in the park in Arles, near the sculpture of Vincent and keep them in my studio, inspired by the fact that the colours resembled the palette of Van Gogh.
Over the years, these colours have shown up in my work. My enjoyment of that memory in the park in Arles still visits me from time to time.
More Van Gogh in Provence
Paul Gaughin and Van Gogh painted together at Alyscamps in Arles. Alyssii campi is Latin for Elysian fields – the road leading to the kingdom of the dead. During Roman times, it was believed that the living and the dead existed in different worlds. Burials were not permitted within city limits. The net result was that roads on the outskirts of major settlements were often lined with tombstones. In the case of Arles, there were five necropolises, situated on each of the main roads leading to this commune.
Visit Saint-Paul-de-Mausole the asylum where Vincent Van Gogh spent a full year (1889-1890). He arrived in St-Remy-de-Provence from Arles, where had suffered from severe depression, reaching a climax when he cut off his ear. It is believed he might have self-inflicted the injury to gain acceptance into the asylum. His time in St Remy was productive he produced 150 paintings and 100 sketches.
The crazed episodes did not end there, and the book Starry Night, Van Gogh at the Asylum argues that today Vincent Van Gogh might be diagnosed with signs of epilepsy and bipolar disorder. The legacy of Vincent Van Gogh lives on in paintings such as Starry Night that he completed during that tumultuous time.