The Blank Canvas
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Vincent cheat sheet

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L'Arlésienne Madame Ginoux - enlarge

"L'Arlésienne: Madame Ginoux", 1888. Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Marie Jullian (or Julien), born in Arles in June 1848, married Joseph-Michel Ginoux in 1866. Together they ran the Café de la Gare, 30 Place Lamartine, where van Gogh lodged from May to mid-September 1888. In November 1888 Madame Ginoux agreed to a portrait session by Gauguin and van Gogh. Gauguin produced a charcoal drawing and Vincent a full-scale painting, "knocked off in one hour".

Self-portrait with bandaged ear 1889 - enlarge

"Self-portrait with bandaged ear", 1889. Collection of Courtauld Institute of Art, on display in the Gallery at Somerset House. Van Gogh moved from Paris to Arles in February 1888 in the hope of creating a community for artists to exist in mutual supportiveness and encouragement. The change was also an attempt to improve his health; he was suffering from over-indulgence in alcohol and tobacco. He invited his friend Paul Gauguin to stay. They were an incompatible pair and quarrelled often, sometimes violently. On the evening of December 23 1888 Van Gogh had a seizure during which he threatened Gauguin with a razor but only succeeded in injuring himself, severing part of his left ear. In a state of frenzied confusion he took the dismembered lobe to the Maison de Tolérance bordello where he presented it to a prostitute called Rachel. When Gauguin returned home the following morning he discovered that the police had arrived. Blood was splattered in every room. Van Gogh had severed an artery in his neck and was in perilous health after losing so much blood. He was taken to hospital. He confessed to having no recollection of what had happened during the fit.

The Courtyard of the Hospital in Arles 1889 - enlarge

"The Courtyard of the Hospital in Arles", 1889, viewed from Van Gogh's room. Oskar Reinhart Collection 'Am Römerholz', Winterthur, Switzerland. After the Gaugin incident he was admitted to the Old Hospital of Arles, also known as Hôtel-Dieu Saint Esprit. His condition was diagnosed as "acute mania with generalised delirium".

Yellow House 1988 - enlarge

"Yellow House", 1988. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. In May 1888, van Gogh leased four rooms in the two-story building (with the green shutters) on the Place Lamartine in Arles, naming it after the warm buttery color of paint on the exterior walls. "It's tremendous," he said, "these yellow houses in the sunlight and then the incomparable freshness of the blue." He often ate at the restaurant to the left and the home of his friend, the postman Joseph Roulin, lay just beyond the second railway bridge.

Sunflower Field - enlarge
Sunflowers 1888 - enlarge

"Sunflower Field" and "Sunflowers", 1988. Sunflowers had a special significance for Van Gogh. Yellow for him was an expression of happiness. In Dutch literature the sunflower was a symbol of devotion and loyalty. In their various stages of decay the flowers represent the cycle of life and death.

The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum 1888 - enlarge

"The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum", 1888. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands. The museum states:

Van Gogh had intended to make a nocturnal painting for some time. And not one in the conventional manner, in shades of black and grey, but actually with an abundance of colours. Equally unconventional is that he paints this gas-lit terrace of a café in Arles in situ and in the dark, because colours have a different appearance during the day than by night. The most eye-catching aspect is the sharp contrast between the warm yellow, green and orange colours under the marquise and the deep blue of the starry sky, which is reinforced by the dark blue of the houses in the background. Van Gogh was pleased with the effect: "I believe that an abundance of gaslight, which, after all, is yellow and orange, intensifies blue."

Update, 21st July 2022. I made it at last to the Café Terrace, now Café La Nuit, on Place du Forum, while holidaying near Martigues an hour to the south-east of Arles:

Le Cafe La Nuit, Place du Forum, July 2022
© Charlie Lewis 2022