Landscape with Snow

Landscape with Snow

"The studies I have are an old woman of Arles, a landscape with snow, a view of a stretch of pavement with a butcher’s shop. The women really are beautiful here, it’s no joke — on the other hand, the Arles museum is dreadful and a joke, and fit to be in Tarascon — there’s also a museum of antiquities, they’re genuine." February 1888
Details:
Painting Date
24th of February 1888
Detailed Image Links
Description:

Vincent has just left Paris after nearly two years in the city of light when he paints this canvas of a view from the outskirts of town.  He is in poor health and has moved south to Arles, an ancient Roman city in the Provence region of France.  He is looking forward to the fresh, warm air and color of the Spring in the midi and to follow near the footsteps of one his heroes, Monticelli, who returned to his home in Marseille for the final decades of his life.

Before finding the Yellow House he will share with Gauguin for three months, Vincent takes a room above a cafe in town, the Restaurant Carrel.  He is a short hike down the road to Tarascon from the Crau, a great plain of wheat fields and fruit orchards, near Aix en Provence, birthplace of Cezanne and Emile Zola.  Vincent has come to revive himself but winter is extended in 1888 and still has its grips on Arles when he arrives by train.

He paints several works within the first week of his arrival and Landscape with Snow is one of the first three.  In this oil work, he captures what will be the last snow storm of the season looming in purple and gray on the horizon as the previous weeks’ snow has melted in patches of the foreground in form of bare canvas.  Once the chill of winter passes, Vincent will again set his easel outside of town and paint the flowering fruit trees of the nearby orchards.

Vincent immerses himself and the viewer in the scene and is reaching to infuse the art of the great Japanese woodblock artists into his canvases.  He and Theo hope to build an artist community in the south where painters can live and work and exchange salable canvases for rent and board.  They succeed in convincing Gaugin to come in the fall but he will leave before the year ends after arguments with Vincent.

 

 

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“My dear Theo,

Thanks for your kind letter and the 50-franc note.  So far I’m not finding living here as profitable as I might have hoped, but I’ve finished three studies, which I would probably not have been able to do in Paris these days.

I was glad the news from Holland was fairly satisfactory. As far as Reid goes, I wouldn’t be very surprised if — (wrongly, however) — he took it badly that I went to the south before him. For us to say we’d never have benefited from knowing him would be relatively unfair since, 1) he made us a gift of a very fine painting (which painting, let it be said by the way, we intended to acquire), 2) Reid made Monticellis go up in value, and since we own 5 of them the result for us is that these paintings have increased in value — 3) he was good and pleasant company in the first months.

 

Now for our part we wanted him to take part in a bigger deal than the Monticelli one, and he pretended not to understand very much about it.  It seems to me that in order to be even more clearly entitled to stay masters on our own terrain regarding the Impressionists — so that there can be no doubt about our good faith towards Reid — we could leave him alone and let him do as he thinks fit regarding the Marseille Monticellis. Making the point that dead painters are only of indirect interest to us from the monetary point of view.  And if you agree with this, if need be you can tell him on my behalf too that if he intends to come to Marseille to buy Monticellis he has nothing to fear from us, but that we’re entitled to ask him his intentions in this regard, given that we came to this territory before he did.  

 

About the Impressionists — it would seem fair to me that they should be introduced into England through you, if not by you in person. And if Reid made a move first, we’d be justified in thinking he had acted in bad faith towards us, all the more so since we’d have left him free regarding the Marseille Monticellis.
You would definitely be doing our friend Koning a favour if you let him stay with you — his visit to Rivet must have proved to him that it wasn’t we who advised him badly.

 

If you did feel like taking him in — and it seems to me that it would get him out of a mess, you’d just have to get things straight with his father, so that you wouldn’t have any responsibilities, even indirect ones.  If you see Bernard tell him that so far I’m having to pay more than at Pont-Aven, but that I think if you live here in furnished rooms with middle-class people it must be possible to save money, which I’m trying to do, and as soon as I’ve found out I’ll write and tell him what seem to me the average expenses.

 

At times it seems to me that my blood is more or less ready to start circulating again, which wasn’t the case lately in Paris, I really couldn’t stand it any more.
I have to buy my colours and canvases from either a grocer or a bookseller, who don’t have everything one might wish for. I’ll definitely have to go to Marseille to see what the state of these things is like there. I had hoped to find some beautiful blue &c., and in fact I haven’t given up, seeing that in Marseille you should be able to buy raw materials first hand. And I’d like to be able to do blues like Ziem — which don’t change as much as the others, well, we’ll see.
Don’t worry, and give the pals a handshake for me.

 

Yours truly,
Vincent

 

The studies I have are an old woman of Arles, a landscape with snow, a view of a stretch of pavement with a butcher’s shop. The women really are beautiful here, it’s no joke — on the other hand, the Arles museum is dreadful and a joke, and fit to be in Tarascon — there’s also a museum of antiquities, they’re genuine.”

To Theo. Arles, on or about Friday, 24 February 1888

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“My dear Theo,

 

Now at long last, this morning the weather has changed and has turned milder — and I’ve already had an opportunity to find out what this mistral’s like too. I’ve been out on several hikes round about here, but that wind always made it impossible to do anything. The sky was a hard blue with a great bright sun that melted just about all the snow — but the wind was so cold and dry it gave you goose-pimples. But even so I’ve seen lots of beautiful things — a ruined abbey on a hill planted with hollies, pines and grey olive trees. We’ll get down to that soon, I hope. Now I’ve just finished a study like the one of mine Lucien Pissarro has, but this time it’s of oranges. That makes eight studies I have up to now. But that doesn’t count, as I haven’t yet been able to work in comfort and in the warm.

 

The letter from Gauguin that I had intended to send you but which for a moment I thought I had burned with some other papers, I later found and enclose herewith. But I’ve already written to him direct and I’ve sent him Russell’s address as well as sending Gauguin’s to Russell, so that if they wish they can make direct contact. But as for many of us — and surely we’ll be among them ourselves — the future is still difficult. I do believe in a final victory, but will artists benefit from it, and will they see more peaceful days?”

 

To Theo. Arles, Friday, 9 March 1888

 

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“…The weather’s changeable, often windy and cloudy skies — but the almond trees are starting to blossom everywhere. All in all I’m very pleased that the paintings are at the Independents.

 

You’ll do well to go and see Signac at his place. I was very pleased at what you wrote in today’s letter, that he made a better impression on you than the first time. In any case I’m happy to know that from today you won’t be on your own in the apartment. Be sure to say hello to Koning for me. Is your health good? As far as mine goes, it’s better, but eating’s a real chore as I have a fever and no appetite, but it’s just a passing thing and a question of patience.

 

I have company in the evening, because the young Danish painter who’s here is very nice; his work is dry, correct and timid, but I’m not averse to that when the person is young and intelligent. At one time he’d begun to study medicine, he knows the works of ZolaDe Goncourt and Guy de Maupassant, and he has enough money to have an easy time of it. Besides that he has a very serious wish to do something different from what he’s doing at present. I think he’d do well to put off returning home for a year, or to come back after a short visit to his compatriots.

 

But, my dear brother — you know, I feel I’m in Japan. I say no more than that, and again, I’ve seen nothing yet in its usual splendour.  That’s why (even while being worried that at the moment expenses are steep and the paintings of no value), that’s why I don’t despair of success in this enterprise of going on a long journey in the south. Here I’m seeing new things, I’m learning, and being treated with a bit of gentleness, my body isn’t refusing me its services. For many reasons I’d like to be able to create a pied-à-terre which, when people were exhausted, could be used to provide a rest in the country for poor Paris cab-horses like yourself and several of our friends, the poor Impressionists…”

 

To Theo. Arles, on or about Friday, 16 March 1888

 

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“…I could wish you had near you something more rudely alive, warmer than the Dutch — but all the same, Koningwith his whims is an exception for the better. Anyway, it’s always good to have somebody. But I could still wish you had one or two good friends among the French. Would you do me a great favour: my friend the Dane, who leaves for Paris on Tuesday, will give you 2 small paintings — nothing much — that I’d like to give to Mme the Countess De la Boissière at Asnières. She stays in boulevard Voltaire, on the first floor of the first house at the end of the Clichy bridge. PèrePerruchot’s restaurant is on the ground floor. Would you take them to her personally on my behalf, saying I had hopes of seeing her again this spring and that even here I haven’t forgotten her; I gave them 2 small ones last year as well, her and her daughter. I’d have hope that you wouldn’t regret making these ladies’ acquaintance. After all, they’re a family. The countess is far from young but she’s first of all a countess, then a lady, the daughter ditto.

 

And it makes sense for you to go, since I can’t be sure that the family’s staying in the same place this year (however, they’ve been coming there for several years, and Perruchot must know their address in town). Perhaps I’m deluding myself — but I can’t help thinking of them, and perhaps it will be a pleasure for them and for you too, if you meet them…”

 

To Theo. Arles, on or about Sunday, 20 May 1888

(Note from Van Gogh Letters website) From what Van Gogh says, it would appear that the family lived in Paris (‘in town’) and only stayed in Asnières during the summer. He says that the countess is ‘far from young’, but he has either seriously overestimated her age or is referring to an older woman, possibly the count’s mother, so that the ‘daughter’ – who is also ‘a lady’ – is the count’s 29-year-old wife, not the 12-year-old girl. No further details have been found in the records in Asnières.

It emerges from a note dated 9 November 1929 in the archives of the Thannhauser art gallery that the Charpentier gallery had sold five small paintings by Van Gogh that belonged to ‘a family from Asnières with whom Van Gogh had lived and to whom he had given them’ (‘einer Familie aus Asnières, bei der Van Gogh wohnte und die er dieser schenkte’). See Heinz Holtmann et al., Thannhauser: Händler, Sammler, Stifter. Cologne 2006, p. 48. This must be a reference to the Levaillant de la Boissière family(although Van Gogh never lived with them). The works in question were Woman sewing (F 126a / JH 655), 42.5 x 33 cm; Head of a woman (F 146a / JH 565), 43.5 x 37 cm; The viaduct (F 239 / JH 1267), 32.7 x 41 cm; Woman peeling potatoes (F 365r / JH 654), which had the Self-portrait with a straw hat on the back (F 365v / JH 1354), 41 x 31.5 cm; and Landscape with snow (F 290 / JH 1360 [2564]), 38 x 46 cm. See J. B. de la Faille, ‘Sammler und Markt. Unbekannte bilder von Vincent van Gogh’, Der Cicerone, February 1927, pp. 101-105.
F 290 must have been one of the two small paintings that Van Gogh gave to Mourier in Arles to deliver to Theo in Paris. The other one has not been identified. It is not possible to make out which of the remaining four works were the ‘2 small ones’ he gave the family ‘last year’.

 

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Browse Vincent by interesting canvas groupings

 

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15 1/16 x 18 3/16 inches (38.2 x 46.2 cm)

Painting, Oil on Canvas
Arles: February, 1888
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Justin K. Thannhauser Collection
New York, New York, United States of America, North America
F: 290, JH: 1360

Where Vincent Was:
Arles

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