Still Life: with Blue Enamel Coffee Pot, Earthenware and Fruit

Still Life: with Blue Enamel Coffee Pot, Earthenware and Fruit

"It’s thus a variation of blues enlivened by a series of yellows ranging all the way to orange."
Painting Date
19th of May 1888
Detailed Image Links

Vincent has moved from Paris and lived in Arles in Provence for a couple of months when he begins this canvas.  He has just rented, and will soon move into, his famous “yellow house” on Place LaMartine.  It has four rooms for visiting artists and a dedicated studio, and while he has rented it, he does not yet have the money to furnish it.  He lives above the Cafe Gare by the train station run by the Ginoux family and takes meals there as well.  With some of the little money he has, Vincent purchases a table and all the implements he paints in this still life of complimentary colors.

This painting was one of Vincent’s favorites and he writes about it several times to his brother Theo and his painting companion and friend, Emile Bernard. It is carefully conceived with flat areas of vibrant color like a stained glass window and similar to a Japanese woodblock print in composition.  Bernard and Louis Anquetin, another of Vincent’s post impressionist artist comrades from the Cormon atelier, are both creating art in this manner and the term “Cloisonné” comes in use to describe it.  This is one of Vincent’s most cloisonné works.

The top half of Vincent’s canvas is completely covered in shades of yellow, some replicating the lemons on the table at bottom center.  The blue tablecloth is done in several shades with wider and more vertical brushstrokes radiating out from the cobalt coffee pot at center.  Complimentary shades of orange are repeated in the rims and designs of the majolica cups and jug, the orange of the saucer, and the oranges themselves.  The lighter blue of the checkerboard pot seems to brighten when juxtaposed with the white Vincent chose to go beside it.  The table itself recedes at an obtuse angle and is outlined in black for much of its edge against the bright yellow background.  The related items are sketches he included in letters to his brother and Bernard describing the painting as he completed it and a companion still life he was not pleased with, wildflowers in the same majolica jug with less orange and more greens.

Some see this canvas as a statement of the great leap he has taken since his first well received work, The Potato Eaters, three years in the past now.  The table and the implements for people are carefully portrayed as before — but no family is present in this new canvas and colors “do all the work”.  Vincent wrote his brother it was the only painting that he felt could stand next to the Harvest at the Crau (which he will not paint until summer) when he looks at his Arles work in retrospect that winter.  These were two of Vincent’s favorite paintings from his year and a month in Arles in the south of France.




“What have you painted now? I myself have done a still life with — a coffee pot in blue enamelled iron — a royal blue cup and saucer, a milk jug with pale cobalt and white checks, a cup with orange and blue designs on a white background, a blue majolica jug with green, brown, pink flowers and foliage, all of it on a blue tablecloth against a yellow background.


With these pieces of crockery, 2 oranges and three lemons.  It’s thus a variation of blues enlivened by a series of yellows ranging all the way to orange.”

To Emile Bernard. Arles, on or about Tuesday, 22 May 1888


“This week I’ve done two still lifes.

A blue enameled tin coffee-pot, a royal blue and gold cup (on the left), a pale blue and white chequered milk jug, a cup — on the right — white, with blue and orange designs, on a yellow grey earthenware plate, a blue barbotine or majolica jug with red, green, brown designs, and lastly 2 oranges and 3 lemons; the table is covered with a blue cloth, the background is yellow green, making 6 different blues and 4 or 5 yellows and oranges.

The other still life is the majolica jug with wild flowers.”

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




“Now, the harvest is a bit more serious. And that’s the subject I’ve been working on this week, on a no. 30 canvas — it’s hardly done at all — but it kills the rest of what I have, apart from a still life, worked on with patienceMacKnight and one of his friends who’s been in Africa too saw this study today and said it was the best I’d done. Like Anquetin and our friend Thomas — you’re really not sure what to think of yourself when you hear people say that, but I say to myself: the rest must look bloody awful, to be sure.”

To Theo. Arles, on or about Friday, 15 and Saturday, 16 June 1888


Painting, Oil on Canvas – 65 x 81 Size 25 Figure
Arles: May 19, 1888
Collection Basil P. and Elise Goulandris
Lausanne, Switzerland, Europe
F: 410, JH: 1426

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