Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital (yellow puddles)

Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital (yellow puddles)

Here’s description of a canvas that I have in front of me at the moment. A view of the garden of the asylum where I am, on the right a grey terrace, a section of house, some rosebushes that have lost their flowers; on the left, the earth of the garden — red ochre — earth burnt by the sun, covered in fallen pine twigs. This edge of the garden is planted with large pines with red ochre trunks and branches, with green foliage saddened by a mixture of black. These tall trees stand out against an evening sky streaked with violet against a yellow background. High up, the yellow turns to pink, turns to green. A wall — red ochre again — blocks the view, and there’s nothing above it but a violet and yellow ochre hill. Now, the first tree is an enormous trunk, but struck by lightning and sawn off. A side branch thrusts up very high, however, and falls down again in an avalanche of dark green twigs. "This dark giant — like a proud man brought low — contrasts, when seen as the character of a living being, with the pale smile of the last rose on the bush, which is fading in front of him. Under the trees, empty stone benches, dark box. The sky is reflected yellow in a puddle after the rain. A ray of sun — the last glimmer — exalts the dark ochre to orange — small dark figures prowl here and there between the trunks.18 You’ll understand that this combination of red ochre, of green saddened with grey, of black lines that define the outlines, this gives rise a little to the feeling of anxiety from which some of my companions in misfortune often suffer, and which is called ‘seeing red’.19 And what’s more, the motif of the great tree struck by lightning, the sickly green and pink smile of the last flower of autumn, confirms this idea." To Emile Bernard. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Tuesday, 26 November 1889
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Details:
Painting Date
25th of November 1889
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Description:

The Comparison Images were both painted within days of one another in November of 1889 along with many other views of the trees in the garden of Saint Paul’s asylum in St. Remy.

Here’s description of a canvas that I have in front of me at the moment. A view of the garden of the asylum where I am, on the right a grey terrace, a section of house, some rosebushes that have lost their flowers; on the left, the earth of the garden — red ochre — earth burnt by the sun, covered in fallen pine twigs. This edge of the garden is planted with large pines with red ochre trunks and branches, with green foliage saddened by a mixture of black. These tall trees stand out against an evening sky streaked with violet against a yellow background. High up, the yellow turns to pink, turns to green. A wall — red ochre again — blocks the view, and there’s nothing above it but a violet and yellow ochre hill. Now, the first tree is an enormous trunk, but struck by lightning and sawn off. A side branch thrusts up very high, however, and falls down again in an avalanche of dark green twigs.
This dark giant — like a proud man brought low — contrasts, when seen as the character of a living being, with the pale smile of the last rose on the bush, which is fading in front of him. Under the trees, empty stone benches, dark box. The sky is reflected yellow in a puddle after the rain. A ray of sun — the last glimmer — exalts the dark ochre to orange — small dark figures prowl here and there between the trunks.18 You’ll understand that this combination of red ochre, of green saddened with grey, of black lines that define the outlines, this gives rise a little to the feeling of anxiety from which some of my companions in misfortune often suffer, and which is called ‘seeing red’.19 And what’s more, the motif of the great tree struck by lightning, the sickly green and pink smile of the last flower of autumn, confirms this idea. Another canvas depicts a sun rising over a field of new wheat. Receding lines of the furrows run high up on the canvas, towards a wall and a range of lilac hills. The field is violet and green-yellow. The white sun is surrounded by a large yellow aureole.20 In it, in contrast to the other canvas, I have tried to express calm, a great peace. 1r:4
I’m speaking to you of these two canvases, and especially the first, to remind you that in order to give an impression of anxiety, you can try to do it without heading straight for the historical garden of Gethsemane; in order to offer a consoling and gentle subject it isn’t necessary to depict the figures from the Sermon on the Mount21 — ah — it is — no doubt — wise, right, to be moved by the Bible, but modern reality has such a hold over us that even when trying abstractly to reconstruct ancient times in our thoughts — just at that very moment the petty events of our lives tear us away from these meditations and our own adventures throw us forcibly into personal sensations: joy, boredom, suffering, anger or smiling. The Bible — the Bible — Millet was brought up on it from his childhood, used to read only that book and yet never, or almost never, did biblical paintings.22 Corot did a Garden of Olives with Christ and the star of Bethlehem: sublime.23 In his work you feel Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles too, sometimes, as well as the Gospels, but how sober and always giving due weight to modern, possible sensations common to us all. But, you’ll say, Delacroix — yes, Delacroix — but then you’d have to study in a very different way, yes, study history before putting things in their place like that. The canvas Van Gogh describes in such detail is The garden of the asylum.

 

Notes: There are two variants, F 660 / JH 1849 [2865] and F 659 / JH 1850 [2866]; the one referred to here is probably the second one. See Hendriks and Van Tilborgh 2001, pp. 154-156.

To Emile Bernard. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Tuesday, 26 November 1889

Painting, Oil on Canvas – 71.5 x 90.5 cm Size 30 Figure
Saint-Rémy, France: November 25, 1889
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 659, JH: 1850

 

Where Vincent Was:
Saint Remy

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