The Langlois Bridge at Arles – (Arlesienne with black parasol)

The Langlois Bridge at Arles – (Arlesienne with black parasol)

"I have two new studies, a bridge and the verge of a wide road. Many of the subjects here are just — in character — the same as in Holland — the difference is in the colour. There’s sulphur everywhere where the sun beats down. "


Vincent sketched and painted this drawbridge for a couple of months once winter’s grasp loosened on Arles and Provence in Spring of 1888.  In totally, he sketched and drew the bridge and its environs 4 times, created 4 oil on canvas paintings of it and a water color painting that also survives.  In this, his final canvas of the scene, he moves to the other side of the river from his first and other earlier renditions. The related images are some of the perspectives and color schemes he chose.


In this final canvas of the Langlois Bridge, Vincent paints spring in Provence with a Japanese woodblock print feel of economy and clever use of color.  His mostly lateral, wide-stroked sky of white and light blues is punctuated with an impasto white cloud just above the horizon at left and takes nearly two thirds of the canvas.  There is a local woman of Arles, an “Arlesienne” dressed in black and crossing the bridge under a black parasol.  A carriage with a driver in prussian blue has just passed over the bridge.  Vincent will continue to evolve his depiction of cypress trees during his stay in Provence but here we can see the beginnings of what is to come later in Arles and then Saint Remy de Provence.


After two months of contemplating different schemes and motifs of the drawbridge, this final work is one of his first generally regarded masterpieces from his time spent living in Arles and painting its surroundings.


The Compare One image is a drawing in reed pen of nearly the same scene from the same perspective which was owned by Emile Bernard, a fellow post impressionist and friend of Vincent’s as a related item as well as a couple of the other paintings he did of the bridge.  Vincent is feeling the influence of the Japanese art he loves and admires so and finding inspiration in the light of the south and a nice Spring day and might’ve plucked a reed from the Arles-Bouc canal he was depicting and dipped it in ink to create the drawing for Bernard.


The Compare Two shows Vincent first and this final canvases of the Langlois bridge, completed about two months apart in the Spring of 1888 in Arles, Provence.  The first was with his easel on the left side of the canal bank and his final, created in his small studio, probably driven inside by the powerful Mistral winds of Provence or a May shower of rain.


The Street View image is from the opposite side of a similar drawbridge as the one Van Gogh depicted.  The real one was removed in the decades just after his death as it became less necessary.




From the Wallraf Richartz museum in Cologne on Vincent’s depict of the Langlois Bridge with the Arlesienne in Black Parasol:


“On a canal not far from Arles, van Gogh found a motif that reminded him of his Dutch homeland: a drawbridge. He was to capture it on canvas not once, but five times. This may seem astonishing, but van Gogh was not the spontaneous painter that legend would have us believe. On the contrary, when painting “The Drawbridge” he went about it almost like an Old Master. We know from letters he wrote to his brother Theo that he constructed a perspective frame with which he established the most appropriate ‘crop’ for the landscape. Using guidelines made of string, he made the correct reproduction easier for himself. Modern technology even reveals the pencil lines beneath the paint of his composition.”



from a letter to his brother Theo:


“I have two new studies, a bridge and the verge of a wide road. Many of the subjects here are just — in character — the same as in Holland — the difference is in the colour. There’s sulphur everywhere where the sun beats down. You know that we saw a magnificent rose garden by Renoir. I imagined I would find similar subjects here, and that was indeed the case when the orchards were in blossom. Now the appearance of things has changed and nature has become much harsher. But what greenness and what a blue! I must say that the few landscapes by Cézanne that I know render it very, very well, and I regret not having seen more of them. The other day I saw a subject just like Monticelli’s beautiful landscape with the poplars that we saw at Reid’s. To find more of Renoir’s gardens you’d probably have to go towards Nice. I’ve seen very few roses here, although there are some, among others the big red roses they call Roses de Provence. 


To Theo. Arles, on or about Monday, 14 May 1888



Painting, Oil on Canvas 49.5 x 64 cm Size 15 paysage
Arles: May 14, 1888
Wallraf Richartz museum
Cologne, Germany, Europe
F: 570, JH: 1421

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