Memory of the Garden in Etten

Memory of the Garden in Etten

"Now here are the colours. The younger of the two women walking is wearing a Scottish shawl with green and orange checks and carrying a red parasol. The old one has a blue-violet shawl, almost black. But a bunch of dahlias, some lemon yellow, others variegated pink and white, explode against this sombre figure. Behind them a few emerald-green cedar or cypress bushes. Behind these cypresses one catches a glimpse of a bed of pale green and red cabbages, surrounded by a border of little white flowers. The sandy path is a raw orange, the foliage of two beds of scarlet geraniums is very green. Finally, in the middle ground is a maidservant dressed in blue who’s arranging plants with a profusion of white, pink, yellow and vermilion-red flowers..."
Details:
Painting Date
11th of November 1888
Detailed Image Links
Description:

I’ve already replied to you that I didn’t like Mother’s portrait enormously.4 I’ve now just painted a reminiscence of the garden at Etten, to put in my bedroom, and here’s a croquis of it. It’s quite a big canvas.

Now here are the colours. The younger of the two women walking is wearing a Scottish shawl with green and orange checks and carrying a red parasol. The old one has a blue-violet shawl, almost black. But a bunch of dahlias, some lemon yellow, others variegated pink and white, explode against this sombre figure.
Behind them a few emerald-green cedar or cypress bushes. Behind these cypresses one catches a glimpse of a bed of pale green and red cabbages, surrounded by a border of little white flowers. The sandy path is a raw orange, the foliage of two beds of scarlet geraniums is very green. Finally, in the middle ground is a maidservant dressed in blue who’s arranging plants with a profusion of white, pink, yellow and vermilion-red flowers.
There you are, I know it isn’t perhaps much of a resemblance, but for me it conveys the poetic character and the style of the garden as I feel them.  1v:3
In the same way, let’s suppose that these two women walking are you and our mother. Let’s even suppose then that there may be not the slightest, absolutely not the slightest vulgar and fatuous resemblance, the deliberate choice of colour, the dark violet violently blotched with the lemon yellow of the dahlias, suggests Mother’s personality to me.
The figure in the Scottish plaid with the orange and green checks standing out against the dark green of the cypress, this contrast even more exaggerated by the red parasol, gives me an idea of you, vaguely a figure like those in Dickens’s novels.
I don’t know if you’ll understand that one can speak poetry just by arranging colours well, just as one can say comforting things in music. In the same way the bizarre lines, sought out and multiplied, and snaking all over the painting, aren’t intended to render the garden in its vulgar resemblance but draw it for us as if seen in a dream, in character and yet at the same time stranger than the reality.

To Willemien van Gogh. Arles, on or about Monday, 12 November 1888

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“A reminiscence of our garden at Etten with cabbages, cypresses, dahlias and figures.”

To Theo. Arles, Sunday, 11 or Monday, 12 November 1888

Painting, Oil on Canvas – 73.5 x 92.5 cm Size 30 Figure
Arles: November 11, 1888
Hermitage Museum
St. Petersburg, Russia, Europe
F: 496, JH: 1630

Where Vincent Was:
Arles

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