By April of 1889, Vincent had already been in and out of the Arles hospital twice and was less than a month away from admitting himself to the Saint Paul Asylum at Saint Remy de Provence. He has returned to a familiar subject, the orchards just outside of town. He will paint similar perspectives of this same orchard with very different styles and color schemes with this view being more cloisson-esque in its depiction and the other being more pointillist and impressionist influenced.
The first related item was painted the same week as Vincent painted this view. The second related item is from a similar viewpoint on the outskirts of Arles where Vincent first explored and depicted the orchards south of town upon arriving the previous Spring. By the time Vincent paints this depiction of the Orchard in Bloom he will have suffered a couple of breaks and have cut off the lobe of his ear with a straight razor. The painting is executed with a Japanese wood block feel to it with large areas of flat color with clearly delineated boundaries between them. The tower of St Trophime can be seen in the background top left in both views of the orchard. Style and feel and color balance have evolved considerably in a year with the influence of Anquetin and Bernard showing themselves in this final view of Arles.
A letter Vincent wrote to Paul Signac after Signac came to visit Vincent after his episodes. He is in the midst of painting his two large canvases of the orchard in blossom with the towers of Arles in the background.
“My dear friend Signac,
Thanks very much for your postcard, which gives me news of you. As for my brother not having replied to your letter yet, I’m inclined to believe that it’s not his fault. I’ve also been without news of him for a fortnight. It’s because he’s in Holland, where he’s getting married one of these days. Now, while not denying the advantages of a marriage in the very least, once it has been done and one is quietly set up in one’s home, the funereal pomp of the reception &c., the lamentable congratulations of two families (even civilized) at the same time, not to mention the fortuitous appearances in those pharmacist’s jars where antediluvian civil or religious magistrates sit – my word – isn’t there good reason to pity the poor unfortunate obliged to present himself armed with the requisite papers in the places where, with a ferocity unequalled by the cruellest cannibals, you’re married alive on the low heat of the aforementioned funereal receptions.
I remain much obliged to you for your most friendly and beneficial visit, which considerably contributed to cheering me up. I am well now and I’m working in the hospital or its surroundings. Thus I’ve just brought back two studies of orchards.
Here’s a hasty croquis of them – the largest is a poor green countryside with little cottages, blue line of the Alpilles, white and blue sky. The foreground, enclosures with reed hedges where little peach trees are in blossom – everything there is small, the gardens, the fields, the gardens, the trees, even those mountains, as in certain Japanese landscapes, that’s why this subject attracted me. The other landscape is almost all green with a little lilac and grey – on a rainy day. Very pleased to hear you say that you’ve settled down, and will very much wish to have more news of you. How is work going, what is the character of those parts?
For the first few months, at least, I plan to go on staying here. I’ve rented an apartment consisting of two very small rooms.6 But at times it isn’t completely convenient for me to start living again, for I still have inner despairs of quite a large calibre.
My word, these anxieties… who can live in modern life without catching his share of them? The best consolation, if not the only remedy, is, it still seems to me, profound friendships, even if these have the disadvantage of anchoring us in life more solidly than may appear desirable to us in the days of great suffering.
Thank you again for your visit, which gave me so much pleasure. Good handshake in thought.
Address until end of April, place Lamartine 2, Arles.”
“I am well now and I’m working in the hospital or its surroundings. Thus I’ve just brought back two studies of orchards. Here’s a hasty croquis of them – the largest is a poor green countryside with little cottages, blue line of the Alpilles, white and blue sky. The foreground, enclosures with reed hedges where little peach trees are in blossom – everything there is small, the gardens, the fields, the gardens, the trees, even those mountains, as in certain Japanese landscapes, that’s why this subject attracted me. The other landscape is almost all green with a little lilac and grey – on a rainy day.”
To Paul Signac. Arles, Wednesday, 10 April 1889