The Painter on His Way to Work
The Painter on His Way to Work
"The roll that he’ll bring you contains 36 studies; among them there are many with which I’m desperately dissatisfied, and which I’m sending you anyway because it will still give you a vague idea of some really fine subjects in the countryside. For example, there’s a quick sketch I made of myself laden with boxes, sticks, a canvas, on the sunny Tarascon road" Vincent To Theo. Arles, on or about Monday, 13 August 1888
This painting, destroyed by fire in World War II, exists only as copies of photographs taken. As soon as the lingering winter let go its grasp on Arles, Vincent went outside to work on drawings and paintings along this tree lined road (now the D570 Highway). It is important in that it is the only full length self portrait Vincent completes for us, all others being from the waist up at most.*
Vincent is on his way to work on a summer day with his easel on his back and canvases under his arm. He has on his painters smock and his favorite yellow straw hat as he heads out of Arles and into the countryside. Just as in Paris, it is not the modern city center nor the commonly visited attractions that interest Vincent, it is the outskirts and the fields and landscapes which call to him when the weather allows.
The sky is an azure blue green and of little texture, broken only by a white cloud hanging above the horizon at right. A siena tile roof in the background shares its color with the painter’s lips, nose, backpack and walking stick – with a few strokes applied to cobbles in the road and the tree trunks lining the road. The familiar green eyes are still penetrating as he looks back at us from a diagonal field of green bordered by a field of wheat in yellow. Cobalt cypresses in the distance rise in front of lavender mountains as we almost feel the painter’s feet on the cobbles of the road to Tarascon.
Vincent comes back to this area throughout 1888 at different times and places where he sketches, draws and paints on the road to Tarascon. He takes this same road to the abbey at Montmajour and will paint the crau from its boulder strewn mountaintop. He has already created a sketch with reed pen and ink of the painter walking along the same road but from behind which is included in the related items. Looking carefully at the figure walking, we can see he has re-worked an earlier attempt at capturing the gait. Also included are two spring paintings along the road but of farmhouses along the way. All show a lightened palette as Vincent feels the lighting of the south of France producing different and brighter color combinations which he reflects on his canvases. He is laying large fields of color on the canvas in a cloisson-esque manner similar to a stained glass window and the Japanese woodblock prints he and Theo so admire. He is happy to be outside and painting the spring and the coming of summer in Provence, soon he will prepare his yellow house for Gauguin’s arrival and create what he hopes will be the artist’s studio of the south.
*He probably paints himself in the Paris piece called http://vincentinparis.com/item/walk-along-the-banks-of-the-seine-near-asnieres/ and he is wearing his straw painters hat but we cannot know beyond doubt as the artist does not face us.
“My dear Bernard,
Vincent To Emile Bernard. Arles, Sunday, 18 March 1888
“The roll that he’ll bring you contains 36 studies; among them there are many with which I’m desperately dissatisfied, and which I’m sending you anyway because it will still give you a vague idea of some really fine subjects in the countryside. For example, there’s a quick sketch I made of myself laden with boxes, sticks, a canvas, on the sunny Tarascon road”
To Theo. Arles, on or about Monday, 13 August 1888
Painting, Oil on Canvas
Arles: July, 1888
Destroyed by fire in the Second World War; formerly in the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Magdeburg (Germany)
Magdeburg, Germany, Europe
F: 448, JH: 1491