The Courtyard of the Hospital at Arles

The Courtyard of the Hospital at Arles

"And then, as a pendant, the inner courtyard. It’s an arcaded gallery like in Arab buildings, whitewashed. In front of these galleries an ancient garden with a pond in the middle and 8 beds of flowers, forget-me-nots, Christmas roses, anemones, buttercups, wallflowers, daisies et cetera. And beneath the gallery, orange trees and oleanders. So it’s a painting chock-full of flowers and springtime greenery. However, three black, sad tree-trunks cross it like snakes, and in the foreground four large sad, dark box bushes."
Details:
Painting Date
1st of May 1889
Detailed Image Links
Description:
After being released from the Arles hospital in January (related to the ear severing incident and Paul Gauguin), Vincent suffered another setback in early February, believing he was being poisoned.
After a second stay at the hospital, this time for three days, Vincent was again released.  Finally in late February of 1889, Vincent was forced to stay at the Hotel Dieu hospital by the mayor of Arles, based upon a petition signed by 30 citizens of Arles.  He paints a canvas of the ward he is assigned to and depicts the patients with whom he shares the large hall as well as this companion piece, the Courtyard of the Hospital.
In this canvas, Vincent composes a clipped view of a corner of the inner courtyard’s flower beds, fountains  and trees.  His view has the multi-storied corridors of the hospital eclipsing the sky which cannot be seen.
Three trees cut vertically through the sectioned flowerbeds with flowers of lateral and diagonal dashes of color. Figures of patients can be seen in the second story corridor at top right and left and a lone figure with hunched shoulders walks in the lower corridor at middle right of center.  The viewers eye is drawn toward the woman at the end of a diagonal walking path echoing the view of the corridors and building arches.
Vincent’s palette for the piece is a varied one with colors from all over the spectrum.  Lavender planters set off the bright yellows of the arched corridor with a lilac and white walkway and building facade above and below.  Reds and greens are vibrant alongside each other in the flowerbeds and the deep greens and browns of the trunks and row of bushes add a sombering effect with their coolness.
Orange ochre fish swim in a turquoise pond with the teal shaded corridors providing an echo in the backdrop.  A complex composition rather than the random work of a madman — and maybe that is what Vincent had in mind when he conceived and created The Courtyard of the Hospital — sometime early in his final weeks in Arles at the Hotel Dieu.
During the months from Christmas 1888 to May of 1889, Vincent struggles under the burden of his art still not being salable and his continued need for his brother’s financial support.  He is hurt by Gauguin’s departure from their artists’ studio of the south and the summoning of Theo to Arles in a panic on Christmas eve and what Gauguin is saying about him back in Paris.
In early February, after his friend the Postman Roulin has helped argue for his January release, Vincent suffers another period of delusion wherein he believes he is being poisoned by everyone around him including his cleaning lady or charwoman.  He is again admitted in shackles to the Hospital Dieu and again recovers lucidity within a few days.  He is released on his own recognizance for a second time a few days after being admitted and returns to his home.
Upon this second release, Vincent’s neighbors and the Arles townsfolk are frightened by his past behaviors and his most recent fit of apparent madness about the poisoning.  They soon gather a petition demanding the “mad redhead” be locked up before he brings harm to the citizenry.  Humbly and with a heavy heart, Vincent complies and begins a two month stay in the hospital in isolation and initially without his art supplies.  Paul Signac will come from Paris to visit him when he hears of Vincent’s forced stay at the hospital and together they visit the yellow house and studio where Signac admires Vincent’s sunflower canvases.  Vincent has also been working on his Gauguin-influenced La Berceuse canvases of madame Roulin, the postman Roulin’s wife, rocking their newborns cradle.  Signac is favorably impressed with Vincent’s canvases and the two share an afternoon of discussion and laughter before Signac leaves and Vincent returns to the Hotel Dieu.
In May, after two months of forced stay in Arles, Vincent will transfer to a hospital in Saint Remy, a short distance to the north and east, in hopes of a full recovery in the countryside and quiet the Saint Paul Mausole asylum can provide.
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In the letter excerpt below and while he is still in Arles at the Hotel Dieu, Vincent relays to his sister Willemien his illness and forced incarceration as well as his selection of the asylum in Saint Remy de Provence for a stay of 3 months:
“As for me, I’m going for at least 3 months into an asylum at St-Rémy, not far from here.  In all I’ve had 4 big crises in which I hadn’t the slightest idea of what I said, wanted, did.  Not counting that I fainted 3 times previously without plausible reason, and not retaining the least memory of what I felt then.  Ah well, that’s quite serious, although I’m much calmer since then, and physically I’m perfectly well. And I still feel incapable of taking a studio again.
I’m working though, and have just done two paintings of the hospital. One is a ward, a very long ward with the rows of beds with white curtains where a few figures of patients are moving.  The walls, the ceiling with the large beams, everything is white in a lilac white or green white. Here and there a window with a pink or bright green curtain.  The floor tiled with red bricks. At the far end a door surmounted by a crucifix.  It’s very, very simple.
And then, as a pendant, the inner courtyard. It’s an arcaded gallery like in Arab buildings, whitewashed. In front of these galleries an ancient garden with a pond in the middle and 8 beds of flowers, forget-me-nots, Christmas roses, anemones, buttercups, wallflowers, daisies &c.  And beneath the gallery, orange trees and oleanders. So it’s a painting chock-full of flowers and springtime greenery. However, three black, sad tree-trunks cross it like snakes, and in the foreground four large sad, dark box bushes. The people here probably don’t see much in it, but however it has always been so much my desire to paint for those who don’t know the artistic side of a painting….
….Ever Yours,

Vincent”

To Willemien van Gogh. Arles, between about Sunday, 28 April and Thursday, 2 May 1889

 

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After Vincent admits himself to the asylum in Saint Remy de Provence at Saint Paul de Mausole, he receives a letter from Joseph Ginoux, his landlord.  Ginoux and his wife and the Roulin family were perhaps Vincent’s longest term supporters and sympathizers in Arles.  In this letter, Ginoux talks of a frame for the painting of the courtyard of the hospital Dieu in Arles…
Arles, 31 May 1889.
Dear Mr Vincent,
We were very pleased to learn that you are doing well and that the air of St-Rémy has done you good.  We understand that you are feeling well, and that the surroundings of your new residence, which is only temporary, will distract you and provide subjects for your art.
I have had a fine frame made as we had agreed, in walnut and impeccable. I delivered it to the bursar. I have told everyone who knows you how you are, and everyone was glad to learn that you are in good health, and we hope to have the pleasure of seeing you soon, in anticipation of which Mrs Ginoux and I send you our best regards.
Joseph Ginoux.

Joseph Ginoux to Vincent van Gogh. Arles, Friday, 31 May 1889

 

 

Painting, Oil on Canvas – 73 x 93 Size 30 Figure
Arles, France: May 1, 1889
Oskar Reinhart Collection ‘Am Römerholz’
Winterthur, Switzerland, Europe
F: 519, JH: 1687

Where Vincent Was:
Arles

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