The Evening Walk

The Evening Walk

"In the last few days at St-Rémy I worked in a frenzy. Big bouquets of flowers, violet irises, big bouquets of roses. Landscapes. It was odd to see all my canvases from the beginning again, from the time I left. But I would very much have liked you to have seen the olive groves that I’ve brought with me now, with yellow, pink, blue skies, quite different, I think that these are canvases that haven’t yet been painted like this. Up to now the others always painted them in grey. " To Willemien van Gogh. Auvers-sur-Oise, on or about Wednesday, 21 May 1890
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Painting Date
30th of November -0001
Detailed Image Links
Vincent painted The Evening Walk in a flurry of activity in the weeks just prior to leaving the St. Paul de Mausole asylum at Saint Remy de Provence.  He takes a last view of the provence cypress and the blue alpilles under an evening sky with a crescent moon radiating above.  Vincent paints a couple walking as a sun beyond the peaks of the Alpilles lights the horizon in orange diagonal brushstrokes from bottom left towards top right.  Above that a green sky of vertical strokes with the same greens repeated in the ground and olive grove the couple stroll through.  Tall dark green cypresses of thinner vertical strokes point up towards a halo’d crescent moon in brilliant citron yellow.  The olive trees are created in darker and lighter crescent strokes repeating the rising moon’s brilliance.  The somewhat awkward figures very skin reflects the green of the orchard they walk through as a woman in dark yellow gesticulates with her right hand beside a red headed and bearded man in blue who seems to listen with interest connoted via posture.  It is similar in composition to the related painting Road with Cypress and Star and an earlier composition from Saint Remy called Cypresses.
Dating of this work is difficult as neither Vincent nor Theo mention it in any letters.  Scholars agree it was created at some point between October of 1889 and May of 1890 while Vincent was in his final months in the asylum at Saint Remy.  Vincent and Theo both believe Vincent has captured something special in his depictions of both cypresses and olive trees while in confinement at Saint Paul de Mausole and this work has both along with a sunset perhaps reminiscent of the Provence he sought to capture on his canvases.
By April of 1890, Vincent and Theo had arranged through Camille Pissaro for Vincent live in a village he knew outside of the Paris city environs with with a physician, Dr. Gachet, who was also an artist and astute collector of neo-impressionist art of the time.  Vincent is excited to leave after a year long stay in the asylum and does not feel he has a chance at improving his mental health if he remains in seclusion.
My dear friend Bernard,
Thank you for your letter, and thank you especially for your photos, which give me an idea of your work…
…And if I haven’t written for a long time, it’s because, having to struggle against my illness and to calm my head, I hardly felt like having discussions, and found danger in these abstractions. And by working very calmly, beautiful subjects will come of their own accord; it’s truly first and foremost a question of immersing oneself in reality again, with no plan made in advance, with no Parisian bias. Besides, am very dissatisfied with this year, but perhaps it will prove a solid foundation for the coming one. I’ve let myself become thoroughly imbued with the air of the small mountains and the orchards. With that, I’ll see. My ambition is truly limited to a few clods of earth, some sprouting wheat. An olive grove. A cypress; the latter not easy to do, for example. “
Ever yours,

To Emile Bernard. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Tuesday, 26 November 1889

“My dear sister,
For a few days now I would have liked to reply to your kind letter, which I received while still in St-Rémy. Things weren’t working out there any more, and I was becoming rather iller through the treatment. In Paris it was a great joy for me to see Theo again and to meet Jo and the little one. Jo made an excellent impression upon me, she’s charming and very simple and good. Yes it really seems to me to be going as well as possible for the moment.
And as for myself, for the moment I still fear the noise and the bustle of Paris and I left immediately for the country – to an old village.  Here there are roofs of mossy thatch which are superb, and of which I’ll certainly do something. Then I think that the doctor to whom I’ve been recommended will absolutely let me be as if nothing were wrong.  In the last few days at St-Rémy I worked in a frenzy. Big bouquets of flowers, violet irises, big bouquets of roses. Landscapes. It was odd to see all my canvases from the beginning again, from the time I left.
But I would very much have liked you to have seen the olive groves that I’ve brought with me now, with yellow, pink, blue skies, quite different, I think that these are canvases that haven’t yet been painted like this. Up to now the others always painted them in grey.  I was very pleased to see the exhibition at the Champ de Mars, where there are many things I like a lot.”

To Willemien van Gogh. Auvers-sur-Oise, on or about Wednesday, 21 May 1890

“I don’t know what to say. Certainly my last crisis, which was terrible, was due in considerable part to the influence of the other patients, anyway, the prison was crushing me, and père Peyron didn’t pay the slightest attention to it, leaving me to vegetate with the rest, who were profoundly corrupted.  I can have lodgings, 3 small rooms at 150 a year. This if I don’t find better, and I hope to find better, is in any case preferable to the bedbug-infested hole at Tanguy’s, and besides I’d find a shelter myself there and could retouch the canvases that need it.
In such a way the paintings will be less spoiled, and by keeping them in order the chance of deriving some profit from them would increase. For – I’m not talking about my own – but the BernardPrévostRussellGuillauminJeannin canvases that ended up there – that’s not the place for them.  Now canvases like those – once again I’m not talking about my own – are merchandise which has and will retain a certain value, and neglecting it is one of the causes of our mutual financial embarrassment.
It rather saddens me to have to insist that you send me at least part of my month right at the beginning. But I’ll still do all I can to ensure that all goes well.  It’s certain, I think, that we’re all thinking of the little one, and Jo must just say what she wants, I dare believe that Theo, like me, will go along with her opinion. Myself, all I can do at the moment is say that I think that we all need some rest. I feel – a failure – that’s it as regards me – I feel that that’s the fate I’m accepting. And which won’t change any more.
But one more reason, setting aside all ambition, we can live together for years without ruining ourselves on either side. You see that with the canvases that are still in St-Rémy – there are at least 8 of them – and with the 4 from here, I’m trying not to lose my touch. That, though, is the absolute truth, it’s difficult to acquire a certain facility of production, and by ceasing to work I would lose it much more quickly, more easily than it cost me in troubles to acquire it. And the prospect darkens, I don’t see a happy future at all. Write to me by return of post if you haven’t already written, and good handshakes in thought, I would hope that it might be possible to see each other soon with more rested minds.


To Theo and Jo van Gogh-Bonger. Auvers-sur-Oise, Saturday, 24 May 1890

describing this last episode – from the Van Gogh Letters website of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam:
 On 22 February Vincent had had another attack, as Peyron informed Theo in a letter written two days later: ‘He’s having another attack, which makes it impossible for him to write to you, and which he suffered after a visit to Arles. I notice that the attacks are coming more closely together and occur after every trip he makes outside the establishment. I do not believe that he indulges in any kind of excess when he has freedom of movement, since I have always seen him sober and reserved. But I am forced to acknowledge that every time he makes a little excursion, he becomes ill. … I was obliged to send two men with a carriage to pick him up in Arles, and no one knows where he spent the night of Saturday to Sunday. He took with him a painting of an Arlésienne; it has not been found’  See FR b1062; Hulsker 1971, p. 43. Van Gogh had apparently taken along the portrait, one of the five he had painted on the basis of Gauguin’s drawing Madame Ginoux (study for ‘Night café, Arles’), with the intention of giving it to Madame Ginoux.
Van Gogh did not recover from this latest attack until the end of April 1890 (see letter 863). On 14 March 1890 Theo wrote to Willemien: ‘No news from Vincent himself, but a letter from Dr Peyron to say that he was still unable to read or write, but that he hoped to get him on his feet again. Still, he says he shouldn’t conceal the fact that, now that the crisis has lasted so long, it will be more difficult for him to pull through’ (FR b927).


Painting, Oil on Canvas – 49.5 x 45.5 cm – size 10 carre’
Saint-Rémy: May, 1890
Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo, Brazil, South America
F: 704, JH: 1981

Where Vincent Was:
Saint Remy

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