Vincent was finally feeling well enough to write a couple of weeks after the longest of his debilitating episodes
to date – a 45 day incapacitation from mid-July to mid-September during which time he did not leave the grounds of the asylum at Saint Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy and did not paint at all. He will paint the Trees in the Garden of the Hospital in these weeks after the break, which can be viewed at the Armand Hammer
museum in Los Angeles, California. He will also paint another view of the trees in the garden of the asylum
and a rock quarry
, both are included as related items.
This piece has Vincent applying mainly curved vertical strokes for the ground, trees and skies of the landscape. The asylum is captured in a patchwork of varying yellow strokes with blue-green shutters in horizontals and a horizontal rooftop of burnt siena. The sky begins in the same blue-green of the shutters and is overcome by cobalt as the viewers eye moves to the top and center of the canvas – all directed by Vincent’s somewhat funnelling brushstrokes.
The trees are composed of the most curved brushstrokes with varying shades of greens and browns for the foliage and outlined trunks of darkened brown bridging the foreground and the sky. There is a woman with a red parasol at low left and a figure of a man in a yellow straw hat with a book in his hand walking toward us on a path of curved ochre brushstrokes. A walking couple is in the background by the building itself as is a more hunched and male-looking figure in black at center right.
“My dear friend Bernard,
The other day my brother wrote to me that you were going to come to see my canvases; so I know that you’re back, and I’m very pleased that you thought of going to see what I’ve done. For my part, I’m extremely curious to know what you’ve brought back from Pont-Aven. I hardly have a head for writing, but I feel a great emptiness in no longer being at all up to date with what Gauguin, you and others are doing. But I really must have patience. I have another dozen studies here, which will probably be more to your taste than the ones from this summer that my brother will have shown you.
Among these studies there’s an entrance to a quarry, pale lilac rocks in reddish earth, as in certain Japanese drawings. In terms of design and the division of colour into large planes, it’s quite closely related to what you’re doing in Pont-Aven.
I had more control over myself in these latest studies, because my state of health had firmed up. So there’s also a no. 30 canvas with broken lilac ploughed fields and a background of mountains that go all the way up the canvas; so nothing but rough ground and rocks, with a thistle and dry grass in a corner, and a little violet and yellow man. That will prove, I hope, that I haven’t yet gone soft.
Dear God, this is a pretty awful little part of the world, everything’s hard to do here, to disentangle its intimate character, and so that it’s not something vaguely true, but the true soil of Provence. So to achieve that, you have to toil hard. And so it naturally becomes a little abstract. Because it will be a question of giving strength and brilliance to the sun and the blue sky, and to the scorched and often so melancholy fields their delicate scent of thyme.
The olive trees down here, my good fellow, they’d suit your book; I haven’t been fortunate this year in making a success of them, but I’ll go back to it, that’s my intention. It’s silver against orangeish or purplish earth, under the great blue sky. Well now, I’ve seen some by certain painters, and by myself, which didn’t render the thing at all. Those silver greys are like Corot first of all, and that, above all, hasn’t been done yet — while several artists have been successful with apple trees, for example, and willows. 1v:2
So there are relatively few paintings of vineyards, which are nevertheless of such changing beauty. So there’s still plenty for me to fiddle around with here.”
To Emile Bernard. Saint-Rémy, on or about Tuesday, 8 October 1889
“Then this week I’ve done the entrance to a quarry, which is like a Japanese thing, you’ll well remember that there are Japanese drawings of rocks where grasses and little trees grow here and there. There are moments between times when nature is superb, autumnal effects glorious in colour, green skies contrasting with yellow, orange, green vegetation, earth in all shades of violet, burnt grass where the rains have nevertheless given a last vigour to certain plants, which again start to produce little violet, pink, blue, yellow flowers. Things that make you quite melancholy not to be able to render them.
And the skies – like our northern skies, but the colours of the sunsets and sunrises are more varied and more pure. As in works by Jules Dupré and Ziem.
I also have two views of the park and the asylum in which this place appears most agreeable. I tried to reconstruct the thing as it may have been by simplifying and accentuating the proud, unchanging nature of the pines and the cedar bushes against the blue.”
To Theo. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Tuesday, 8 October 1889
Painting, Oil on Canvas – 73 x 60 cm Size 20 Figure
Saint-Rémy: October 7, 1889
The Armand Hammer Museum of Art
Los Angeles, California, United States of America, North America
F: 643, JH: 1799