Vincent van Gogh spent much of his working life in France, which leads many to wonder whether he was French. He was in fact Dutch, born in Zundert in the Netherlands in 1853. In 1888, after a few years in Paris, van Gogh decided to move to the South of France. The unique light in Provence fascinated him and the quality of life there suited him.
Van Gogh in Arles, Provence
Arles was the first city he moved to and was his muse for some of his most renowned paintings and drawings. Nowadays considered among the masterpieces of this period, his abstract artwork was perhaps 'too modern' for the 19th century, and unfortunately often not appreciated. In the two years van Gogh spent in Provence, he produced about 200 paintings and 100 drawings, many of which are in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and other museums around the world.
Orchard in Blossom near Arles, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
Vincent van Gogh was inspired by Japanese art and enjoyed painting outdoors. Some of his paintings depicted the awakening of spring and its blossoming trees, the hot summer season with the harvests and its fascinating starry nights. He set up a studio in the idyllic provincial region and encouraged other painters to come. Paul Gauguin arrived in Arles and they spent time together working on their art, until one day van Gogh, suffering from a mental illness, cut off part of his ear during an argument. He stayed a few more months in Arles before being interned in the asylum of Saint Rémy in 1889.
Van Gogh in Provence today
For those interested in the work of van Gogh in Provence, you can visit Arles and walk in his footsteps. The Van Gogh Foundation in Arles is interesting and shows how van Gogh has influenced the styles of other artists. In Saint Remy de Provence,you may visit Saint Paul de Mausole, the asylum (a Romanesque cloister) where he spent the penultimate year of his life, and still functions as a psychiatric hospital today. There is a museum in one wing of the beautiful Romanesque cloister dedicated to the period when the artist was committed to Saint-Paul. Many visitors find visiting the reconstruction of van Gogh's room a moving experience. Outside you'll find Van Gogh's Field, which you can stroll through and view twenty large-scale reproductions of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous paintings set in the places where they were produced.
Our Self Drive tours in Provence
If you are interested in walking in van Gogh's footsteps, we will be very happy to include a customized tour of Arles and Saint-Remy-de-Provence in any of our Provence itineraries. Click here to find out more about our tours of Provence.