In his fourteen months in Arles he produced 200 or so paintings, including masterpieces such as The Yellow House (1888), Still-life with a Plate of Onions (1889), The Sower (1888), The Night Café (1888), Sunflowers in a Vase (1888), Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888) and The Bedroom (1888).
He said, ‘I want to get to the point where people say of my work, “That man feels deeply.”’
He could have added ‘and whose works others feel deeply about’.
When my eldest son was six we visited an art gallery that sold modern art posters.
With the generosity of a dad on a day off I grandly offered to treat him to one poster and one postcard.
I can’t remember the chosen postcard, but I can remember the poster: it was of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom (1888).
‘Why?’ I asked. ‘It’s relaxing,’ my son said.
If Van Gogh had been in the same gallery I expect he would have rushed up and given the boy a hug.
Because that is the feeling that Van Gogh was trying to project in the painting.
He wanted every aspect of the picture to represent rest: the colours, the composition, the light, the mood and the furniture.
Arles was Van Gogh’s kind of town.
He thought it evoked the simplicity and beauty of the world presented in his much-loved Japanese woodcuts (To Theo, 1888: ‘I envy the Japanese the extreme clearness which everything has in their work.
It is never tedious, and never seems to be done too hurriedly.
Their work is as simple as breathing, and they do a figure in a few sure strokes with the same ease as if it were buttoning your coat.’).
The sun, together with his optimistic notion of creating an artist’s commune, meant Vincent was on top form.