Vincent Van Gogh at St Remy (2)

A Wheatfields with Cypresses is my new header. This is another painting which Van Gogh repeated several times in St Remy de Provence, while being treated in the asylum there. It can be seen in the National Gallery in London.

Vincent Van Gogh, A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, 1889, oil on canvas, 73cm x 91 cm, National Gallery, London.
Vincent Van Gogh, A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, 1889, oil on canvas, 73cm x 91 cm, National Gallery, London.

We visited the former monastery of St Paul de Mausole, while in St Remy recently. The old romanesque chapel and surrounding buildings and gardens are quite exquisite. But I think here lies the problem with the current view of this great artist. The sterility of the tourist sites, the brightness of the colours in the paintings, the widespread imagery around the world hide the tragedy of Vincent’s life. We are aware of it but do not feel it.

Monastery of St Paul de Mausole at St Remy de Provence, France.

In the former monastery at St Remy you start to feel the squalor, filth and loneliness of his existence. The museum describes how mental health was treated in the late nineteenth century, with some of its appalling, torture like  acts, and how the artist was virtual prisoner in the asylum. 

Reconstruction of Vincent’s room at St Paul de Mausole, st Remy, France.
Reconstruction of Vincent’s room at St Paul de Mausole, st Remy, France.

Most moving is the reconstruction of his bedroom. A tiny room with a filthy bed, a chair and a table. Oil paintings drying by the small window, which let virtually no light through. Paint tubes, solvents and white spirit giving off fumes as he slept. He was despised by most people who new him, with his irrational, often violent, behaviour wandering off obsessed by painting images that no one understood. Through all this, though, you sense his time at St Remy was a period of recovery and hope – only to be blown away at Auvers sur Oise a year later.

Vincent Van Gogh, A View of the Church at St Paul de Mausole, 1889, oil on canvas, 44cm x 60cm.
Vincent Van Gogh, A View of the Church at St Paul de Mausole, 1889, oil on canvas, 44cm x 60cm.

I was also moved by considering how the asylum staff of 1889 would have thought of charging €7 per person, one hundred and thirty years on, to walk the grounds where this troubled man had wandered with his paints and canvasses.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Susie says:

    Again another lingering memories for 2022 this is really an evocative place that provided a safe haven for Van Gogh and the opportunities to paint

    Like

  2. Peter Davis says:

    Gordon
    Very moving piece and very perceptive.
    Peter

    Like

  3. Peter Davis says:

    Gordon
    Very perceptive and moving piece. Well done.
    Peter

    Like

    1. Thank you Peter. We found St Remy one of the best towns on our visit and the trip to the old monastery one of the real highlights. Hope all well with you all in Oddington. Gordon

      Like

Leave a Reply to Peter Davis Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s