Vincent Van Gogh, whose works command multi-million-dollar prices more than 100 years after his death, found creative inspiration in the vibrant colors and friendly atmosphere of Provence. He created more than 300 of his paintings there, including many of his most famous canvases. Visitors can still see the towns where he spent the more than two years he lived in Provence as well as visit his final resting place. However, it's the natural beauty of this region that makes it easier to understand and appreciate Van Gogh's work. The sunflowers, poppies, wheat fields, and sunlight of this area have changed little since Van Gogh's time.
About Van Gogh and Provence
Vincent Van Gogh moved to Arles in 1888 and lived there for two years until his death in 1890 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Many art critics feel that he did his best work during this period, while he was surrounded by the wheat fields, lavender groves, sunflowers, and sunshine of Provence. This was where he painted his famous sunflower and iris series as well as "The Yellow House, " "Starry Night," and "The Sowers." His Provencal work differs from his earlier work in its use of explosive, bright color.
As Van Gogh's mental health deteriorated, he was hospitalized at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum near Saint-Remy-de-Provence. He spent nearly a year in the asylum. Not exposed to new subject matter for his paintings, he repeated his themes over and over again in addition to interpreting paintings by his artistic friends based on his memories of them. That's why he left series of near-duplicate paintings. Although his health improved for a short time, he moved in with a doctor in Auvers-sur-Oise about a month after his release. The doctor, who specialized in mental disorders, had been recommended to him by friends. Sadly, the doctor was not able to help Van Gogh with his demons and the artist took his own life just a few months later.
Although the yellow house in Arles where Vincent lived during his early time in Provence is gone as is the asylum, you can visit the doctor's home in Auvers-sur-Oise and see the room where he died. In addition, Van Gogh is buried in the town, alongside his brother Theo. His grave bears the simple marking, "Ici Repose Vincent Van Gogh" (Here Lies Vincent Van Gogh). In Arles, you can get a map of the locations in the area that were important in Van Gogh's life.
Interesting facts about Van Gogh
• In a period of just ten years, Van Gogh produced more than 900 paintings as well as around 1,100 pencil drawings.
• Van Gogh was largely self-taught. He had no formal art training. • Van Gogh was not famous during his lifetime; he sold only one painting while he was alive.
• Van Gogh was one of six surviving children. He had an older brother, also named Vincent, who was stillborn.
• In addition to his mental difficulties, the exact nature of which has never been decidedly diagnosed, Van Gogh suffered from epilepsy.
• Van Gogh died in 1890 in the Provencal town of Auvers-sur-Oise. He was 37. His brother, Theo, died six months later.
• Theo's widow made it her life's work after the brothers' deaths to get Vincent the recognition for his art that it never received while he was alive.
• It was more than 11 years after his death until Van Gogh's works started to gain attention, largely through the efforts of Theo's wife.
• Van Gogh was close friends with the painter Paul Gauguin.
• Much of what is known about Van Gogh's life comes from his more than 800 letters, most of them penned to his brother, Theo.
Visiting Provence on a barge cruise
Taking a barge cruise is a perfect way to experience the lavender fields and off-the-beaten-path areas of Provence and other regions of France just as Van Gogh experienced them. Such cruises travel at a leisurely pace across some of the most pristine landscapes in Provence, where you can see Roman ruins, historic sites, perfumeries, wineries, and other spots that so inspired Van Gogh. One of the nice things about a barge cruise is that you're never very far from the shore. This way, you can relax and enjoy the changing scenery without having to even step off of the vessel.
This blog was brought to you by The Barge Connection, specializing in barge vacations since 1998. We offer a diverse selection of barge cruises throughout the rivers and canals of France and small waterways of Europe.