Saturday, July 8, 2017

Vincent van Gogh at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of art. In just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, many of them in the last two years of his life.

Saint-Paul-de-Mausole seen below, lies just outside of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, about one hour southwest of Sablet. Mentioned on several occasions by Nostradamus, who was born nearby and knew it as a Franciscan convent, it was originally an Augustinian priory dating from the 12th century, and converted into an asylum in the 19th century.

A well-preserved set of Roman ruins known as les Antiques, the most beautiful of which is le Mausolee, adjoins the property, and forms part of the ancient Graeco-Roman city of Glanum. The asylum is located in an area of cornfields, vineyards and olive trees.

Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum

Exterior grounds near the entrance to Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum

Vincent Van Gogh arrived on May 8, 1889 at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence after an incident in which he cut off his ear, to voluntarily commit himself to the asylum and remained there for just over a year until May 16, 1890.

He had suffered a series of severe breakdowns since December 1888 and believed he should be institutionalized for his own sake and that of others.

Statue of Vincent van Gogh by sculptor Gabriël Sterk near entrance to Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum

Cloister Corridor with arcades of twinned columns

The main building at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole is centered around its lovely Romanesque cloisters (pictured below) lined with rambling roses and lavishly planted with begonias and other flowers. Part of the Saint-Paul complex remains a psychiatric institution and still accepts patients (female only).

Cloister garden

Stairway lined with paintings to Van Gogh's room on upper floor

Corridor leading to Van Gogh's room

Vincent van Gogh's bedroom (pictured below) was sparsely furnished with an austere single bed, easel, wooden chair, desk, battered leather bag and a barred window looking out on to a kitchen garden and wheat fields which he painted 15 times.

Vincent van Gogh's bedroom at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum

Vincent van Gogh's studio which adjoined his bedroom

Vincent van Gogh's treatment at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole was rudimentary – limited to two-hourly baths twice a week, a frugal diet and managing to stop his intake of alcohol, coffee and self-harming consumption of turpentine and paint.

Tubroom at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum

Bedroom in Arles (seen below) is the title given to each of three similar paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh's own title for this painting was simply The Bedroom. There are three authentic versions described in his letters, easily discernible from one another by the pictures on the wall to the right.

The painting depicts Van Gogh's bedroom at 2, Place Lamartine in Arles, known as the Yellow House. The door to the right opened on to the upper floor and the staircase; the door to the left was that of the guest room he held prepared for a friend; the window in the front wall looked on to Place Lamartine and its public gardens.

Bedroom in Arles

He was initially confined to the immediate asylum grounds and painted (without the bars) the world he saw from his room. After a few weeks being there, he was granted permission to work outside the asylum and ventured into the countryside to paint. He was productive and sent most of his work to his brother Theo.

As you stroll around the garden seen below, you can view more than 20 large-scale reproductions of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous paintings on the site where they were created.

View from Vincent van Gogh's window

During his time at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, he finished over 150 drawings and 143 paintings of his surroundings over all four seasons of the year. They include some of his best known works such as Irises, Wheat Field with Cypresses, The Siesta and The Starry Night.

View over lavender field toward Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum

Vincent van Gogh seemed for a while to be recovering, but he suffered a relapse in early 1890 and in May 1890, moved north to Auvers sur Oise to be near his brother, Theo, and a new physician, Dr. Paul Gachet. Only two months later, on 29 July 1890, Vincent van Gogh took his own life at the age of 37.

Iris field outside Vincent van Gogh's room at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum

During his lifetime Vincent van Gogh was never famous as a painter and struggled to make a living as an artist. He only sold one painting during his lifetime, "The Red Vineyard". This painting sold in Brussels for 400 Francs a few months before his death (about $1800 in 2011) to the impressionist painter and heiress Anna Boch.

Since his death, he has become one of the most famous painters in the world. Van Gogh’s paintings have captured the minds and hearts of millions of art lovers. Seven of his paintings are among the highest priced sales on record and alone sold for over 730 million current dollars.

Flower carving on wall of Cloister

There are no original works by Vincent van Gogh to be seen at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole. But you will find plenty of reproductions and, as a nice extra to the visit, you can take a self-guided walk from Saint-Paul to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The route is peppered with 21 illustrated panels, with short explanations in English and French comparing Vincent van Gogh's visions directly with the real landscapes that inspired him.

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