Van Gogh in Arles documents the first major exhibition devoted to the fifteen-month period in 1888–1889 that the Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh worked in the ancient Provençal town of Arles in the South of France. His move from Paris to the Midi gave rise to bold experimentation in the use of color and to explorations of style and subject matter. The paintings and drawings he created during this time—of which more than 140 have been assembled from public and private collections for the exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art—mark the height of his artistic development and a turning point in the course of nineteenth-century Western art. It was during these fifteen months that van Gogh executed his famous paintings series—wheat fields, sowers, and orchards in bloom. The moving portraits of the Arlésienne Mme Ginoux and of the postman Roulin, his wife ("La Berceuse"), and their family also date from this period, as do the intimate paintings of van Gogh's bedroom in the Yellow House and the study of his wooden chair. A group of self-portraits reflects the artist's changing moods and appearance during these feverish months of work.
The volume opens with a prologue comprising five works painted during the months van Gogh worked in Paris prior to his departure for the South. It is followed by five sections that retrace his encounter with the town of Arles, its environs (Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Montmajour, and the Crau), and the people of the region. The chronological format leads the reader through the seasons of the year: the flowering orchards of spring, summer seascapes, autumn gardens. The significance of the two-month period—October to December 1888—during which Paul Gauguin lived and worked with van Gogh is documented by major examples of the work of both artists.
The exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum reunites for the first time since they left van Gogh's studio in the Yellow House multiple versions of many key subjects. It also brings together related studies and paintings and groups of drawings that the artist sent to his brother Theo in Paris and to his artist-friends Émile Bernard and John Russell.