IN SEARCH OF VAN GOGH’S MOTIFS INPROVENCE (based on visits to Provence circa1960). Copyright 2011. Some images may besubject to copyright.
In February 1888 Vincent van Gogh arrived from Paris at the main railwaystation of Arles-sur-Rhône. The town of Arles, once the Roman capital of Provence, is situated twenty miles from the Mediterranean in the centre of aflat, marshy plain. Close to the Rhône the plain is fertile but elsewhere,there are tracts of arid soil. The area suffers extremes of temperature andtorrential rainstorms only temporarily alleviate the discomforts caused byclouds of insects and mosquitoes; but the most severe climatic feature is thevicious wind which blows down the river valley from the north, theinfamous Mistral. Though Arles has grown over the centuries, and nowhouses a population of over 40,000, the sky-line is still dominated by theRoman amphitheatre, scene of the annual bull-fight, one of the fewremaining links with a past rich in ritual (Christian and pagan), rich incostume and legend, a past proudly and diligently commemorated in thelocal Arlaten museum. This was the town chosen by Van Gogh as the centre