Van Gogh. I colori della vita

Padua, Centro San Gaetano
10 October 2020 - 11 April 2021

Of moons and clouds.
Van Gogh and the end of his journey

Seventh section

It was at Saint-Rémy, where he lived in an asylum for exactly one year, from May 1889 to May 1890, that Van Gogh's talent for painting immeasurably luminous nature reached a climax: from fields to trees, or a sky with its white torn clouds and red moon of destiny.

The day after Van Gogh's arrival, Dr. Peyron, the asylum director, gave his first impression of the patient, concluding that he was suffering from severe fits of epilepsy at very irregular intervals. His opinion was that he should remain for observation at the institution for a long time. For the first month, Van Gogh was not allowed to leave the confines of the hospital, so he concentrated on the garden, which recurred in some paintings in the following months. In search of his own personal style, Vincent reached new heights of intensity in the masterpieces made during the twelve months at Saint-Rémy.

On June 9, Dr. Peyron announced in a letter to Theo that he finally felt he could give Vincent permission to leave the asylum, explore the landscape again and paint. Van Gogh was thus able to venture outside the walls in search of new subjects. Before some increasingly tormented weeks set in, culminating in the July crisis, the first of four at the asylum, he produced one of the finest works in his whole life from his bedroom window: a view of the most fascinating but menacing clouds that he had ever painted. This work is at the center of the unforgettable chapter that unfolded in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum.

The last section includes a second, celebrated work painted at Saint-Rémy in early July. It has a very marked, almost experimental stylistic effect, which did not meet with Theo’s approval. Here the same view as in the previous painting is seen closer up, and the eye penetrates deeper into that piece of cloistered nature at the height of summer, whose warm tones permeate the scene, while the great disk of the rising moon pushes up out of the flanks of the Alpilles.

These works, therefore, describe the surrounding countryside, as does the view of Mont Gaussier, on the south side of the asylum, painted in autumn 1889, and focused on the mountain just outside the large entrance door, or those views just a little further away like The Ravine or even the scene with the Good Samaritan, after Delacroix but set in the same gullies in the Alpilles. They are strikingly new landscapes, as are some other wheat fields, cypresses and olive trees that form the core of Van Gogh's work at Saint-Rémy.

The story is about to end. On the morning of May 20, 1890, Vincent left Paris, where he had stayed at Theo's house on his return from Saint-Rémy. He took the train to Auvers-sur-Oise, where he was met by Dr. Gachet, a friend of many Impressionist painters, such as Pissarro and Cézanne. Gachet immediately tried to give Van Gogh some encouragement, as the artist related to his brother and wife the following day: "Then he tells me that I must work a great deal, boldly, and not think at all about what I’ve had." At the Auberge Ravoux, in Place de la Mairie, he found a cheaper room than the one the doctor had offered him at the Auberge Saint-Aubin. He had arrived in Auvers with a renewed feeling of helplessness before nature and the possibility of depicting it. The light and colors of Saint-Rémy, tattooed on his skin and soul, had been too intense.

These were the last weeks of Van Gogh's life, which ended amongst wheat fields with some stunning distancing visions. The last weeks before he took his own life and delivered his work to the time of eternity.

exhibition curated by
Marco Goldin

Padua, Centro San Gaetano
10 October 2020 – 11 April 2021