Arles, once a metropolis of Roman Gaul, developed into a symbol of Christianity through the colosseum, amphitheater and the Roman baths that were built there. Bull fighting is held twice a year in the same arena (colosseum) that was the scene of Roman games in the first century. We all know that Van Gogh loved Arles and many of his famous paintings show his love of the area but did you know that Picasso also spent a lot of time in the area? He spent a good part of his life in a political exile in France. He was a Spaniard through and through and, loved bullfighting. The last 12 years of his life were spent in the village near Arles. He would travel with his friends to see the bullﬁghts at this arena. Many of his later paintings and drawings were inspired by what he saw in Arles. These Romanesque monuments have a UNESCO World Heritage designation. It is our goal when we travel to seek out these sites.
After we visited the quarry featuring the works of Marc Chagall we rode the bus again to some of the Roman ruins and Triumphal Arch near the asylum where Van Gogh lived for a year. I’m still so amazed at these structures and how they were built by hand – no machinery, cranes or other modern day machines that helped build these still standing structures. Our guide told us that the Romans loved arches and would construct them to commemorate victories. This was also the case in St. Remy where these ruins were.
We walked across the street to the asylum where Van Gogh lived for about a year. During the time that he was self committed he painted various scenes all around the grounds of the asylum including the “Irises”, “Starry Nights”, “The Wheat Field”, “Sunflowers in a Vase”, scenes around St. Paul’s Asylum and so many more. What was interesting to me if that they had reproductions of Van Gogh’s paintings propped on easels at the spot where he painted the landscapes so you can see what he saw when he painted the pictures. Remember how I spoke of the mistral winds in the Rhone Valley? If you look at Van Gogh’s paintings you’ll see swirling brush strokes which, I was told, represent the mistral winds. When I think of Van Gogh, I generally think of these paintings which are representative of the Provence area. During his one year in at the asylum, he painted 151 paintings.
Hope you enjoy these pictures of Arles, the ruins and viewing the locations where Van Gogh painted some of his most famous works.