Farmhouse in Provence, 1888
Van Gogh arrived in Arles in February 1888, the landscape covered in snow. But he tried Provence - a brilliant light that blurred details and simplified shapes and reduced the world around him to the patterns he admired in Japanese woodblock prints. Arles, he said, means "the Japan of the south". Van Gogh's time in Arles was incredibly productive. In about 15 months he composed more than 200 paintings, around 100 drawings and more than 200 letters.
He described a series of seven studies in wheat fields: "Landscapes, fast, swift and in a hurry like the combine harvester that is silent under the sun and only cares about harvesting." But what does it mean at the beginning that these works should not be criticized "hastily", since they are a "quick succession of canvases"?
Complementary color pairs - the red and green of the plants, the orange clouds in the fence, even the pink clouds that enliven the turquoise sky and almost seem to vibrate against each other. The impressionists use this technique to improve the luminosity of their pictures. Pissarro, who introduced Van Gogh to these concepts, remarked, "We didn't know how to use colors from the research of science with a lot of confidence."
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington