Van Gogh’s Footsteps in Arles

The day we’ve been waiting for (among many others) to truly get an impression (pun intended) of Vincent’s life and struggles while in and near Arles.


Of course we knew the full day was headed in the right direction when the mural on the walkway from the boat presented Marsha’s favorite bird.


We hopped on the coach and headed to Arles where the footsteps weren’t too difficult to find, as you can see.

The First Footstep…

But, before you can understand Vincent’s life, you must understand his art! We were treated to an actual painting class, hosted by local professional teachers and artists. We were all pretty intimidated by Marsha’s presence. However, everyone participated and really held their own. We started by examining some of his works up close, and painted tiny canvases getting a feel for his brush strokes. We then moved on to color, mixing acrylics to imitate or compliment Van Gogh’s color sense. Finally to a larger canvas to combine what we had learned The results were formidable, well, interesting.

Marsha’s easily captured his genius. In about 45 minutes she managed to impress the teachers and artists, made friends with them, shared websites and emails. Later, in an unrelated discussion about flowers with one of our terrific fellow travelers, Barb mentioned how much she loved peonies. So Marsha gave her the painting. On the other hand…

I apparently best captured his later mental state…at the asylum, where we would later follow him. No one asked to have my “work”, or ask for my email address. But, I think I’ll keep my ear anyway. Bonnie and Steve did some very nice work, but it was much better than mine so I didn’t put it in…

We washed up and continued through Arles.

…Where the exact locations that inspired his paintings were pointed out. Having seen these painting in so many places; museums and books, it was exciting and a little disorienting.

We moved on to the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh Arles where there were large exhibitions by several other artists (with some intellectual’s obscure link to Vincent’s work) that were kind of non-descript, and only one room with real Van Goghs. It was a very well-designed building/gallery space, and we did like the site-specific fountain out front.

A very contemporary building with beautiful views of Arles from the roof.

It was time for lunch, but we passed this lovely cafe that Vincent must have painted, and this beautiful paella (we are in the south of France) for the Jules Caesar hotel and a much more formal fish dinner with wine. So, a bit of a rest was necessary before starting off again.

The architectural styles of the area scan the ages

Next stop was after a short bus ride to the hospital (asylum) where Vincent spent his remaining years deeply depressed, isolated, self-destructive, and prolific.

Though living quarters (and care) at the “hospital” were abysmal, the gardens were beautiful. The memorial for the female inmates and their place of burial was purposefully remote from the hospital grounds.

After a conflicted day immersed in the genius of Van Gogh, and delving into his blackest depths, we headed back to the boat climbing back into our moment.

We were at the southernmost part of our trip at Arles, so we reversed course that evening to head for Avignon from our dock at Tarascon. The next day, in Avignon, would be the last full day of our trip. We would explore the town in the morning and end the day with a wine tasting at Chateauneuf du Pape, the wines Marsha’s father loved. Join us there.

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3 Responses to Van Gogh’s Footsteps in Arles

  1. Sue Sholtis says:

    Always so interesting! We are planning on doing the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in August! This makes me even more excited!

  2. judylobo says:

    PS I have followed tour travel blogs over the years and never noticed that I could post a comment. Duh. Sorry.

  3. judylobo says:

    Enjoyed every word and photo. Thanks for the ride. I did this trip exactly 30 years ago and it brought back many wonderful memories.

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