Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)

Les Alyscamps

The Alyscamps
October-November 1888
    Oil on canvas
92 × 73 cm

The Alyscamps date back to the first weeks of Vincent van Gog’s stay with Paul Gauguin in Arles in October 1888. That period is marked by an absolute osmosis, both personal and artistic, between the two artists: they spend all their time together, take long walks, share their meals, and paint the same subjects. For their first common subject they go to Alyscamps, a Roman-era necropolis less than one kilometre from the famous Yellow House. The name in the Provençal dialect means “Champs Elysées/Elysium”, and in 1888 the cemetery is left with only one row of poplar trees and some sarcophagi. Van Gogh carried out four paintings in total. The first two, one of which is presented here in vertical position, depict a global perspective towards the poplars.

Nowhere in his correspondence does Van Gogh quote the name of Alyscamps. He only mentions the subject he describes by emphasizing the element of particular interest: colour.

The present version is probably the first that Van Gogh painted inside the archaeological site; an assumption allowed by the cloth he used, which was thin and with thick weaving. For that first test, Van Gogh took a seat at the centre of the row of trees, offering us a perspective embracing poplars, sarcophagi, carpet of fallen leaves covering the road to Saint-Honorat church, and the adjacent industrial building, with thick smoke coming out of its two chimneys. The unique trace of life in the landscape is a couple whose hasty treatment leaves us hardly distinguishing the woman’s traditional costume and the man’s red trousers, probably Zouave. Despite the vivid colours and the dominant yellow-orange, so characteristic of Van Gogh’s work, the composition emanates a deep melancholy, which can be attributed to many reasons: the autumn, the fallen leaves, the empty sarcophagi, the desert tree row, the invasion of industry.

In his approach, Van Gogh reveals a troubled and tormented inner world. The rush, one would say, with which he adds his brushstrokes the one on the other, brings to light the painter’s need to capture a transient impression as quickly as possible. At the same time, it highlights his great talent as a landscape artist, as well as his ability to breathe life into subjects that, by themselves, have nothing to do with it.

Provenance

Bernheim-Jeune, Paris

Private collection, London, late 1920s

Galerie Alfred Daber, Paris

Edwin C. Vogel, New York

Sam Salz Inc., New York

Private collection, since 1971

Exhibited

Zurich, Kunsthaus, Vincent van Gogh, July - August 1924, no. 40

Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Cinquante Ans de Peinture Française, 1925, no. 80

Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Vincent van Gogh, Exposition Rétrospective, 20 June - 2 July 1927

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Vincent van Gogh enzijn Tijdenooten, September - November 1930, no. 71

Basel, Kunsthalle, Vincent van Gogh, October - November 1947, no. 70

Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Europaische Meister, June - July 1955, no. 102

New York, Wildenstein & Co., Vincent van Gogh, 1955, no. 36

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 25thAnniversary, 1955, no. 46

Los Angeles, Municipal Art Commission, Vincent van Gogh, 1957, no. 11

New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vincent van Gogh, 1959, no. 56

Schaffhausen, Museum zu Allerheiligen, Die Welt des Impressionismus, June - September 1963, no. 52, ill.

New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vincent van Gogh, 1968, no. 45

New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Van Gogh in Arles, 18 October - 30 December 1984, no. 115, ill. p. 197

Basel, Fondation Beyeler, The Magic of Trees, 22 November 1998 - 18 April 1999

Andros, Museum of Contemporary Art, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Classics of Modern Art, 27 June - 19 September 1999, pp. 80-83, ill. p. 81

Chicago, The Art Institute, Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, Van Gogh and Gauguin - The Studio of the South, respectively 25 September - 2 December 2001 and 9 February - 2 June 2002, no. 72, ill. pp. 170, 173-174, illustrated in the exhibition guide

Literature

Theodore Duret, Vincent van Gogh, Paris, 1916, ill. XXIX

L’Amour de l’Art, vol. VI, no. 7, July 1925, ill. p. 275

Florent Fels, Vincent van Gogh, Paris, 1928, ill. p. 186

Willem Sherjon and Willem Josiah de Gruyter, Vincent van Gogh’s Great Period: Arles, Saint-Rémy and Auvers-sur-Oise, Amsterdam, 1937, no. 124

Jacob-Baart de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh, Paris, London, New York, 1939, no. 551

Louis de Hautecoeur, Vincent van Gogh, Monaco, 1946, ill.

Jacob-Baart de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings, New York, revised edition, 1970, no. 568, ill. p. 238

Mark W. Roskill, Gauguin and the Impressionist Circle, London, 1970, pp. 136-137, ill. 109

The Art of Paul Gauguin, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Art Institute, Chicago, Grand Palais, Paris, 1988-1989, ill. p. 132

Vincent van Gogh: Correspondance générale, ed. Georges Charensol, Paris, 1990, vol. 3, p. 387, 396

Ingo F. Walther and Rainer Metzger, Vincent van Gogh, The Complete Paintings, Cologne, 1990, vol. 2, ill. p. 449

Jan Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, revised and enlarged edition of the Catalogue Raisonné, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, 1996, no. 1622, ill. p. 373

Bradley Collins, Van Gogh and Gauguin, Electric Arguments and Utopian Dreams, Boulder, Colorado, 2001, ill. p. 133

S. Hollis-Clayson, “Some Things Bear Fruit? Witnessing the Bonds between Van Gogh and Gauguin”, The Art Bulletin, December 2002, vol. LXXXIV, no. 4, pp. 670-684, ill.

Current location
Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens
Floor 1st
Tour Guide Code
105
Audio Guide

The Alyscamps date back to the first weeks of Vincent van Gog’s stay with Paul Gauguin in Arles in October 1888. That period is marked by an absolute osmosis, both personal and artistic, between the two artists: they spend all their time together, take long walks, share their meals, and paint the same subjects. For their first common subject they go to Alyscamps, a Roman-era necropolis less than one kilometre from the famous Yellow House. The name in the Provençal dialect means “Champs Elysées/Elysium”, and in 1888 the cemetery is left with only one row of poplar trees and some sarcophagi. Van Gogh carried out four paintings in total. The first two, one of which is presented here in vertical position, depict a global perspective towards the poplars.

Nowhere in his correspondence does Van Gogh quote the name of Alyscamps. He only mentions the subject he describes by emphasizing the element of particular interest: colour.

The present version is probably the first that Van Gogh painted inside the archaeological site; an assumption allowed by the cloth he used, which was thin and with thick weaving. For that first test, Van Gogh took a seat at the centre of the row of trees, offering us a perspective embracing poplars, sarcophagi, carpet of fallen leaves covering the road to Saint-Honorat church, and the adjacent industrial building, with thick smoke coming out of its two chimneys. The unique trace of life in the landscape is a couple whose hasty treatment leaves us hardly distinguishing the woman’s traditional costume and the man’s red trousers, probably Zouave. Despite the vivid colours and the dominant yellow-orange, so characteristic of Van Gogh’s work, the composition emanates a deep melancholy, which can be attributed to many reasons: the autumn, the fallen leaves, the empty sarcophagi, the desert tree row, the invasion of industry.

In his approach, Van Gogh reveals a troubled and tormented inner world. The rush, one would say, with which he adds his brushstrokes the one on the other, brings to light the painter’s need to capture a transient impression as quickly as possible. At the same time, it highlights his great talent as a landscape artist, as well as his ability to breathe life into subjects that, by themselves, have nothing to do with it.

Vincent van Gogh
(1853 - 1890)
Gender
Man
Nationality
Dutch
First Name
Vincent Willem
Last Name
van Gogh
Birth
Zundert, Netherlands, 1853
Death
Auvers-sur-Oise, France, 1890