Van Gogh arrived in Arles in February 1888, the landscape covered with snow. But it was sun that he sought in Provence—a brilliant light that would wash out detail and simplify forms, reducing the world around him to the kinds of flat patterns he admired in Japanese woodblock prints. Arles, he said, was "the Japan of the South." Van Gogh's time in Arles was amazingly productive. In about 15 months—just 444 days—he produced more than 200 paintings, about 100 drawings, and wrote more than 200 letters.
He described a series of seven studies of wheat fields: "landscapes, yellow—old gold—done quickly, quickly, quickly, and in a hurry just like the harvester who is silent under the blazing sun, intent only on the reaping." Yet he was also at pains to point out that these works should not be "criticized as hasty" since this "quick succession of canvases [was] quickly executed but calculated long beforehand."
Pairs of complementary colors—the red and green of the plants, the woven highlights of oranges and blue in the fence, even the pink clouds that enliven the turquoise sky—shimmer and seem almost to vibrate against each other. The impressionists used this technique to enhance the luminosity of their pictures. Pissarro, who helped introduce Van Gogh to these concepts, noted, "if I didn't know how colors behaved from the researches of...scientists, we [the impressionists] would not have been able to pursue our study of light with so much confidence."
Marks and Labels
Mme Johanna van Gogh-Bonger [1862-1925], the artist's sister-in-law, Amsterdam; sold 20 November 1890 through (Julien Tanguy Gallery, Paris) to (Willy Gretor [Wilhelm Rudolph Julius Petersen, 1868-1923], Paris); gift to Maria Slavona [1865-1931], Paris and Berlin; her husband Otto Ackermann [1871-1963], Paris and Berlin. Gaston Bernheim de Villers [1870-1953], Paris, by 1919 until at least 1933; sold to Capt. Edward H. Molyneux [1891-1974], Paris; sold 15 August 1955 to Ailsa Mellon Bruce [1901-1969], New York; bequest 1970 to NGA.
- Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en teekeningen door van Gogh, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1905, no. 111.
- L'Epoque française de van Gogh, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1927, no cat.
- Renoir, Cezanne, and Their Contemporaries, Alex. Reid and Lefevre, Ltd. (The Lefevre Galleries), London, 1934, no. 21, Entrée d'une ferme aux environs d'Arles.
- French Paintings from the Molyneux Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1952, unnumbered checklist, repro.
- French Paintings of the Nineteenth Century from the Collection of Mrs. Mellon Bruce, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1961, no. 65, color repro
- French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, no. 131, repro
- Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1984, no. 44, repro.
- Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples; Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, 1986-1987, no. 21, repro.
- Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, and State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 1986
- Van Gogh et Arles, Hôpital Van Gogh, Arles, 1989.
- From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metroplitan Museum of Art, New York, National Gallery of Greece, Athens, 1992-1993, no. 69, repro.
- Van Gogh: His Sources, Genius and Influence, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1993-1994, no. 39, repro.
- Around Impressionism: French Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1999, no cat.
- Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 1999, no. 57, repro.
- Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, The Art Institute of Chicago; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2001-2002, no. 56, repro.
- Van Gogh: Felder. Das 'Mohnfeld' und der Künstlerstreit (Van Gogh: Fields. The 'Poppy Field' and the Artist's Debate), Kunsthalle Bremen; The Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art, 2002-2003, no. 39 (Bremen catalogue), no. 10 (Toledo catalogue), repros.
- Van Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collectors, The Dean Gallery, Edinburgh, 2006.
- Van Gogh in Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest, 2006-2007, no. 54, repro.
- Vincent van Gogh - Between Heaven and Earth: The Landscapes, Kunstmuseum Basel, 2009, no. 35, repro.
- Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The National Art Center, Tokyo; Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, 2011, no. 19, repro.
- Van Gogh: Up Close, Philadelphia Museum of Art; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 2012, unnumbered catalogue, ill. 163.
- Van Gogh Repetitions, The Phillips Collection, Washington; The Cleveland Museum of Art, 2013-2014, no. 8, repro.
- L'Art Moderne et quelques aspects de l'art d'autrefois. Paris, Bernheim-Jeune, 1919:65
- Faille, J.-B. de la. L'Oeuvre de Vincent Van Gogh, catalogue raisonné. 4 vols. Paris and Brussels, 1928: 1:no. 565; 2:repro.
- Scherjon, W. and Jos. de Gruyter. Vincent van Gogh's Great Period: Arles, St. Rémy and Auvers sur Oise (Complete Catalogue). Amsterdam, 1937:187, no. 170, repro.
- Faille, J.-B. de la. Vincent Van Gogh. New York and Paris, 1939: 381, no. 565, repro.
- Frankfurter, A.M. "The Molyneux Collection travels." Art News 51, no. 2 (April 1952):34.
- Faille, J.-B. de la. The Works of Vincent van Gogh: Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam, 1970: no. F565, repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 156, repro.
- Small French Paintings from the Bequest of Ailsa Mellon Bruce. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978: 76, repro. (continuing exhibition beginning in 1978).
- Hulsker, Jan. The Complete Van Gogh. New York, 1980: 324-6, no. 1443, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 520, no. 781, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 180, repro.
- Coman, Florence E. Joie de Vivre: French Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1991: no. 27, repro.
- Walther, Ingo F., and Rainer Metzger. Vincent van Gogh: Sämtliche Gemälde. 2 vols. Cologne, 1994: 2:368.
- Stolwijk, Chris, and Han Veenenbos. The account book of Theo van Gogh and Jo van Gogh-Bonger. Amsterdam and Leiden, 2002: 46 (11/5), 140-141, 178 no. F565 JH 1443.
- Skea, Ralph. Vincent's Gardens: Paintings and Drawings by Van Gogh. New York, 2011: 71, no. 45, color repro.