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Overview

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."

Provenance

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);[1] gift to Maria Slavona [1865-1931], Paris and Berlin; her husband Otto Ackermann [1871-1963], Paris and Berlin.[2] Gaston Bernheim de Villers [1870-1953], Paris, by 1919 until at least 1933; sold to Capt. Edward H. Molyneux [1891-1974], Paris;[3] sold 15 August 1955 to Ailsa Mellon Bruce [1901-1969], New York; bequest 1970 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1905
Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen en teekeningen door van Gogh, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1905, no. 111.
1927
L'Epoque française de van Gogh, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1927, no cat.
1934
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.
1952
French Paintings from the Molyneux Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1952, unnumbered checklist, repro.
1961
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
1966
French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, no. 131, repro
1978
Small French Paintings from the Bequest of Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, 1978, unnumbered catalogue, repro
1984
Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1984, no. 44, repro.
1986
Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples; Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, 1986-1987, no. 21, repro.
1986
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
1989
Van Gogh et Arles, Hôpital Van Gogh, Arles, 1989.
1992
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.
1993
Van Gogh: His Sources, Genius and Influence, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1993-1994, no. 39, repro.
1999
Around Impressionism: French Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1999, no cat.
1999
Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 1999, no. 57, repro.
2001
Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, The Art Institute of Chicago; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2001-2002, no. 56, repro.
2002
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.
2006
Van Gogh and Britain: Pioneer Collectors, The Dean Gallery, Edinburgh, 2006.
2006
Van Gogh in Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest, 2006-2007, no. 54, repro.
2009
Vincent van Gogh - Between Heaven and Earth: The Landscapes, Kunstmuseum Basel, 2009, no. 35, repro.
2011
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.
2012
Van Gogh: Up Close, Philadelphia Museum of Art; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 2012, unnumbered catalogue, ill. 163.
2013
Becoming van Gogh, Denver Art Museum, 2013, no. 80, repro.
2013
Van Gogh Repetitions, The Phillips Collection, Washington; The Cleveland Museum of Art, 2013-2014, no. 8, repro.
2015
Van Gogh and Nature, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, 2015, no. 27, repro.
Bibliography
1916
Duret, Théodore. Van Gogh, Vincent. Paris, 1916: repro. pl. 26.
1919
L'Art Moderne et quelques aspects de l'art d'autrefois. Paris, Bernheim-Jeune, 1919:65, repro.
1928
Faille, J.-B. de la. L'Oeuvre de Vincent Van Gogh, catalogue raisonné. 4 vols. Paris and Brussels, 1928: 1:no. 565; 2:repro.
1937
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.
1939
Faille, J.-B. de la. Vincent Van Gogh. New York and Paris, 1939: 381, no. 565, repro.
1952
Frankfurter, A.M. "The Molyneux Collection travels." Art News 51, no. 2 (April 1952):34.
1966
French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966: repro. no. 131.
1966
Roskill, Mark. "Van Gogh's 'Blue Cart' and His Creative Process." Oud Holland 81, no. 1 (1966): 5.
1970
Faille, J.-B. de la. The Works of Vincent van Gogh: Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam, 1970: no. F565, repro.
1971
Roskill, Mark. “Van Gogh’s Exchanges of Work with Emile Bernard in 1888.” Oud Holland 86, no. 2/3 (1971): 170.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 156, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: repro. 525.
1978
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).
1980
Hulsker, Jan. The Complete Van Gogh. New York, 1980: 324-6, no. 1443, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 520, no. 781, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 180, repro.
1990
Wolk, Johannes van der, Ronald Pickvance, et al. Vincent van Gogh: Drawings. Translated by J.W. Watson. Exh. cat. Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo. Milan and Rome, 1990: 234.
1991
Coman, Florence E. Joie de Vivre: French Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1991: no. 27, repro.
1994
Walther, Ingo F., and Rainer Metzger. Vincent van Gogh: Sämtliche Gemälde. 2 vols. Cologne, 1994: 2:368.
1997
Dorn, Roland. “‘Refiler à Saintes-Maries’? Pickvance and Hulsker Revisited.” Van Gogh Museum Journal (1997–1998): 20, repro. 21.
1999
Hulsker, Jan. “Facts Instead of Suppositions: Roland Dorn Revisited.” Van Gogh Museum Journal (1999): 24–28.
2002
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.
2005
Ives, Colta, et al. Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New Haven, 2005: 200, repro.
2011
Skea, Ralph. Vincent's Gardens: Paintings and Drawings by Van Gogh. New York, 2011: 71, no. 45, color repro.
2013
Rathbone, Eliza E., William H. Robinson, Elizabeth Steele, and Marcia Steele. Van Gogh Repetitions. Exh. cat. The Phillips Collection, Washington; Cleveland Museum of Art. New Haven and London, 2013: repro. (detail) 58, 59, repro. 60.