Following Van Gogh to the sunny south
Tomorrow we would be taking the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) from Gare de Lyon directly down to Arles with no changes or transfers. We had a 7 a.m. wake-up call which would give us enough time for breakfast and packing. I had never been on a TGV and always wanted to go. This was my chance.
As it turns out, Gare de Lyon was also the station that Van Gogh left from Paris on his trip to Arles. For him, it would be an overnight journey, to the land where he dreamed of starting his “studio of the south”.
For most people, it’s the paintings he did in his 444 days in Arles that they recognize as quintessentially Van Gogh.
The Sunflowers, the Café Terrace at Night, the Bedrooms, the Yellow House, Roulin the Postman, numerous self-portraits – over 200 paintings and many more drawings and sketches were completed in Arles between February 1888 to May 1889. To say he was a hard worker is an understatement. At times, he had as many as ten canvases on the go at once.
It was also in Arles where he had his first seriously debilitating bouts of illness which lead to the famous incident of him cutting off the lower part of his right ear and his subsequent hospitalization.
Once in the hospital, he continued to paint.