Friday, April 5, 2013

In Van Gogh's Footsteps

Fresh from our Italian contributors, Monia & Nicola:

We travelled around Europe following Vincent van Gogh’s masterpieces among the jungle of museum in which they are displayed. Why not to follow the steps of his crazy life by looking for some of the sights that inspired his masterpieces?

So let’s go to Provence!

We jumped into the south of France with our old blue Punto to see some important places where Van Gogh spent part of his life… mile after mile we understood why Provence had been the muse of such a genius mind: the bright light, the variety of colors and the beautiful countryside inspired him to paint an endless sequence of artwork, about 200 hundred paintings in only 2 years.

We started from Arles.

The yellow house, which is the subject of one his famous paintings, unfortunately does not exist anymore. This building, in which he lived and set up his studio (Gauguin spent two months here, in which the two artists lived and painted together), was bombed during WWII and today a boulangerie stands in its place in Place Lamartine. A good baguette break!

Walking trough Arles it’s possible to visit a reconstruction of Van Gogh’s bedroom, the one he depicted several times. It is quite a touristic reproduction of the furniture and colors of the painting, but doesn’t express the feelings of the artist. However it’s an inexpensive ticket and nice to see.

Reconstruction of Van Gogh's bedroom in Arles, France

For people who want to breath Van Gogh atmosphere, while eating some local food, the best place is Café Van Gogh on Place de Forum. Do you remember the yellow bright light of the painting Le terrace du Cafè, la Nuit? That’s it! The Café was recently restored to make it as similar as possible to that depicted by Van Gogh in 1888.

The Cafe Terrace on the Place de Forum in Arles, at night

A few miles south of Arles, we reached, very late at night, the famous bridge that Van Gogh liked for its Japanese look: Pont du Langlois. This bridge is however not the one painted by the artist. Nor is it on its original site. Today we only see an identical specimen, a wooden drawbridge replaced in a landscape similar to the one seen by Van Gogh, a few kilometers downstream from the original site.

Langlois Bridge a few miles south of Arles

Saint Remy de Provence

A nice day can be spent in Saint Rémy de Provence, not far from Arles, where the asylum of Saint Paul de Mausole is located. Here, Van Gogh committed himself after he cut off his ear at the beginning of his madness.

From the window of his room you can imagine him contemplating the garden of the clinic, lavander fields and olive trees, which continues the view farther until the mountains.

Asylum in St. Remy, where Van Gogh committed himself
View from the clinic, olive trees and mountains
You can also walk the “Promenade dans l’univers de Vincent van Gogh” marked by reproductions of his artworks on easels placed exactly where the artist had his visions.

He wrote in one of his letters: ”I don’t know whether you can understand that one may make a poem only by arranging colors…”

Promenade dans l'univers de Vincent van Gogh - Painting locations

Even if most of the historic sites where Van Gogh resided during his lifetime have been destroyed by WWII, the beauty of the nature which inspired his art is still alive. Laying on the ground you can try to understand Van Gogh's emotions as you see the same night sky that moved him to paint his masterpiece The Starry Night.

We suggest this trip if you are going to visit France and if you like to experience firsthand the inspiring world behind a genius of expression!


  1. Love this. Next time I visit France...

  2. Hi Julia,

    I can't wait to do this either. I've never been to South of France, but really want to go.

  3. Hahaha!
    Obviously the paintings are 2 hundred and not 200000!
    Fuxxin' Italians... ;-)
    Thanks for appreciating!
    It would be nice to go together.

  4. Hey, found your blog :D
    Thank you for the follow.
    Wow, you have a really cool and interesting blog here. I'm following back via CGF. Congratulations for the blog ;)

    - Joana

  5. I so want to do this! Thank you for posting the paintings and the photographs. It is so fun to compare! Great post.

  6. Thanks Lindsay for always being so supportive! You're also an expert on Southern France. Did you find an Van Gogh locations?

  7. Hi Joana,

    I just twittered you. Let me know if you ever want to contribute or be an author expert of Lisbon or any other location.

    Love you blog!


  8. Love this post! The only thing I wish was here...side by side Van Gogh works next to the images of the places that inspired them (like the yellow light photo!) Maybe in a follow-up...

    (hint, hint...)

    AWESOME! This post embodies the spirit of Novel Travelist

  9. LOL right after leaving that comment...I scrolled back up to the top of the post. And voila! There they all were. Doh!

  10. Hi Kris,

    Blogger has issues with doing pictures side-by-side. That's why I put them all at the top. ;)

    But yes, I totally agree. Side by Side picture and painting was the initial idea.