Red Vineyards near Arles (1888), is the only painting Vincent van Gogh sold during his lifetime. It was sold for only 400 Francs(or 800-850 Francs today). The painting was bought by Anna Boch during an exposition of the Salon des XX. Anne is the sister of Eugen Boch, and another impressionist painter from Belgium, like her brother. It was acquired by the famous Russian collection Sergei Shchukin, was natonalised by the Bolsheviks with the rest of his collection and eventually passed to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. However, it must be taken into consideration that stating this as the only painting he ever sold is incorrect, as he did receive some commissions, which are sales, and he also bartered work for meals etc, which is another form of sale.
Why we chose this painting
We chose this painting because we wanted to explore why in Van Gogh's carreer of a radical artist, did he only sell one painting. His lifetime of struggle and eventually, mental illness, is indeed is far cry from Van Gogh's acclaim in present days. We wanted to see why this particular painting was sold, when he has much more famous works that we can see of. We were fascinated with his life of chaos and infuriated response from the public, when in present day, people exhibit his works and study him as a prominent figure of art.
The painting Red Vineyards Near Arles is a picture depicting women working in a vineyard. In the foreground, extending all the way to the horizon, is a vineyard with women in blue clothing interwining between the plants. There is a forest at the top left corner, and a river at the right side. It is probably evening, ad the sky is yellow and reflected clearly on the river surface. Van Gogh has used warm colours of mainly red and yellows, with streaks of blues for the women's clothing, and the trees bordering the picture. However, even though the colour scheme is mainly warm tones, it is a very discordant picture, as the yellow shows hints of green, and the blue is placed just beside the red. The painting is painted wih painterly brushwork, and pure unmixed colours are placed side by side to be fused by the eye of the beholder from a distance. Perspective is applied such that subject matter in the distance is much smaller, and with much less details.
The brushwork, although choppy, follows a wavy pattern so that it is no longer just an impression of the subject matter, but shows clearly what the artist means to portray, thus giving it a very loosely organised feel. The painting is probably meant as a simple landscape illustration, but Van Gogh also puts his trademark emotions into it, thus making it a picture that simply depicts, yet also shows Van Gogh's own personal insight. The colours chosen for this picture, although seemingly laughable as it is very much different from reality, can also be seen as a successful attempt to further enhance the simplicity of the scene, yet a hidden layer of discordancy beneath.
This painting shows a mixture of feelings, like depicting someone's mind, hard at work at the same topic but straying off such that the person is no longer concentrated, but easily confused and distracted. The lighting in the picture is very surreal, detached from reality and giving the picture a very unnatural feeling. However, the placement of objects and the scene depicted is very realistic, such that it, combined with the surreal effect of light, gives the viewer a very discordant, clashing and confusing insight.
This painting shows why it is the only painting Van Gogh has ever sold in his lifetime, because it is a nicely paintinted landscape, but further than that we also see Van Gogh's own state of mind. The vineyard is painted especially well, as we can see the women interwining between rows of plants, but also has a clear indication of the different rows, and therefore making it more realistic. The river is painted especially well, and the colours chosen to depict this scene was very effective, as it portrays the overall feel of the painting well.