Red Vineyards at Arles, 1888
Sadly, Van Gogh is believed to have sold only one painting during his lifetime, and it is this one, entitled Red Vineyards at Arles, made in 1888. Not surprisingly, the workwas purchased by a fellow artist, Anna Boch, a founding member of the Belgian avant-garde group Les Vingts and older sister of the painter Eugène Boch, with whom Vincent had become friends.
According to Vincent, Red Vineyards was inspired by an end-of-the-day walk in which he and Paul Gauguin, who had recently come to stay with him in Arles, encountered the sun setting over “a red vineyard, all red like wine.”
The resulting picture bursts with fiery color, visceral paint handling, and a depiction of human activity not often seen in Van Gogh’s art. The excellent fall weather in 1888 produced a bountiful harvest, but by November it had turned colder, and the grape gatherers in Arles were no longer found in the vineyards. Though Vincent preferred to paint directly from nature whenever possible, he continued working on Red Vineyards in the studio, taking license with the scene. And so, the painting represents a composite of vivid perception and the “harvesting” of memory, capturing the artist’s feelings of a transcendent moment of nature, time, and place that he shared with Gauguin.