Vincent van Gogh's "The Poet's Garden": A Set of Four Paintings

Updated on July 22, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Vincent van Gogh

Source

Introduction

In February 1888, Vincent van Gogh relocated from Paris to Arles, in the south of France. He had expected a more moderate climate to positively influence his creativity. He took up residence in a small cottage that was called, "The Yellow House." He considered this residence to be his "The Studio in the South." He had been musing about starting an artists’ colony that would include the poet, Paul Gauguin. Van Gogh and the poet had become acquainted in November 1887.

Gauguin then traveled to Arles in October 1888, through the patronage of van Gogh’s brother Theo, who was a dealer of art. Both van Gogh and Gauguin possessed deeply temperamental natures. And it was during this time that van Gogh lopped off his ear; thus after a short period of only nine weeks, Gauguin left Arles to return to Paris.

Before Gauguin had appeared in Arles, van Gogh has begun his poet's garden series which he had planned to place in Gauguin's bedroom. The artist used the small park that nestled in front of "The Yellow House" for his inspiration for the four series sequence of paintings. The painter explained to the poet: "I have tried to distill in the decoration the immutable character of this country, in such a way that one is put in mind of the old poet from these parts (or rather from Avignon), Petrarch, and of the new poet from these parts—Paul Gauguin."

In fact, the view that van Gogh had of the little park was not particularly appealing, but through the magic of his brush and vision, the plain little park becomes a living "Poet's Garden," a place of depth and beauty that remains undeniably classic in concept and timeless in execution. Van Gogh referred to the tree in #3 as "weeping," which contrasts with some of the other more cheerful features such as tower of the church of St. Trophime in #1.

The Poet's Garden

Source
Source
Source
Source

The Paintings

In paintings #1 and #2 of the series, van Gogh offers only landscapes without people. The only of hint society is the little church of St. Trophime, peeping plainly over the trees up in the left-hand corner.

In #3, two people are walking beneath a very large evergreen tree—a Blue Fir—down a very wide path. They appear to be holding hands. The man and woman are going there among the various tones of green.

Vincent van Gogh's heavy strokes flesh out the morbidly plain text of the piece. Paul Rivers has called van Gogh's plastic hands those "brilliant corridors of luz and juice." No one should read so much into any painting that one seems to fall into it, but such a piece as "The Poets Garden" has that total effect.

It is rather likely that someone may think the woman has cold, sweaty hands, while the man is leading her down a path she would never want to march on, without some assurance that nuptials cap the affair.

Others perceive the couple as an old married pair, who are out strolling for their health. He had a heart attack, she the dropsy and their doctor advised them to get out in the fresh air, get some open set going, and let the heart do its job. Keeping it cooped up makes it sheep-like and drivel perfect. You cannot chew food that has been allowed to atrophy.

No matter what each art aficionado comes out with, each painting will always remain without the evils of classification which is the bane of existence for artists, activists, actors, philosophers, and even entertainers.

That couple then are long dead, if the artist, in fact actually observed a real, living couple. Surely the tree and the path existed, but the artist, any artist, not just a certified brilliant one like van Gogh, would be capable of sketching in a walking couple. And why would the artist deem it necessary to sketch in a couple? Why not just leave the landscape unmolested by human beings? Why place a man and woman holding hands as they walk down that path, near that tree, among all that green?

Obviously, no one can answer such questions with certainly. But it is quite guessable that the artist added them to show the neutrality of all classifications. No one can ever know the nature of the state of mind of each of the human participants. Guessing is all we have. But the artist finds guesswork to be his canvas, and if those thick, heavy brush strokes can provide food for thought, and food for sight, and then flick a question or two into the brains of the observers, he can die happy.

About the fourth painting of the series, the artist has explained in a letter to his brother, Theo van Gogh, from Arles, on Sunday, 21 October 1888:

Here’s very rough croquis (sketch) of my last canvas. A row of green cypresses against a pink sky with a pale lemon crescent moon. Foreground a piece of waste land, and some sand and a few thistles. Two lovers, the man pale blue with a yellow hat, the woman has a pink bodice and a black skirt. That makes the fourth canvas of the ‘poet’s garden’; which is the decoration for Gauguin's bedroom. (Van Gogh Letters)

The unfortunate split between the two artists, a painter and a poet, leaves art lovers a little weepy wondering what they have might accomplished if they had been able to put aside their temperaments and egos and collaborated in creative productivity. On the other hand, it can also be assumed that each probably made his best contributions despite his inability to cooperate. They were individuals, after all, and strong ones who have certainly left their mark on the art world.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)