Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Inside the Asylum

On my Van Gogh pilgrimage, in October 2002, at the asylum, in Arles, where he was admitted after cutting off his ear lobe

Van Gogh's "The Courtyard of the Hospital"  1889 oil on canvas 28.75" 36.25"  Collection of Oskar Reinhart, Winterthur

Considering that he had severed an artery in the ear lobe incident (December 1888) Van Gogh made an amazing recovery and went back to live in "The Yellow House" in Arles but only for a short time.  In April 1889 he voluntarily admitted himself to the asylum at nearby Saint Remy. Missing artistic companionship and the northern landscape, in May 1990, he left Saint-Paul-de-Mausole for the town of Auvers-sur-Oise.  Two months later he shot himself.

THE CLOISTER 1   2003 plein air oil 12" x 16"   Collector unknown 

I have already mentioned that the Saint Remy asylum is still a functioning hospital and the pubic is only permitted in the church/cloister area and a room that is recreated to look like the one Vincent occupied.  Naturally admission is charged, and there is a gift shop, but they allowed me to paint free of charge.  Here, unlike the country roadside, I was safe and Bill didn't have to "babysit" me.  He was free to explore elsewhere while I painted there.  On those two days only a few tourists came and when they did their voices were hushed.  For me it was a very reverent and solemn time when I felt completely connected to the place, Vincent's soul, and my work.

Painting in the cloister of  Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, October 3003

During our stay in Saint Remy, in the middle of the deep, dark night, I had a dream so vivid that it caused me to abruptly awake and sit bolt upright in bed my heart pounding.  In the dream I was seated around a boardroom table with official staff of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole.  They announced that they had approved of me painting with Van Gogh but that he himself would have to agree to it.  I said "Doesn't it matter that he is dead?" and they replied "No".

THE CLOISTER 2   2003 plein air oil 12" x 16"   Collection of the artist


  1. What a great story...what an incredible dream!

  2. Thanks Erica. Time has not diminished the sensation of that dream!

  3. I'm so glad that van Gogh approved of your entrance into his world - it certainly speaks to his extreme good taste. A marvellous dream and a wonderful connection to a place that spoke to you so beautifully...