Tuesday, October 14

Steve: We returned today to St. Remy-de-Provence in order to see the clinic where Van Gogh stayed and to further explore the town. We had signed up for a group tour which focused on Van Gogh and his time here. Fortunately, no one else showed up so we ended up with a private 2-hour tour of Clinique St. Paul and the surrounding grounds.

Before coming to St. Remy, Van Gogh lived in Arles for approximately 18 months, during which time he was extremely prolific. Unbelievably, he painted over 250 works during this time including Starry Night. He was spending a great deal of time with the artist Gauguin, and eventually they began to have violent disagreements. One of these occasions led to the episode where Van Gogh cut off part of his left ear. Van Gogh checked himself into the asylum here in St. Remy soon afterwards. Van Gogh spent one year in the asylum at St. Remy before he shot himself. During this time, several treatments were attempted, but nothing was successful. We learned today that there are several theories today as to what his true ailment was - a recent analysis claims that Van Gogh simply suffered from common depression, but that the medications and treatments he received at St. Remy actually hurt him.

The Clinique St. Paul is still used today to treat mentally ill patients, so it's not possible to see the actual room where Van Gogh stayed. Instead, we saw a reconstruction of the room along with several tributes to Van Gogh and his life.




Van Gogh continued to paint while he was in St. Remy, and produced another 150 works during his stay. We toured the grounds of the clinic, and saw the olive groves, rock quarries and mountain ranges that were the subject of so many of his works. Many of these areas have changed significantly during the past century, but it was still very interesting to follow in Van Gogh's footsteps from his time here.


After our tour, we had lunch in St. Remy and then finally made the decision to move forward with a purchase that we've been contemplating for quite some time. We decided to buy the Terre-e-Provence pottery that is very well-known here (it's also available at home, but is much more expensive). We didn't realize how time consuming or involved this would be - each piece is entirely different, and we had to lay every single dinner plate, dessert plate and salad bowl out on the floor of the store. From there, we ended up having family debates (sometimes heated) about the virtues and flaws of each piece - it was quite a scene! Fortunately, the store manager spoke some English and was willing to give us some expert opinions when needed to resolve family disputes. After full two hours (wow), we were finally done…

Tomorrow we'll see how the weather looks before deciding our plans. We'll be heading back to the Luberon Valley on our next nice day.

Distance Walked: 1.87 miles

Katie's Komments - The topic for today is…My impressions of Roussillon, a hilltop village of color

After exploring Roussillon, an incredible village built out of ochre stones, we all discovered why capturing the incredible earth tones of nature on canvas or paper is every artist's dream. Artists can test their palettes and skills of color mixing by trying to capture the atmosphere and natural beauty of these cliffs of magnificent stone. There are at least seventeen different variations of ochre in the village which really brings a challenge to painters of all levels. The vibrant colors and dazzling structure of the cliffs bring light throughout the entire village and the vast landscape of Provence.




You enter the village and glance over the edge. It is amazing. You are looking straight down at a gigantic cliff. The red and yellow ochre colors are striking yet very harmonious. You are filled with warmth and radiance; you're in the presence of natural beauty and glowing color. You walk throughout the village and discover the many color variations hidden inside and out of the houses and shops. Then it is time to visit the quarry. Your family runs ahead but you tag on behind them, searching for any colors you hadn't seen in other houses before. You finally reach the quarry and step inside the red dirt. You look up and are immediately stunned.

These were my exact feelings as I entered the village and quarry. I remember feeling as if all of the beautiful cliffs around me were separating and leaving a narrow passageway through the quarry…like Moses parting the red sea. As a painter myself, I was inspired by all of the earth tones - from yellow ochre to Indian Red and Burnt Sienna there is an amazing contrast of colors in every corner of the village. I couldn't stop myself from picking up small portions of dirt and sampling them to see how they differed from one another. I was even mixing them together and found that it was pretty much the same as mixing paint on a palette. The cliffs are tall and bold, and I was obsessed with taking pictures of them looking through the many groves of gorgeous trees stained red from the dirt. It was amazing to see all of the earth tones and color contrasts I have to use in my paintings in the scenery around me.

Perhaps the most fascinating thought for me was that the beautiful blended colors, enormous size of the cliffs, and breathtaking enclosed structure of the quarry was all an act of nature. It seemed unnecessary for an artist to have to study the stones and colors up close. The colors are so brilliant it looks as if you could capture their beauty from several miles away. The splendor of this village is shed in all directions through out the mountainous landscape. We have been to many nice towns in Provence, but none quite like this.












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