John Mcewen comments on The Old Peasant Patience Escalier
Van Gogh’s most famous paintings were done in Provence, where he spent only two years—the last of his life, bar the final summer. he left Paris for arles with a Danish artist, Christian Mourier-petersen, for the good of his health and pocket and with the dream of founding an artists’ colony.
his first intentions were soon satisfied. In april, he wrote to his ever-supportive younger brother Theo, the Paris-based art dealer: ‘The air here certainly does me good… one effect it has on me is comical enough; one small glass of brandy makes me tipsy here, so… there will be less strain on my constitution.’
The year in arles proved astonishingly productive—200 paintings and more than 100 drawings and watercolours, among them his Chair and Bedroom in Arles, The Night Cafž, the ‘sunflowers’ series and this. In mid august, he wrote to Theo: ‘You are shortly to make the acquaintance of Master Patience Escalier… formerly cow-herd of the Camargue, now gardener at a house in the Crau… I do not think it would be an insult to the Lautrec you have to put my peasant beside it… because that sun-steeped, sun-burnt quality, tanned and swept with air, would show up still more beside all that rice powder and elegance.’
always guilty about the financial burden he imposed on Theo, he wrote: ‘I must reach the point when my pictures will cover what I spend, and even more than that, taking into account so much spent in the past. Well, it will come.’ never was there a truer word. no painter has more pictures in the 50-most-expensive-ever-sold list.