Hospital at Saint Remy, 1889, Hammer Museum collection
In a landscape sculpted by olive groves, vineyards and the limestone Alpilles mountains, sits the Saint Paule de Mausole asylum and monastery. It was here, just outside Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, that Vincent Van Gogh spent a year of his life, from 1889-1890. This was a period of creative abundance for the painter. He worked prolifically, inspired by the olive groves, the landscape, the cypress trees, the cloisters of the monastery, the fields he could see from his bedroom.
Entrance Hall of Saint-Paul Hospital, 1889, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
The visit includes the beautiful cloisters well known to the place, but also the living areas where Van Gogh would have spent his time - the kitchen and dining rooms, his bedroom and adjoining treatment room and the vast gardens surrounding the monastery.
Van Gogh checked himself into the asylum at a period of mental instability (and great creativity) in his life. His treatment was guided by a humane and caring physician at the time - Doctor Peyron, which fostered a continuation of his art. The nuns who cared for patients were also very kind.
During this period, Van Gogh painted 143 paintings and over 100 drawings. He was inspired by the light of Provence, by its landscapes, the quality of the air and the depth of the beauty here.
People don't always know that it was also here that Van Gogh painted his perhaps his most acclaimed work, The Starry Night.
The Starry Night, 1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York
The visit is a beautiful one - the site has been preserved and remains true to the spirit in which Van Gogh must have found it. Olive groves, wild fields and gardens surround the monastery. The light is unparalleled. Coming here is like falling into a trance - an inspiration...one garners a tangible sense of the beauty Van Gogh found and transmitted through his works of art.