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Following In Van Gogh’s Footsteps In Arles

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Have you ever tried to follow in the footsteps of your favorite artists? Have you visited the real locations that are depicted on famous paintings? As an art history major, I never miss a chance to do so. This time I will tell you about Arles, where I traced the memories of Vincent Van Gogh (1853 - 1890).

The Old Hospital

My visit to Arles was all about niché destinations related to Van Gogh. After a long walk along the river, my first stop was the hospital where the artist stayed for short periods in 1889. At the hospital, he painted "Ward in the hospital" (1889, oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm) as seen in the cover picture of this article. When I arrived at the old hospital, I felt a bit sad because Van Gogh experienced tremendous mental health issues there. Shortly after staying in Arles, the artist moved to an asylum in Saint-Rémy de Provence and passed away in 1890. The former hospital has now become a tourist attraction and a public library called Médiathèque d'Arles. Only the architecture and the garden are still reminiscent of Van Gogh's time.

Médiathèque d'Arles
Médiathèque d'Arles
Place Félix Rey, Espace Van Gogh, 13200 Arles, France

The Night Café

For lunch, I visited the former Café du Forum, which was depicted in Van Gogh's "Café Terrace at Night" (1888, oil on canvas, 80.7 x 65.3 cm) as seen in the picture below. The picture above is the interior of the café. It was exciting to see that the terrace has not changed much, however, the interior is completely different now. The café is now called Le Café Van Gogh, which I really do not recommend to try. The food is average and overpriced, and the staff are tricky, as they try to trick you into ordering the most expensive items. Please avoid this tourist trap at all cost!

Le Café Van Gogh - Restaurant Arles
Le Café Van Gogh - Restaurant Arles
11 Place du Forum, 13200 Arles, France

The Public Garden

Van Gogh also painted many other locations in Arles. Some of them were the public garden and his yellow house where he stayed before being hospitalized. The picture above is Van Gogh's " A Lane in a Public Garden in Arles" (1888, oil on canvas). However, I was not sure the exact locations of them and also did not have much time as it was a day trip. Before leaving Arles, I decided to leave behind the sorrowful life of Van Gogh in the past and moved on to the optimistic present.

The Contemporary Touch

Today, the legacies of Van Gogh continue to inspire international contemporary artists, which are frequently featured in Vincent van Gogh Foundation in Arles. Most of the times. the art is quite colorful, for example, the exhibition "Mon cher..." by Urs Fischer. I would recommend spending one to two hours at the foundation.

Vincent van Gogh Foundation Arles
Vincent van Gogh Foundation Arles
35 Rue du Dr Fanton, 13200 Arles, France

Fun fact: Van Gogh's Starry Night appeared on the poster of the 2011 film "Midnight in Paris".

Following In Artists' Footsteps series

Would you like more art inspirations? Check out my story "Following In Monet’s Footsteps In Giverny", which is about the famous garden of the French Impressionist Claude Monet.

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The author

Vy Tran

Vy Tran

Born and raised in Hanoi, I strive to protect my Vietnamese identity while being a global citizen. Let me share with you some of the mysteries of Vietnam, which might make you decide Vietnam is your next destination to discover.

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