St Remy De Provence Van Gogh Asylum

Jan Leeming

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St. Remy de Provence - Van Gogh Asylum

Date: 26th April 2016

St Remy de Provence

Staying with friends in Provence and I thought I'd visited all the well known places over the last 30 years of returning to this place I love, but there were some surprises in store. We went to the Convent/Asylum in which Vincent Van Gogh spent the last year of his life. It still houses those with mental problems but half the building is given over to a Museum celebrating their famous inmate.

Van Gogh voluntarily went to the Asylum and had large moments of total lucidity in which he wrote movingly of the wonderful light of Provence and how he was inspired to paint. An avenue of trees and flowers paves the way to the Museum entrance and the walls are adorned with copies of Van Gogh's paintings. There's a replica of the room in which he stayed which includes a chair similar to the one which appears in one of his most known works.

The inmates of the Asylum are encouraged - as they were in Van Gogh's day - to express themselves through Art and there's a small room exhibiting their works which are for sale. Many are fine pieces. My eyes were drawn to a group of sculptures about 2ft high with no label. I thought I recognised them as replicas of Rodin's famous 'Burghers of Calais' and on asking the guide I had my suspicions confirmed. I think she was delighted that I'd recognised them as such. It was only last year that I visited Calais and saw the original larger than life size Sculpture which is very moving indeed.

Edward 1 had laid siege to Calais and to avoid his men raising it to the ground, he demanded that the Burghers surrender themselves to be executed. His Queen- Phillipa of Hainault begged for clemency and they were allowed to live. Sadly what Edward 1st allowed to remain virtually intact was mostly destroyed in WW2. The French have a saying which translated means 'Everything changes and everything remains the same'! I have to admit that reading Van Gogh's words and seeing copies of his works exhibited in such a sympathetic way has given me a new appreciation of the artist. Sorry I can't give you any photos at the moment but will be able to do so when I return to the UK.

St. Remy de Provence - Van Gogh Asylum

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