willemien

64 days in heaven and hell (111)
Day 25, November 16 - Slow painting

There you are, I know it isn’t perhaps much of a resemblance, but for me it conveys the poetic character and the style of the garden as I feel them. (Letter 720 to his sister Willemien, November 12, 1888)

Van Gogh wanted to learn from Gauguin’s ideas and work methods. Painting from memory and imagination had its advantages: he didn’t have to look for models or hurry to capture what he saw before the rain came. And he didn’t have to go out when it was cold - he hated that.
About this same time however, memories about his life in the parental home at Etten made him restless. Creating this ‘Reminiscence  of the Garden at Etten’ didn’t help to dispell that uneasiness, now that he had all the time to brood while he was taking his time to paint the scene. He even started to loose himself in a compulsive attention to detail.

Although he wrote with seeming enthusiasm to his brother and their sister Willemien about this painting mid-November, it’s like he’s just repeating Gauguin’s words, not expressing his own thoughts and feelings.

Vincent Van Gogh, Souvenir du jardin à Etten (Reminiscence of the Garden at Etten), c. November 16, 1888. Oil on canvas, 73.5 x 92.5 cm. State Museum Hermitage, St. Petersburg (F 496, JH 1630)

64 days in heaven and hell (78)
Making an impression
Van Gogh made this curious self-portrait in the second week of September 1888.  He painted himself as a japanese bonze.

I’ve also done a new portrait of myself, as a study, in which I look like a Japanese. (To his sister Willemien, letter 678, second week of September, 1888)

The picture was dedicated and sent to Paul Gauguin who was still in Pont-Aven at the time and not sure if he would be able to go to Arles any time soon. Gauguin and Émile Bernard had already sent him their self-portraits in exchange.

This portrait and all the decorations in the Yellow House had a hidden agenda:

… I have the self-esteem to wish to make a certain impression on Gauguin with my work. I can’t help wishing to work on my own as much as possible before he comes.  His arrival will change me in my way of painting, and I’ll gain by it, I dare believe — but all the same, I’m rather attached to my decoration… (To  Theo, letter 694 of October 3, 1888).

Vincent Van Gogh, Self-Portrait dedicated to Paul Gauguin, Mid- September 16, 1888. Oil on canvas, 62 x 52 cm. Fogg Art Museum, Harvard university, Cambridge (MA), USA