While I appreciated the ruins we visited in Provence--no, really I did--I desperately wanted to take in some art, or at least the landscape that inspired the artists in this area. I love art. I especially love the work of tortured artists. Paintings, drawings and sculpture by prisioners, neurotics, psychotics or just plain loopy people fascinate me. So after a day of visiting ruins, I insisted on going to Arles to see what inspired Van Gogh and his buddy Gauguin.
It was a long drive to Arles, almost two hours. Having drank a large cup of tea before we left, by the time we got there, I was in desperate need of using a bathroom. Only the city streets were so complex, even the GPS was lost. Though it's uncertain whether Van Gogh cut off his own ear or it was his pal Gauguin, I would bet my two dogs he did it to himself, and I can see why. Thirty minutes of driving in circles around this labyrinth of a city and I was ready to cut off my own head.
I finally had Mr. Wild Dingo stop the car, I jumped out in the pouring rain and ran into a pizza joint. And by joint, I mean it was a real joint, run down, nobody inside and decorated with furniture from the 60's. Mr. Wild Dingo fumbled with his French negotiating if he could buy a soda to use the loo, while I just ordered the damn pizza. At this point there's no negotiating and the owner knew it. "Non, rien. Juste du fromage," I told her for my topping as I ran to the loo. Let me tell you Internet, that pizza was heavenly. And not because I had to go. It had paper thin crust and was shamefully greesy, exactly how we love it. And if I ever go back to Arles again, I'm going to that joint and ordering as much as I can eat and store in a freezer.
After that 11 a.m. lunch, we popped back in the car and accidentally found a tiny parking spot in the most unexpected ally near Constantine's Baths. And it was free. Snaps for us!
Now Arles boasts many areas dedicated to Van Gogh, such as the Espace Van-Gogh, Foundation Vincent van Gogh, the Van Gogh cafe, where he painted his famous "Cafe Terrace at Night," the little yellow house, home of his famous Bedroom in Arles painting (first photo) and plenty of other small museums.
But I didn't see any of those. It was pouring--coming down in buckets I tell you. And we had very little time as I had an appointment. Never mind what was on my agenda. Just chock this up to poor planning. Between the rain and the time, there was no navigating the maps to find the museums. Which is why we ended up going to the Amphitheater.
But what I saw of Arles as we stumbled our way around in the rain, didn't jump out at me as inspiration for such vibrant work. To be fair, we couldn't really get a sense for the city in such dreary weather or the time limit. Most of what we saw were buildings like this pictured above. Kind of ugly, huh?
Then I looked closer. And I saw it. The shadows, vertical lines, thick brush strokes and edges found in his technique were all there, right in front of me.
Just a tweak to the tones and the hues and: Voila! I found him.
The man was a genius.