Ladies of Arles (Memory of the Garden at Etten) by Vincent van Gogh - 1888 - 92.5 x 73.5 cm Hermitage Museum Ladies of Arles (Memory of the Garden at Etten) by Vincent van Gogh - 1888 - 92.5 x 73.5 cm Hermitage Museum

Ladies of Arles (Memory of the Garden at Etten)

oil on canvas • 92.5 x 73.5 cm
  • Vincent van Gogh - March 30, 1853 - July 29, 1890 Vincent van Gogh 1888

Memory of the Garden at Etten (Ladies of Arles) was intended as decoration for van Gogh bedroom at the Yellow House.

The "Garden at Etten" refers to the parsonage garden at Etten (now Etten-Leur) where Vincent's father Theodorus van Gogh, a pastor, had been called in 1875. Vincent spent periods of time there, notably from Easter to Christmas 1881 when he returned to join his brother Theo, an art dealer, determined to become an artist. This period at Etten represents the beginning proper of Vincent's ten-year career as an artist. He had drawn since boyhood, and the previous year had enrolled in a beginners' class in Brussels where he met the painter Anthon van Rappard, but he now began to draw in earnest. He rapidly developed an accomplished technique in landscape drawing but remained rather more uncertain in his figure drawing, which he practised assiduously with the aid of Charles Bargue's drawing course. Rappard made a twelve-day visit during this time, and they sketched together in the marshes and heaths round Etten. At the end of the year he made an extended visit to Mauve, who introduced him to painting. He returned to Etten with the intention of setting up a studio there.

That summer Vincent became infatuated with his recently widowed cousin Kee Vos-Stricker, daughter of the theologian Johannes Stricker, who had been invited to stay over the summer with her eight-year-old son Jan. Vincent had last visited her in Amsterdam some three years before while her husband was still alive (there is a family photo extant dating from 1872 thought to show Vincent side by side with Kee), but now her new situation stirred his tender feelings and romantic disposition. They took pleasant walks together and within the fortnight Vincent proposed marriage. She famously rebuffed him with a curt "No, at no time, never", abruptly taking her leave for Amsterdam and never dealing with him again. Vincent's obsessive attempts to press his suit eventually became a matter of family scandal, culminating in a bitter quarrel with his father on Christmas Day and his leaving the family home to set up his proposed studio in The Hague instead.

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