3 paintings by Vincent van Gogh in the
Pola Museum of Art, Japan


 
The Pola Museum of Art opened in September 2002 in Sengokuhara located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. The collections of the Pola Museum of Art number more than 9,500 works which were assembled over some forty years by the late owner of the Pola Group, Suzuki Tsuneshi (1930-2000). The collection's diverse array of genres and periods features 400 European paintings including works by the 19th century French Impressionists and Ecole de Paris artists, along with modern Japanese Western-style paintings, Japanese-style paintings, Oriental ceramics, modern Japanese ceramics, glass works, and cosmetic utensils. The museum owns 3 paintings by Van Gogh.
 


"The Gleize Bridge over the Vigueirat Canal",
oil on canvas, 46.8 x 51.3 cm, 1888.
 

In February 1888, Van Gogh arrived in the southern French town of Arles. Its bright sunshine and its vibrant nature, so full of life, energized him. In this work, The Canal de Vigueirat with the Pont de Gleize, Van Gogh painted the bridge spanning the canal that encircles Arles and the figures of the washerwomen working at the washing place. In his letter of around March 14 to Theo, Vincent wrote about his production of two works that are thought to be Langlois Bridge (Rijksmuseum Kroller-Müller), which depicts the bridge spanning the Arles-Bouc canal, and the painting shown here. "As for my work, I brought back a size 15 canvas today. It is a drawbridge over which passes a little cart, standing out against a blue sky - the river blue as well, the banks orange coloured with grass and a group of women washing linen in smocks and multicoloured caps. And another landscape with a little rustic bridge and washerwomen also". (Letter 469)
 
Langlois Bridge at Arles;
Kröller-Müller Museum, The Netherlands


The Pont de Gleize was located on the Canal de Vigueirat, to the south of Arles. Van Gogh used yellow for the bridge and banks, blue for the sky and the surface of the water in the canal, and red, as accents, on such motifs as the figure on the bridge, the low trees extending into the distance, the boat, the washerwomen, and the sparkle of the water surface. He has painted with overlapping vertical, horizontal, and diagonal brushstrokes, and the undulating brushwork characteristic of his later works is not yet seen. Van Gogh painted a large number of bridges from the latter half of his Paris period through the first half of his stay in Arles. It has been pointed out that the bridge motif may reveal his longing for the companionship of fellow artists. After his attempt to live with Gauguin, however, Van Gogh never painted bridges again. In May, Van Gogh rented the ""Yellow House,"" where he founded a joint studio for painters. He invited Gauguin to join him, and they worked together for approximately two months from late October. Because of differences in opinion, however, they never stopped quarreling, until finally on December 23, Van Gogh cut off his earlobe with a razor. After that, Gauguin returned to Paris. Van Gogh, too, left Arles in May 1889 and entered a mental hospital near Saint-Remy. The two never saw each other again.

 


"Clumps of Grass",
 oil on canvas, 45.1 x 48.8 cm, 1889.

 

"Vase with Thistles", oil on canvas, 41 x 34 cm, June, 1890.
 
This work is one of the several still lifes that Van Gogh painted on either June 16 or 17, 1890, depicting some wild flowers that he had found at Gachet's house. The only surviving still lifes by Van Gogh of wild flowers that include thistles are this work and Wild Flowers and Thistles in a Vase in a private collection. While different flowers are featured in the two paintings, they have been arranged in the same vase on a round table in both cases. The two works are therefore thought to have been painted around the same time. In the outlines that define the table and the vase, one can perceive the influence of the ukiyo-e prints Van Gogh collected so enthusiastically in Paris. The serrated thistle leaves and the heads of wheat extend outward as if embracing the flowers. The nearly concentric brushstrokes of the vase and the intersecting vertical and horizontal strokes of the pale blue background reveal that Van Gogh was still continuing persistently to explore the effects of line, colour, and texture.
 
 

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