After staying at the Arles Hospice for a few weeks, Vincent wished to return to his yellow house, but about thirty inhabitants of the neighbourhood had lodged a formal protest against his presence. After considering joining the Foreign Legion, Vincent agreed to go live in the Saint-Paul de Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy de Provence, where he would be treated and looked after, but allowed to paint.
Vincent had two rooms – one bedroom and another for use as a studio. With the exception of a few spectacular crises which temporarily prevented him from painting, he spent a fruitful year. He painted olive trees, fields, hills and the asylum park, complaining terribly of the establishment’s appalling food.
In the meantime, Vincent’s work was starting to attract attention. The Arles paintings, which had been sent to Theo and exhibited at collective exhibitions, were greatly admired by his peers and art critics. Claude Monet, among others, told Theo that his brother was the best of the new generation of Impressionists.
Gradually, Van Gogh’s reputation was growing, although his work was not yet selling. In early 1890, in the Mercure de France, Albert Aurier wrote a long, in-depth and extremely enthusiastic article about Vincent’s art. He called him a genius and compared him to the Old Dutch Masters of the 17th century.
Vincent, who was not expecting such tremendous acclaim, was taken aback. He protested against what he considered to be Aurier’s excessive praise, but did not dismiss it. The critic’s enthusiasm did, however, fire him up and he soon felt a pressing need for a change of scenery. He left Saint-Rémy de Provence as soon as possible and returned to the north, where he thought he could apply the lessons learnt from his encounter with the southern light.
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