From Princeton University Art Museum:
In a letter to his brother Theo in October 1888, Van Gogh described the genesis of this painting, even providing a small sketch so that Theo could get a sense of the composition. He explained that the subject was inspired in part by Alphonse Daudet’s novel Tartarin of Tarascon, which features an old stagecoach, or diligence. He also discussed his technique and some of the artistic influences on the painting, including Claude Monet and Adolphe Monticelli:
Have you re-read the Tartarins yet? Ah, don’t forget to! Do you remember in Tartarin the lament of the old Tarascon diligence—that wonderful page? Well, I’ve just painted that red and green carriage in the yard of the inn . . .
The two carriages very colorful: green, red, wheels yellow, black, blue, orange . . . The carriages are painted in the style of Monticelli, with impastos. You once had a very beautiful Claude Monet, of four colourful boats on a beach. Well, here it’s carriages, but the composition is of the same kind.
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Thursday, 10 May 1888.
My dear Theo,
I’ve written to you in Brussels again to tell you that I hoped you’d be in a position to send me some more money, when you get back to Paris at the latest. Because in order to recover possession of my trunk, I had to pay the whole bill for the time being, while at the same time having got it stated on the receipt that this inflated bill would be verified before the justice of the peace. I’m not sure about winning, although I am absolutely entitled to a deduction of 27 francs and no compensation for all the trouble it’s causing me. First I had an absolutely consuming period of work and then I was so worn out and ill that I didn’t feel I had the strength to go and live on my own — and I’ve put up with things too much, for their present bill they’re basing themselves on a period when I was paying them more (when I was ill and had asked them for better wine).
But all in all, it’s so much the better that all of that has now forced me to take this decision. In short, I believe I’m a worker and not a soft foreign tourist here to enjoy himself, and it would be lack of energy on my part to let myself be exploited like that. So I’m starting to set up a studio that may at the same time be of use to our pals, if they come, or if there are painters here.
In the crate you’ll first of all find the paintings I did for Jet Mauve and Tersteeg. If in the meantime you should foresee that Tersteeg would take offence at it, well, in a word, if it’s better that I don’t talk to him, then you’ll keep it and you can scrape off the dedication and we’ll exchange it with a pal. As for the repetitions of these two studies, I thought the bridge was better than Tersteeg’s but Jet Mauve’s study is simpler than the repetition. Perhaps as it ages this repetition will improve, I worked on it a lot.
Then the series of orchards — I think the white orchard of which I sent you pen drawing and the largest of all in pink and green on absorbent canvas are the best. A large study without a stretching frame and another on a stretching frame in which there’s a lot of stippling8 are unfinished, which I regret because the composition gave an overall idea of the large orchards surrounded by cypresses around here. Well, I’ve already written and told you what I thought of them. And you’ll have them soon, since the crate goes off this evening. Handshake.
I think for the frames — the two yellow bridges with blue sky will do well in the dark blue they call royal blue,9 the white orchard in cold white, the large pink orchard in slightly warm cream.