Vincent van Gogh - Mother Roulin with Her Baby 1888

Mother Roulin with Her Baby 1888
Mother Roulin with Her Baby
Oil on canvas 63.5 x 51.0 cm. Arles: November-December, 1888
New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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From The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:
This vigorously painted portrait of Augustine Roulin and her infant daughter, Marcelle, is one of Van Gogh’s many evocative renderings of the Roulin family, undertaken some six months after the artist relocated from Paris to Arles. Van Gogh painted the entire family of the local postman Joseph Roulin. Here, the chubbycheeked infant is the focus of the enterprise. Her heightened expression in thickly painted brushwork suggests that the baby may have posed for van Gogh, swaddled in her mother’s embrace. Augustine Roulin, by contrast, is an abbreviated presence.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 12 June 1888.
My dear Theo,
On Monday morning I received your telegraphed money order for 50 francs, for which I thank you kindly. But I haven’t yet received your letter, which surprised me a little.
I’ve received a letter from Gauguin, who said he’d received a letter from you containing 50 francs, by which he was very touched, and in which you said a few words about the plan.
As I had sent you my letter to him, he hadn’t yet received the more clear-cut proposal when he wrote.
But he says that he has the experience that when he was in Martinique with his friend Laval, the two of them together managed better than either one of them alone, and that he therefore fully agreed on the advantages a life in common would have.
He says the pains in his bowels are still continuing, and he seems quite unhappy to me. He talks about a hope he has of finding capital of six hundred thousand francs to set up a dealer in Impressionist paintings, and that he would explain his plan and that he’d like you to be at the head of this business.
I shouldn’t be surprised if that hope is a fata Morgana, a mirage that goes with being broke. The more broke you are — especially when you’re ill — the more you think of such possibilities.
So I see first and foremost in this plan yet another proof that he’s despondent, and that the best thing would be get him back on his feet as quickly as possible.
He says that when sailors have to move a heavy load or raise an anchor, in order to be able to lift a greater weight, to be able to make an enormous effort, they all sing together to support each other and to give each other energy. That it’s just what artists lack. So I’d be really surprised if he weren’t glad to come. But the costs of the hotel and the journey are made even more complicated by the doctor’s bill, so it will be jolly hard.
But it seems to me that he should ditch the debt and leave some paintings as security if he’s going to come here, and if the people don’t agree to that, leave the debt in the lurch without any paintings as security. Wasn’t I forced to do the same thing in order to come to Paris? And although I suffered the loss of many things then, it can’t be done otherwise in cases like that, and it’s better to go forward anyway than to go on being depressed.
I haven’t left for Saintes-Maries — they’ve finished painting the house and I had to pay, and I also have to buy quite a considerable supply of canvas.
And out of the fifty francs I’ve got one louis left and we’re only Tuesday morning, and so it was hardly possible for me to leave and I fear it won’t yet be possible next week either. I was pleased to learn that Mourier has come to lodge with you.
If Gauguin would prefer to take the risk of throwing himself back into business at this point — if he really has hopes of doing something in Paris — for Heaven’s sake let him go there, but I think he’d be wiser to come here for a year at least; I’ve seen someone here who had been to Tonkin and was ill when he came back from that delightful region — he recovered here.

I have two or three new drawings and also 2 or three new painted studies.
I went to Tarascon one day, unfortunately there was so much sun and dust that day that I came home empty-handed.
I’ve had reports of 2 Monticellis in Marseille, a bouquet of flowers at 250 francs and figures. It was Russell’s friend, MacKnight, who had seen them there. I’d very much like to go there sometime, to Marseille.
I still continue to find the subjects here very beautiful and interesting, and despite the vexations of expenses, I nevertheless think there’s a better chance in the south than in the north.
If you saw the Camargue — and many other places — like me, you’d be very surprised to see that it has a character absolutely à la Ruisdael. I have a new subject on the go, green and yellow fields as far as the eye can see, which I’ve already drawn twice and am starting again as a painting, just like a Salomon Koninck, you know, Rembrandt’s pupil who made the vast flat landscapes.
Or it’s like something by Michel or like Jules Dupré, but it’s really quite different from rose gardens. It’s true that I’ve only visited one part of Provence, and in the other part there’s the countryside that Claude Monet does, for example.
I’m very curious to know what Gauguin will do. He says that in the past he got people to buy Impressionists to the tune of 35 thousand at Durand-Ruel’s, and that he hopes to do the same thing again for you. But it’s so bad, when you start having trouble with your health you can no longer risk sudden impulses, and I think Gauguin’s most solid asset is now his painting, and the best business he could do, his own paintings. It’s likely that he’ll have written to you in the past few days; I answered his letter last Saturday. I believe it would be pretty hard to pay all he owes over there and his fare, &c. &c. If Russell bought a painting from him — but he has the house he’s building, which puts him in financial difficulties. But I’ll still write to that effect, I think. I have to send him something myself for our exchange, and if Gauguin wishes to come, then I’ll be able to ask with confidence. It’s certain that if in exchange for the money we’d give G. we buy his paintings at the current price, it’s in no way money wasted. I’d very much like you to have all his paintings of Martinique. Anyway, let’s do what we can. Handshake, I hope you’ll write soon.
Ever yours,

What’s Rodin’s bust of a woman in the Salon? It can’t possibly be the bust of Mrs Russell — which he must be working on, though.
Doesn’t our friend Mourier have a terrific accent? He bropaply alvays trinks brendy viz vater.