From National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo:
Van Gogh lived in Arles for half a year after his first breakdown, which resulted from an argument with Gauguin in December 1888, and then entered the psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy on May 9, 1889. This painting of roses was thought to be a work from the final days of his stay in Arles prior to his move to Saint-Rémy, but the revised view that the painting depicts one corner of the Saint-Rémy hospital grounds was expressed during the 1985 van Gogh exhibition held at the NMWA. Given that the doctors at the hospital restricted his activities and painting range to the hospital grounds, van Gogh seems to have limited his painting motifs to images from gardens during May of that year. "Since I've been here, there's been enough work for me to do, what with the neglected garden with its tall pines and long, unkempt grass mixed with all sorts of weeds and I haven't even been outside. When I send you the four canvases of the garden I am working on, you will se that, considering my life is spent mostly in the garden, it is not so unhappy." (Letter 592, May 22, 1889). Van Gogh's style distanced itself from that of Gauguin, changing from the planar style developed under Gauguin's influence to a gradual return to van Gogh's own native use of rough brush work.
(Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no.85)
Paul Gauguin to Vincent van Gogh. Pont-Aven, on or about Saturday, 8 September 1888.
My dear Vincent
I received your letter the very moment I was about to write to you. Excuse me if I write so infrequently and so briefly. I’m terribly bored and I’m suffering from stomach trouble; we have rain constantly. I work and I do nothing, in the sense that I draw with hand, head and heart, with a view to what I wish to do later. Yes, you’re right to wish for painting with a coloration suggesting poetic ideas, and in that sense I’m in agreement with you, with one difference. I don’t know any poetic ideas, it’s probably a sense that I lack. I find EVERYTHING poetic, and it’s in the corners of my heart which are sometimes mysterious that I catch a glimpse of poetry. Forms and colours brought into harmonies create a form of poetry in themselves. Without allowing myself to be surprised by the subject, when looking at a painting by someone else, I feel a sensation that leads me into a poetic state depending on whether the painter’s intellectual powers emanate from it. There’s no point quibbling about it; we’ll talk about it at length. In that respect, I’m very despondent at being detained at Pont-Aven; my debt is increasing every day, and making my journey more and more unlikely. The artist’s life is one long Calvary to go through! And that’s perhaps what makes us live. Passion enlivens us, and we die when it has nothing more to feed on. Let’s leave these paths full of thorny bushes, but they have their wild poetry all the same. I’m studying young Bernard, whom I don’t know as well as you do; I believe you’ll do him good, and he needs it. He has suffered, of course, and he’s starting out in life full of bile, ready to see man’s bad side. I hope that with his intelligence and his love of art he’ll see one day that goodness is a force against others, and a consolation for our own ills. He likes you and respects you, so you can have a good influence on him. We need to be very united in heart and in intellect if we wish the future to put us in our true place. Is your brother travelling? I have no more news from him.