From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA:
For Van Gogh, oleanders were joyous, life-affirming flowers that bloomed "inexhaustibly" and were always "putting out strong new shoots." In this painting of August 1888 the flowers fill a majolica jug that the artist used for other still lifes made in Arles. They are symbolically juxtaposed with Émile Zola's La joie de vivre, a novel that Van Gogh had placed in contrast to an open Bible in a Nuenen still life of 1885.
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 21 February 1888.
My dear Theo, During the journey I thought at least as much about you as about the new country I was seeing.
But I tell myself that you’ll perhaps come here often yourself later on. It seems to me almost impossible to be able to work in Paris, unless you have a refuge in which to recover and regain your peace of mind and self-composure. Without that, you’d be bound to get utterly numbed.
Now I’ll tell you that for a start, there’s been a snowfall of at least 60 centimetres all over, and it’s still snowing.
Arles doesn’t seem any bigger than Breda or Mons to me.
Before reaching Tarascon I noticed some magnificent scenery — huge yellow rocks, oddly jumbled together, with the most imposing shapes. In the small valleys between these rocks there were rows of little round trees with olive-green or grey-green foliage, which could well be lemon trees. But here in Arles the land seems flat.
I noticed some magnificent plots of red earth planted with vines, with mountains in the background of the most delicate lilac. And the landscape under the snow with the white peaks against a sky as bright as the snow was just like the winter landscapes the Japanese did.
Here’s my address
30 rue Cavalerie
So far I’ve taken no more than a little walk round the town, as I was more or less completely done in last night.
I’ll write to you soon — an antique dealer whose shop I went into yesterday in this very street was telling me he knew of a Monticelli.
With a good handshake to you and the pals.