From The Toledo Museum of Art:
Though it would be the extensive plains above Auvers-sur-Oise that ultimately captivated his attention, van Gogh initially turned his eye to the village itself. "Auvers is very beautiful, among other things a lot of old thatched roofs, which are getting rare…for really it is profoundly beautiful, it is the real country, characteristic and picturesque," he wrote his brother, Theo, and Theo's wife after his arrival in Auvers on 20 May 1890. Working in a hamlet called Chaponval located in the western part of Auvers, van Gogh painted a cluster of dwellings nestled amid walled gardens and trees silhouetted against a gray-blue, cloudy sky. These homes still exist (though now altered) along the Rue de Gré. The central structure was known as "la maison du Père Lacroix," the house of Auguste Lacroix, a mason. The juxtaposition of its blue-tiled roof with the contiguous thatched roofs doubtless intrigued van Gogh, and he even made a related reference to such a comparison in one of his letters.
Van Gogh structured his composition as a series of horizontal zones demarcated by diagonals. In the lower right corner he included a small grassy passage accented by red poppies. Just behind appears a stone wall extending the width of his canvas, that encloses on the near side a garden in which white roses bloom and grapevines grow. Houses receding to the left, trees doing so to the right, and pockets of sky complete the design. Noteworthy is the directional variance of his brushstrokes. The roof of the central white house is executed with sideways applications that mimic the appearance of its tiling, whereas the adjacent thatching is rendered with downward gestures to convey its texture. In contrast, the vegetation throughout is represented with van Gogh's typical curvilinear, animated forms.
Paul Gauguin to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, on or about Thursday, 20 March 1890.
My dear Vincent
I’ve looked most attentively at your works since we parted; first at your brother’s place and at the Independents’ exhibition. It’s above all at this latter place that one can properly judge what you do, either because of things positioned beside each other, or because of the neighbouring works. I offer you my sincere compliments, and for many artists you are the most remarkable in the exhibition. With things from nature you’re the only one there who thinks.
I’ve talked about it with your brother, and there’s one that I would like to exchange with you for a thing of your choice.
The one I’m talking about is a mountain landscape. Two tiny travellers seem to be climbing up there in search of the unknown. It contains an emotion à la Delacroix, with a very evocative colour. Here and there red notes like lights, the whole in a violet note. It’s beautiful and imposing.
I’ve talked at length about it with Aurier, Bernard and many others. All send you their compliments. Only Guillaumin shrugs his shoulders when he hears of it. Besides, I understand him, given that he only sees material things, with a brainless eye. He’s the same when it comes to my painting over these last few years, and understands nothing of it.
I hesitated greatly to write to you, knowing that you had just had a rather long crisis, so please don’t reply to me until you feel completely strong. Let’s hope that with the warm weather that will return you’re going to get well at last, the winter is always dangerous to you.