Vincent van Gogh - L'Arlesienne. Madame Ginoux 1890

L'Arlesienne. Madame Ginoux 1890
L'Arlesienne. Madame Ginoux
Oil on canvas 60.0 x 50.0 cm. Saint-Rémy: February, 1890
Rome: Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The subject, Marie Jullian (or Julien), was born in Arles June 8, 1848 and died there August 2, 1911. She married Joseph-Michel Ginoux in 1866 and together they ran the Café de la Gare, 30 Place Lamartine, where Van Gogh lodged from May to mid-September 1888. He had the Yellow House in Arles furnished to settle there.
Evidently until this time, Van Gogh's relations to M. and Mme. Ginoux had remained more or less commercial (the café is the subject of The Night Café), but Gauguin's arrival in Arles altered the situation. His courtship charmed the lady, then about 40 years of age, and in the first few days of November 1888 (November 1, or more probably November 2) Madame Ginoux agreed to have a portrait session for Paul Gauguin, and his friend Van Gogh. Within an hour, Gauguin produced a charcoal drawing while Vincent produced a full-scale painting, "knocked off in one hour".
While in the asylum at Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh painted another five portraits of Madame Ginoux, based on Gauguin's charcoal drawing of November 1888. Of these, one was intended for Gauguin, one for his brother Theo, one for himself and one for Madame Ginoux. The provenance of the version in the Kröller-Müller Museum is not known in detail, but the painting is known to have been previously owned by Albert Aurier, an early champion of Vincent's paintings. The version intended for Madame Ginoux was lost and has not been recovered. This is the version Vincent was delivering to Madame Ginoux in Arles when he suffered his relapse on February 22, 1890. In an unfinished letter to Gauguin that was never sent, Vincent remarked that working on her portrait cost him another month of illness. Gauguin's version was the one with a pink background, currently in the São Paulo Museum of Art. Gauguin was enthusiastic about the portrait, writing:"I’ve seen the canvas of Madame Ginoux. Very fine and very curious, I like it better than my drawing. Despite your ailing state you have never worked with so much balance while conserving the sensation and the interior warmth needed for a work of art, precisely in an era when art is a business regulated in advance by cold calculations."

In a letter to his sister Wil, dated 5 June 1890, Vincent set out his philosophy for doing portraits: "I should like to do portraits which will appear as revelations to people in a hundred years' time. In other words I am not trying to achieve this by photographic likeness but by rendering our impassioned expressions, by using our modern knowledge and appreciation of colour as a means of rendering and exalting character ... The portrait of the Arlésienne has a colourless and matt flesh tone, the eyes are calm and very simple, the clothing is black, the background pink, and she is leaning on a green table with green books. But in the copy that Theo has, the clothing is pink, the background yellowy-white, and the front of the open bodice is muslin in a white that merges into green. Among all these light colours, only the hair, the eyelashes and the eyes form black patches."

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Anna van Gogh-Carbentus. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Monday, 21 October 1889.
Dear Mother,
I wanted to write to you one more time while you’re still in the old house, to thank you for your last letter and the news of Cor’s safe passage.
I believe that he’ll work there with enthusiasm and have some enjoyment in his life now and then. What he writes to you reminds me of what my friend Gauguin told me about Panama and Brazil. I didn’t know that Isaäcson is also going to the Transvaal. You know that I never met him personally — but I did write to him recently because he more or less intended to write about my work in a Dutch newspaper, which I asked him not to do, but at the same time to thank him for his loyal sympathy, because from the beginning we often thought about each other’s work and have the same ideas about our old Dutch and the present-day French painters.
And I also like De Haan’s work a lot.
Now I can inform you that what I promised you is entirely ready — that’s to say five of my landscape studies and a small portrait of myself and a study of an interior. I’m afraid it will disappoint you, though, and a few things seem unimportant and ugly to you. Wil and you can do with them as you wish, and give the other sisters a couple of them if you like, that’s why I’m sending a couple more.
But this is something that doesn’t concern me, only I wanted to make sure that there were things of mine in the family, and am only trying to form a few things into a sort of ensemble that I would prefer to see stay together so that in time it becomes rather more important. Only, I can understand in advance that you won’t have room for all 6, and so do with them as you wish. But I advise you to keep them together, at least for a while, since then you’ll be better able to judge which you like best in the long run.
I’m sorry that Aunt Mina is suffering so, as you write; it’s a good many years since I saw her.
I certainly agree with you that it’s a good deal better for Theo like this than before, and just hope everything goes well with Jo’s confinement, then they’ll be set up for quite a while. It’s always good to experience how a human being comes into the world, and that leads many characters to more peace and truth.
The countryside here is very beautiful in the autumn, and the yellow leaves. I’m just sorry there aren’t more vineyards here, though I did go and paint one a few hours away. What happens is a large field turns entirely purple and red, like the Virginia creeper at home, and next to it a square of yellow and a little further on a patch that’s still green. All that beneath a sky of magnificent blue, and lilac rocks in the distance. Last year I had a better opportunity to paint that than now.
I would have liked to include something like that with what I’m sending you, but I’ll have to owe it to you till another year.

You’ll see from the little portrait of myself that I include that although I saw Paris, London and so many other large cities, and that for years at a time, I still look more or less like a peasant from Zundert, Toon or Piet Prins, say, and I sometimes imagine that I feel and think like that too, only the peasants are of more use in the world. It’s only when they have all the rest that people get a feeling for, need for paintings, books etc. So in my own estimation I definitely reckon myself below the peasants. Anyway, I plough on my canvases as they do in their fields.
Otherwise things are wretched enough in our profession — that’s always been so, in fact — but it’s really very bad at present.
And yet there have never been such prices paid for paintings as nowadays.
What keeps us working is friendship for one another and love of nature, and anyway, when one’s taken the trouble to become master of the brush, one can’t stop painting.
Compared with others I’m still among the fortunate ones, but just imagine what it must be like when someone starts in the profession and has to give it up before he’s done anything, and there are many like that.
Reckon on 10 years needed to learn the profession, anyone who gets through 6, say, and pays for them and then has to give up, if you knew how miserable that is and how many there are like that. And the high prices one hears about, paid for work by painters who are dead and weren’t paid like that in life, it’s a sort of tulip mania from which the living painters get more disadvantage than advantage. And it will also pass like tulip mania.
One can reason, however, that although tulip mania is long gone and forgotten, the flower growers have remained and will remain. And so I regard painting in the same way, that what remains is a sort of flower growing. And as to that I reckon myself fortunate to be in it. But the rest!
These things to prove to you than one mustn’t be under any illusions. My letter must go off — at the moment I’m working on a portrait of one of the patients here. It’s strange that when one is with them for some time and is used to them, one no longer thinks about their being mad. Embraced in thought by
Your loving
Vincent