Vincent van Gogh - Prisoners Exercising after Gustave Dore 1890

Prisoners Exercising after Gustave Dore 1890
Prisoners Exercising after Gustave Dore
Oil on canvas 80.0 x 64.0 cm. Saint-Rémy: 10-11 February, 1890
Moscow: Pushkin Museum

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Newgate Prison Exercise Yard Gustave Dore
Newgate Prison Exercise Yard
Gustave Dore

Prisoners Exercising after Gustave Dore was painted in 1890 by Vincent van Gogh, toward the end of his time in the asylum. As Vincent regained his strength, his desire to leave Saint-Rémy intensified.
He made an oil copy of Gustave Doré's print of life in prison, portraying the inmates marching slowly in an endless circle, exercising their stiff limbs. The nearly monochromatic palette and the sense of confinement van Gogh created by the splayed walls in Prisoners Exercising heighten the monotony of the image of futile activity, reflecting Vincent's own frustration and discontent.

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Joseph Roulin to Vincent van Gogh. Marseille, Thursday, 24 October 1889.
Sir and dear friend Vincent
Excuse me if I did not reply immediately I received your letter; I was waiting for the family. They arrived in the first week of October in very good health, Marcelle is still more than beautiful, she calls everyone by their names, in fact she’s a little parrot, she makes the whole house happy, at last by dint of patience I came to be with my family. I found this absence very long, happily despite the great heat I spent my summer in very good health.
My wife was very happy to discover your kind letter on arrival, to learn from it that you are in good health.

In your letter you tell me that you have worked a lot, that you have twelve canvases prepared, I hope that you will finish them in good health and that these unfortunate crises will not recur any more; I am pleased that you are in correspondence with your brother and that your return to Paris is almost decided, I am charmed by it.
Like you, I have a very heavy heart to see you go further from us; let us hope that one day again we shall have the happiness to shake hands and to tell each other in person such good things and to cement our friendship once more; I am confident and am full of hope to see you again one day, I am pleased to see you moving closer to your brother. When you are a little more comfortable alongside him and his wife, I think it will do an enormous amount of good for your health. I think that if you go and settle in the environs of Paris you will take up your palette and brushes with much more strength, and from time to time you will be able to take on new strengths you have such need of, if you write to your brother give him my warm regards and those of my family.
I have not been to Arles again and I do not know when I would be able to go there, I often see people from Arles who give me news of Ginoux, people have told me that everybody was well.
All my family joins with me in sending you our best regards, we have my mother-in-law with us, Marcelle sends you a big kiss, as does Camille, who acts as my secretary. Armand has returned to work as a blacksmith in Lambesc.
Mr Vincent, please accept the sincere regards of all my family as well as those of him who declares himself your truly devoted friend.
I shake your hand in friendship.

Roulin, Railway Postman
rue Nicolas No. 46
third floor