Vincent van Gogh painted at least six portraits of Joseph Roulin, a close friend and important model. Roulin worked for the postal service in Arles, where Van Gogh lived from 1888 to 1889. The paintings depict Joseph, his wife Augustine, and their three children as part of “The Roulin Family” portrait series executed by the artist.
Van Gogh idealized Roulin and held him in high regard in both his letters and pictures. Although a letter carrier might be the image that comes to mind when thinking about postal workers, Roulin actually held a higher position as an official sorting mail at the train station in Arles.
The bold colors used by Van Gogh make each portrait stand out with dramatic, impulsive brushwork that captures Joseph’s features with expressive emotions. This style is characteristic of much of Van Gogh’s work during this time period.
One particular portrait of Joseph Roulin stands out among Van Gogh’s many portrayals. The painting captures the essence of friendship between two great individuals – one taking pleasure from capturing the other’s likeness on canvas while inspiring by simply being themselves.