Vincent van Gogh’s friendship with Joseph Roulin, the postmaster in Arles, played a significant role in the artist’s life during his stay in Southern France. Roulin became one of Van Gogh’s closest friends and favorite sitters. At least six portraits of Roulin were painted during this time period, showcasing Van Gogh’s love for capturing the character and soul of his subjects.
The paintings also highlight Van Gogh’s strong connection to Japanese art, which he discovered through magazine illustrations. This influence is evident in some of the portraits where Van Gogh experimented with bold colors and stylized lines inspired by Japanese woodblock prints.
Van Gogh painted over 20 portraits of Roulin and his family during their friendship, showcasing their difficult lives as working-class people. The artwork stands out due to its vibrant use of color and expressive brushwork that captures the emotion behind each portrait. For example, this particular portrait was created after Roulin left Arles for Marseilles when he secured a better-paying job. The painting conveys both Van Gogh’s nostalgia for their lost friendship and his admiration for Roulin’s resilience amid economic hardship.
In summary, Vincent van Gogh’s portraits of Joseph Roulin commemorate an important relationship that offered him companionship during difficult times while showcasing his admiration for Japanese artistry. Through these masterpieces, we can see the artist’s mastery over color theory and form while offering a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people living at that time in Southern France.