St. Rémy is a small town in the Alpilles region of Provence. Lush valleys surround the town, and its old streets are lined with beautifully restored old homes and business buildings. It was where Van Gogh spent a year in hospital, after the ear-cutting incident. We arrived on Market Day and were soon wandering amongst the various vendors in market stalls along multiple streets and plazas. While we wandered along the crowded narrow winding streets we discovered fantastic old fountains, shady squares, picturesque restaurants and elegant boutiques.
After spending time in the market, we then did the "Van Gogh" walk to the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole where Vincent Van Gogh voluntarily admitted himself after his breakdown. The walk was clearly laid out with brass markers in the sidewalk and many signposts along the way.
The signposts included an example of one of the paintings created while at the hospital and often quotes from his letters explaining his thought processes of the painting and his life.
The hospital remains a mental health facility. The parts open to the public (4€) are separated from patient areas. Within the former chapter houses, there is a permanent exhibition of works for sale, created by the patients at an art therapy studio. The property is grand and tranquil.
As you walk towards the hospital there is a large olive tree orchard where Vincent was inspired to paint. This was his painting:
... and this is today's reality
The building where Vincent stayed was above the cloister of the former monastery. The facility catered to wealthy patrons and was less than half full when Van Gogh arrived, which allowed him to not only have his bedroom but he was also granted use of a ground-floor room to use as a painting studio.
His bedroom was modest but had a great view of the gardens and had enough space for him to finish his paintings in his room or studio.
Here he found the serenity he was seeking and he became fascinated with the quality of lights and the surrounded landscapes. He felt inspired and supported by the nuns and nurses. He created 143 oil paintings and more than 100 drawings in the 53 weeks of his confinement. His Saint Rémy years are considered to be a major period of his works. Unfortunately for Vincent, he was discharged in May 1890 and took his own life only two months later.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and the Van Gogh walk. We only had half a day with the main attraction being the Hospital. It was a charming town with great dedication to Van Gogh and the long tradition of making art in this region.
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