Patrick Noon

Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin were probably two of the most ardent admirers of Delacroix’s work in Paris. Van Gogh went to the Arles to set up the Studio of the South, and he wanted to invite a huge number of younger artists to come down and they would have this community and they would be, they would produce great art. He couldn’t interest anybody except Gauguin whom he knew in Paris. They painted together and they apparently had really heated conversations about what art is, and Van Gogh was a very demanding person. And I think it just got really bad in terms of the relationship with the two of these guys together in a room and trying to first of all make ends meet and then come to some understanding about what each of them wants to try to do with art. But in the end they had a falling out, and Van Gogh went off and came back with his ear cut off, and I think that was the end of that for Gauguin, he was not going to stay around anymore. Shortly thereafter Van Gogh committed himself to an asylum to try to recover.

While he is there, he gets a letter from Gauguin, and Gauguin has in this letter a sketch, he must have known from Theo that Van Gogh was painting olive trees. He had nothing else he could do there, he didn’t have money for models, so he was painting the olive trees. Van Gogh related olive trees to Delacroix because he felt that Delacroix had you know actually seen them and when he went south and that he understood them.

So I think Gauguin must have got wind of the fact that Van Gogh was painting olive trees at the asylum and he sends this letter in which he includes little sketch of a painting he has just completed called Christ in the Garden of Olives which we have in the show. And in that picture he says I’ve done something very synthetic. I’ve taken color to its extremes and he has put his features and Van Gogh’s hair on the figure of Christ. The figure of Christ itself he has borrowed from a Delacroix, another Delacroix image that he knew.

Van Gogh gets very upset. He says this is wrong, you shouldn’t be doing this. There are only two people in the world who were able to paint Christ, one was Rembrandt and the other was Delacroix, and we have no business doing this. You should really be painting your garden. Gauguin writes back and he says, okay, you know I am sorry. I didn’t mean to offend, and Van Gogh writes to Theo and says, they are driving me crazy with the Christ in the Gardens. So I’ve been out in olive groves painting every day and I have done five pictures so far, one of which is the painting in the show.

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