Van Gogh's The Red Vineyard was notably the only painting sold by the artist during his lifetime, purchased by Anna Boch, an Impressionist painter and art collector, during an exhibition in 1890. Painted from memory, like many of his natural scenes, the work harbors the vibrancy of lived experience rather than the naturalistic pulse of a reproduction from life. The Red Vineyard depicts a team of farm workers hand-harvesting the grape vines from the incandescent field. Bright and penetrating, the sun exacerbates the difficulty of the task before the farmhands, as the low horizon of Arles in Provence signals the end of the day. The work was to be in vain as unfortunately, contemporary accounts, as well an exchange of letters between Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin suggest that the wine produced from the crop may have been tainted by bad weather.
Having moved to Arles earlier in 1888 to recuperate from a range of ailments, Van Gogh proceeded to explore the winding city streets, the hues and shifts of light in Provence, before the cataclysmic visit he received from his Paris-acquaintance, Gaugin in 1890. This period, the most productive of his short career, was driven by his adoration of the effects of light that he noticed in the French countryside. The Red Vineyard is an experiential reproduction of the artist's state of mind, fusing the vivid contrasts of the Impressionists working on capturing the pace of the city with the fraught, mood-swings of his Arles landscapes. Personally acquainted with artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Emile Bernard, Camille Pissarro, and John Russell, Van Gogh's creative output in Arles following his two years in Paris were a calculated rejection of the principles of the Impressionists.
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