Vincent Van Gogh arrived in Arles from Paris by train in February 1888. I’m guessing it took him a good deal longer than the four hours by TGV it took us to take the same journey just 8 months and 135 years later.
We’ve both had a soft spot for Van Gogh’s paintings, and the more we read, the more we realised that we were walking in his footsteps – literally. We ate at the Night Cafe (a whole other story) and indeed we found a number of sights that he painted in and around Arles.
A map from the local tourist office showed the locations of sites that he painted. A few hours later, we stepped through the gates of the medieval town wall and found ourselves looking at a surprisingly familiar looking river – it was indeed the Rhone.
Van Gogh is considered an impressionist painter, but what is amazing is just how accurately he captured the colours and light and reflections on the water
Starry Night Over the Rhone – Vincent van Gogh
A short walk along the embankment led us very near to where he stood to paint this scene. We lacked the stars, however, as it was heavily overcast and raining on and off.
It was said that he painted with three candles fixed to his hat – it’s a great romantic image – but in reality he stood beneath a gas lamp, one of the many lining the embankment.
Not so starry night over the Rhone
Returning to the scene about an hour after sun down in deep dusk I saw how the streetlamps cast their shimmering streaks of light on the water and realised just how precisely he had captured the scene.
A couple of dodgy looking characters showed some interest as I set up the tripod and took out the camera, so I wasn’t keen to hang around for too long. Nonetheless I took some 15 and 30 second exposures, and was pleased with the results as they appeared in the back screen of the camera.
The clouds reflected a dull brown, rather than the striking navy blue that we had seen on other skies while we were there – and of course there were no stars. But the light on the water really stood out for me. Let me know what you think in the comments below.