The Langlois Bridge, 1888

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Canvas, 54 x 65 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
  • F 400

A month after his arrival in the southern French town of Arles, Vincent van Gogh painted a number of versions of this drawbridge. It crossed the Arles canal, which connected Arles with Pont-du-Bouc, further to the south. The bridge, officially called the Pont de Réginelle, was better known by the name Pont de Langlois, after its keeper. The work in the Van Gogh Museum is the last in a series of three. Earlier versions, all painted in better weather, show washerwomen on the bank and a small coach on the bridge.

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Unlike the rapidly-executed grass and the path in the foreground, the bridge is depicted with great attention to detail. Van Gogh has accurately reproduced its various materials: the stone piers, the heavy wooden beams and even the ropes used to lift the roadway section. Close examination reveals that ropes are also attached to the ends of the wooden lifting gear. Van Gogh executed these in a red-brown color, but they have faded with the passage of time.

The reflection of the bridge in the water is also finely rendered: under the gangway, it is lighter, while the stone piers are a dark patch in the water. The canal leads to a second bridge in the distance, which Van Gogh painted with just a few brushstrokes.

‘Something funny’

In this painting, Van Gogh depicted a spot in the Provençal landscapewhere something in the atmosphere felt Dutch – or, as he himself described it: ‘something funny […] I will not create every day.’ Van Gogh was satisfied with both its theme and composition, and suggested that Theo offer an earlier version to an art-dealer in the Netherlands. He had a special frame in mind for thispicture: ‘n royal blue and gold, as follows: front, blue; the side, gold. If necessary, the frame could also be covered in blue plush, but painted would be better.’

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