Vincent's Final Months
After a visit to Theo, Vincent is concerned about his financial future.
Biography, 1889 - 1890
Vincent van Gogh spent one year in the mental hospital in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Despite his unstable mental health, he was very productive: he made about 150 paintings in a year, including Almond Blossom.
Once Vincent arrived at the clinic in Saint-Rémy, he immediately began working again. On his good days, he often painted in the institution’s walled garden and he was later allowed to work outside the hospital too.
He was also given an extra room inside the clinic to use as a studio, where he produced a series of works, including copies of prints after paintings by artists like Rembrandt and Millet.
Vincent’s mental health continued to fluctuate. During one period of extreme confusion, he ate some of his oil paint, following which he was restricted to drawing for a while. Yet, Vincent was exceptionally productive at Saint-Rémy, where he completed around 150 paintings in the space of a year.
'As for me, my health is good, and as for the head it will, let’s hope, be a matter of time and patience.'
Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, between 31 May and 6 June 1889
Theo married Johanna (‘Jo’) Bonger in Amsterdam in April 1889. In January 1890, Vincent received a birth announcement in the mail at Saint-Rémy. Theo and Jo had named their son after him: Vincent Willem van Gogh. Vincent sent them a special painting from the hospital: Almond Blossom.
'I’d much rather that he’d called his boy after Pa, whom I’ve thought about so often these days, than after me, but anyway, as it’s been done now I started right away to make a painting for him, to hang in their bedroom. Large branches of white almond blossom against a blue sky.'
Vincent to his mother, 19 February 1890
Six of Vincent’s paintings were shown in Brussels in early 1890 at a group exhibition of the Belgian artists’ association ‘Les Vingt’ (‘The Twenty’).
The art critic Albert Aurier had already published a positive article about Van Gogh’s work and one of the exhibited paintings, The Red Vineyard, was sold during the show: Vincent’s work was beginning to be appreciated. This was not the first time it had been shown, however: Theo had been submitting his paintings since 1888 to the annual ‘Salon des Indépendants’ in Paris. Ten of Vincent’s works were selected for inclusion in March 1890, and the response was very positive:
'How pleased I would have been if you’d been there at the Independents’ exhibition. […] Your paintings are well placed and look very well. Many people came up to ask me to give you their compliments. Gauguin said that your paintings are the key to the exhibition.'
Theo to Vincent, Paris, 19 March 1890
Watch in this video to find out how Van Gogh's production in Saint-Rémy is related to his illness: