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". . . I have made portraits of a whole family, that of the postman whose head I had done previously--the man, his wife, the baby, the little boy, and the son of sixteen, all characters and very French, though the first has the look of a Russian."

Vincent van Gogh
Letter 560
c. 4 December 1888


I've had an interest in the Roulin family for a long while now. Vincent van Gogh's time in Arles, France was a pivotal point in his life. After years of study and struggle Vincent moved to the south in an attempt to further explore his art. Many of Van Gogh's most renowned works originated in Arles.

And yet, at the period in which Vincent was at his most productive, he was alone. Called "fou-rou" (crazy red-head) by many of the townspeople of Arles, Vincent was often viewed with suspicion and scorn. A number of Vincent's letters to his brother, Theo, reflect his isolation and his loneliness.

And yet one family welcomed Vincent and encouraged his work. In many respects, the Roulin family were Vincent's only friends in Arles. Always challenged to find willing subjects for his portraits, Vincent found the Roulins to be extremely accommodating and patient. In total, Van Gogh painted or sketched 25 works of the Roulin family--each of which is listed below. Thanks to the old postman, Joseph Roulin, and his family--to their kindness toward this eccentric and troubled painter--Vincent was able to produce some of his best loved works.

I'd like this section to not only serve as an amalgamated listing of the Roulin portraits, but I also hope to create a more in-depth exploration of this family. Information about the Roulins isn't easy to come by (the article below is more than 45 years old), but I'm always looking for more background material.

  • Profiles: The Roulin Family
  • The Roulin family tree
  • Anyone with an interest in Vincent van Gogh and a love of his works truly owes a debt of gratitude to "la famille Roulin" of Arles, France.

    Painting Name

    Origin

    Date

    Current Location

    F

    JH

    Thumbnail

    Baby Marcelle Roulin, The Arles December, 1888 Vaduz (Liechtenstein), Fondation Socindec 441a 1640

    Baby Marcelle Roulin, The Arles December, 1888 Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art 440 1639

    Baby Marcelle Roulin, The Arles December, 1888 Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum 441 1641

    Joseph Roulin, Sitting in a Cane Chair, Three-Quarter-Length (drawing) Arles 31 July-3 August, 1888 New York, private collection 1723 1523

    Joseph Roulin, Three-Quarter-Length (drawing) Arles 4-8 August 1888 Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. George Gard de Sylva Collection 1459 1547

    La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin) Arles March, 1889 Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum 507 1672

    La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin) Arles February, 1889 Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 508 1671

    La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin) Arles January, 1889 Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago 506 1670

    La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin) Arles December, 1888 Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum 504 1655

    La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin) Arles January, 1889 New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 505 1669

    Mother Roulin with Her Baby Arles November-December, 1888 New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art 491 1638

    Mother Roulin with Her Baby Arles November-December, 1888 Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art 490 1637

    Portrait of Armand Roulin Arles November-December, 1888 Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen 493 1643

    Portrait of Armand Roulin Arles November-December, 1888 Essen, Museum Folkwang 492 1642

    Portrait of Camille Roulin Arles November-December, 1888 Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art 537 1644

    Portrait of Camille Roulin Arles November-December, 1888 Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum 538 1645

    Portrait of Madame Augustine Roulin Arles November-December, 1888 Winterthur, Collection Oskar Reinhart 503 1646

    Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin Arles Early August, 1888 Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 432 1522

    Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin Arles Early August, 1888 Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts 433 1524

    Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin (drawing) Arles August, 1888 Malibu (Cal.), J. Paul Getty Museum 1458 1536

    Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin Arles April, 1889 Merion Station (Pa.), Barnes Foundation 435 1674

    Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin Arles April, 1889 New York, Museum of Modern Art 436 1675

    Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin Arles April, 1889 Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum 439 1673

    Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin Arles November-December, 1888 Winterthur, Kunstmuseum Winterthur 434 1647

    Schoolboy (Camille Roulin), The Arles Early December, 1888 Sao Paulo, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo 665 1879


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