GOGH, Vincent van
(b. 1853, Groot Zundert, d. 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise)

Ladies of Arles (Memory of the Garden at Etten)

November 1888, Arles
Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Catalogue numbers: F 496, JH 1630.

Etten is the Dutch town in which the 18-year-old van Gogh lived with his parents in 1881. The women in the left-hand corner resemble his mother and sister. The landscape is utterly fantastic, painted from the imagination according to the advice of Paul Gauguin, with whom van Gogh was keeping company. But the painting displays far less Gauguin-esque symbolism than it does van Gogh's explosive temperament: the trees, like tongues of fire, are a reminder of the vividness of youthful experiences.