GOGH, Vincent van
(b. 1853, Groot Zundert, d. 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise)
Portrait of Lieutenant Milliet (The Zouave)June 1888, Arles
Oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm
Catalogue numbers: F 424, JH 1488.
In Arles van Gogh made the acquaintance of a Zouave, a soldier in the Algerian Infantry. He persuaded him to sit for three paintings and two drawings, and in return gave him advice on his painting. Van Gogh painted his friend in full Zouave uniform, brilliant in colour and exotic in style. He wrote to his brother of the difficulties he had encountered in managing the harsh and incongruous colours of the uniform, but explained that he liked to be working on vulgar, loud portraits such as this one. The appeal of the Zouave as a subject for a modern portrait lay not only in his non-bourgeois and non-urban crudity but also in his association with the South. Milliet saw service in Algeria, which was for van Gogh associated both with Delacroix and with the healthiness of a more primitive society.