One of the most famous and distinctive painters in the history of Western art, the works of Vincent van Gogh are bold, dramatic, vivid explosions of colour – the paint not so much brushed as sculpted thickly onto the canvass to create an impulsive, expressive style unlike any other before him. Born in the Netherlands, van Gogh travelled all over Europe throughout his adult life, producing many of his most famous pieces in the South of France. For art lovers, no trip to the region could possibly be complete without following in the artist’s footsteps to discover the places and landscapes that inspired the man and some of his greatest paintings.


Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Saint-Rémy de Provence

After a long spell in Paris, Vincent van Gogh arrived in Arles, Provence, inspired by the bright light and colours of the city itself and surrounding area. His plan was to stay only briefly in Arles and then move onto Marseille. He was in possession of a collection of Japanese prints and a great admirer of the landscapes they depicted. Van Gogh hoped to find similar surroundings in the South of France and believed he would do so in Marseille. However, he soon realised that the beautiful countryside of Arles contained everything he was searching for – and so here he stayed, never making it to Marseille.


Looking to establish a studio, he leased four rooms in the now-famous Yellow House in Place Lamertine. Unfortunately, the house itself no longer stands, having suffered bombing damage during World War II – though the street itself still attracts many visitors following the Vincent van Gogh trail.


(The Yellow House. Image source:


Just a few minutes’ walk away lies the river where the artist produced Starry Night over the Rhône, depicting one of the most glorious views of Arles at night – a scene which, indeed, remains largely unchanged today.


(Starry Night over the Rhône. Image source:


Vincent van Gogh spent well over a year in Arles. It is a period which is considered his most prolific. He produced nearly 200 paintings and drawings during this time, including Bedroom in Arles, The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Vase with 12 Sunflowers, and Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. He also visited and painted scenes from neighbouring villages, including Montpellier, Saintes Maries and Tarascon.


In Arles itself is the Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles – an exhibition venue that showcases contemporary works inspired by the Dutch artist, as well as some of his own minor drawings and paintings (his major works are scattered amongst galleries around the world). Guided van Gogh walking tours of Arles can be booked at the Fondation.


The epitome of the tortured artist, Vincent van Gogh suffered with mental illness, eventually voluntarily admitting himself to the Saint Paul de Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy in 1889. He completed another 150 paintings during his time here among the olive gardens and cypresses in the village and the Alpilles mountains. You can still visit Saint Paul de Mausole, many of the landscapes van Gogh painted, and view twenty or so large-scale reproductions of his most famous paintings displayed in the very places they were produced.


Charles Mackintosh South of France Property Surveyor

No trip to the South of France would be complete without following in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh in Arles. You may, however, be considering a permanent relocation to the area. With decades of experience buying and selling property all over the South of France, Charles Mackintosh is at your service. Get in touch today for more information.