Pink Peach Trees, 1888 by Van Gogh

By early 1888 the situation between Van Gogh and his brother Theo had become desperate, and their living arrangement impossible. The Paris that hod at first so attracted Van Gogh he now found stultifying and claustrophobic. In a letter to Theo he explained, 'It seems to me almost impossible to work in Paris unless one has some place of retreat where one can recuperate and get one's tranquillity and poise back'. On 20 February 1888 Van Gogh visited Seurat's studio with Theo for the first and last time, and afterwards boarded a train to Arles in the south of France. Armed with the preconceived idea that the south was an artistic Elysium full of warmth, peace and exotic colours, Van Gogh wrote to Gauguin, 'I always remember the emotions the trip from Paris to Arles evoked. How I kept watching to see if I had already reached Japan! Childish isn't it?' Ironically, when he did arrive in Arles it was cloaked in snow, but as the snow melted the trees burst into bloom, and his notions of the south were for a short time born out.