Joseph Roulin is Van Gogh's close friend when he was staying at southern French town Arles during 1888-1889. In 1888, van Gogh moved to Arles, in
hope of exploring more artistic sensation in the unspoilt countryside. But after he moved here he found himself lonely and isolated. The friendship
with postal officer Joseph Roulin and his family offered Van Gogh comfort and companionship. He painted about 20 paintings for Joseph Roulin and his family.
Van Gogh was very proud of this portait and wrote to his brother Theo about this drawing. He mentioned "the modern portrait" excited him the most. As he explained further, "I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize, and which we try to convey by the actual radiance and vibration of our coloring."