Prisoners Exercising, 1890 by Vincent Van Gogh

There is little doubt to the significance of this painting that was done in February 1890, at a particularly troubled time in Van Gogh's life. He was severely depressed and desperate to leave the stultifying environs of the asylum at Soint-Remy, but it had been decided that he would not be fit to cope alone until the spring. His feelings of being physically trapped, and mentally caught in a perpetual cycle of mental illness beyond his control are clearly evident.

Prisoners Exercising was actually made after a print of Newgate Prison in London by Dore, whose work Van Gogh had admired for some years. Van Gogh had begun to collect graphic illustrations from magazines in the early 1880s, and added prints of Doumier, Paul Gavami (1804-66) and Dore to his collection. He then referred to these works in later years (as well as multiple prints of Millet's paintings), often making several copies of a single image. The prints were in block and white, so Van Gogh improvised with the colour, and gave the paintings his own visual interpretation,