The Tarascon Diligence, 1888 by Van Gogh

Van Gogh had littie difficulty in discovering new motifs in Arles. The town and its environs offered a host of subjects which the erudite artist had long wished to paint.

A good example of this is The Tarascon Diligence which, like the paintings preceding it, was intended to decorate the yellow house. Van Gogh greatly admired Alphonse Daudet's Tartarin de Tarascon, published in 1872, which includes in its cast of characters a talking diligence, or horse-drawn carriage, from Tarascon, which complains about its banishment to Algeria. On 13 October he wrote to Theo and asked: 'Have you re-read Tartarin yet? Don't forget! Do you remember the wonderful part in it with the lament of the old Tarascon diligence? Well, I have just painted the same vehicle in red and green in the courtyard of the inn'.

The painting depicts the gaily-coloured coach in bright sunshine. 'This quick sketch will give you an idea of the composition. The foreground, plain grey sand, the background also very plain - pink and yellow walls with green shutters over the windows, a patch of blue sky. The two vehicles are extremely colourful, green and red, yellow wheels, black, blue and orange'. Van Gogh has adopted Monticelli's impasto style, but his canvas is vastly superior to the example he had chosen. The almost raw brushwork has tremendous vitality and conveys a sense of immediacy. It is a charming painting, with rich contrasts in the composition, showing the brightly-coloured vehicles sandwiched, as it were, between a virtually empty foreground and a relatively plain background.