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Joseph Roulin (The Postmaster) and Vincent van Gogh

Joseph Roulin (The Postmaster) Biographies Tragedies and Triumphs Nineteenth Century Life Visual Arts

Joseph Roulin was a good friend of Vincent van Gogh's when the artist lived in the yellow house at Arles. Van Gogh painted Joseph, and the members of his family, several times. 

This portrait, of Joseph himself, is from Vincent's work in 1888.

After Vincent quarreled with a visiting fellow-artist, Paul Gauguin—thereafter cutting off a piece of his own left ear)—Joseph watched after his friend and sent his observations (about Vincent's condition) to van Gogh's brother, Theo. 

In his letter of 26 December 1888, Roulin reported distressing news:

I have been to see your brother Vincent. I promised to tell you what I thought of him. I am sorry to tell you that I think he is lost. Not only is his mind affected, but also he is very weak and despondent. He recognized me but did not show any pleasure at seeing me and didn't ask about any member of my family nor anyone else that he knows. 

When I left him I told him that I would come back to see him; he replied that we would meet again in heaven, and from his manner I understand that he was saying a prayer. From what the porter told me, I think that they are taking the necessary steps to have him placed in a mental hospital.

Since 1955, this famous painting of the postman, Joseph Roulin, has been owned by the Kunstmuseum Winterthur (in Switzerland).

Click on the image for a full-page view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Dec 13, 2017


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Web Gallery of Art.

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