Sunday, February 22, 2009

La Berceuse

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)
La Berceuse (Woman Rocking a Cradle; Augustine-Alix Pellicot Roulin, 1851–1930), 1889
Oil on canvas; 36 1/2 x 29 in. (92.7 x 73.7 cm)
Signed and dated (on arm of chair): vincent / arles 89; inscribed (lower right): La / Berceuse
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Augustine Roulin, 1851–1930, was the wife of his friend, Joseph Roulin, the postmaster of Arles

Van Gogh painted five versions of this theme shortly before his self-mutilation and final break with Gauguin. It was completed after he left hospital.

Augustine, Joseph and their children became for Van Gogh an image of robust, familial warmth.

He said it was a picture that might console fishermen far out at sea in a storm. Instead of being thrown about by the ocean, they would feel they were being rocked in a cradle and remember their own childhood lullabies.

Although Van Gogh regarded it as a work of religious art, his categorisation of it as such cannot be sustained.

It is an allegory of motherhood. It is a sad and poignant reminder of the suffering which Van Gogh sustained and endured at a particularly difficult time of his life.