Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh spent much of the last years of his life in France. The artist’s stay in Arles is perhaps one of his most well known periods as he spent nine-weeks with Gaugin there and painted 300 works. The final year of his life though was spent in Saint Rémy-de-Provence, just northeast of Arles, before his fateful trip to Auver-sur-Oise. The year was 1889 and the ill and depressed Van Gogh travelled to Saint Rémy-de-Provence where he checked himself into the Saint Paul de Mausole Asylum and escaped from the world.
Van Gogh spent an entire year in the asylum at Saint Rémy-de-Provence and it was in the moments between bouts of madness and inspiration that he would paint. Upon arriving at the hospital, the artist turned his cell into a studio and managed to paint 150 works there and on the hospital’s grounds. Some of his greatest pieces grew out of this time including Wheat Field with Cypresses, Irises and the incomparable Starry Night, which captures the night over Saint Rémy. In fact, much of what you can see in Van Gogh’s work from the time is still in Saint Rémy like the wheat fields, olives trees and the asylum itself and there are sign markers all over the city pointing out where to find them.
The town also has a plethora of other historical sites to visit including the Roman ruins of Les Antiques, which date to about 20 A.D, the Mausolee des Jules, a funerary monument from 30-20 B.C. and Galum, the most important Roman excavation site in France. It is interesting to note also that another madman also spent time in Saint Rémy, Nostradamus was born in the town in 1503.
Buses to Saint Rémy leave Arles 5-6 times per day and take about 50 minutes or if you are driving, expect only a half-hour trip.