Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin by Vincent van Gogh
“Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin” by Vincent van Gogh is one of six paintings that van Gogh painted of his close friend, from the southern French town of Arles.
Joseph Roulin, the local postman, was one of his favorite sitters in Arles. Van Gogh wrote to his brother:
“I am now at work with another model, a postman in a blue uniform, trimmed with gold, a big bearded face, very like Socrates.”
Van Gogh painted several portraits of Joseph Roulin and Madame Roulin, as well as their children. The “Roulin Family” is a group of portrait paintings that Vincent van Gogh painted in Arles in 1888 and 1889.
Van Gogh loved to paint portraits. However, it was difficult for financial reasons for him to find models. Fortunately, the entire family agreed to sit for Van Gogh over several sittings, and each was a delight for Van Gogh.
Postman Joseph Roulin, 1888 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
In this painting, as in most of his art, Van Gogh used his imagination, colors, and themes artistically and creatively to evoke desired emotions from the audience. Van Gogh and Joseph Roulin became good friends and drinking companions.
Van Gogh compared Roulin to Socrates on many occasions. He found him Roulin be “such a good soul and so wise and so full of feeling and so trustful.”
Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1889 at the Kröller-Müller Museum
Van Gogh said of his pictures:
“the only thing in painting that excites me to the depths of my soul,
and which makes me feel the infinite more than anything else.”
“in a picture, I want to say something comforting as music is comforting.
I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize,
and which we seek to communicate by the actual radiance
and vibration of our coloring.”
Vincent van Gogh and Japanese Art
These portraits of the Postman Joseph Roulin by Vincent van Gogh reflected his deep interest in Japanese prints. Van Gogh discovered Japanese Art in magazine illustrations of artwork created by woodblock prints using Japanese techniques that depicted Japanese life.
In 1885, van Gogh started collecting “ukiyo-e” prints that he bought in small Parisian shops.
Van Gogh shared these prints with his contemporaries and organized a Japanese print exhibition in Paris in 1887. One version of Van Gogh’s Portrait of Pere Tanguy (1887) featured a backdrop of Japanese prints.
Japanese woodblock prints inspired him, and in his works, he reflected the vibrancy of color and light that he observed in Japanese woodblock prints.
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent Willem van Gogh is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western Art. Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime and was considered a madman and a failure.
He created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life. They were characterized by bold colors and dramatic, impulsive, and expressive brushwork that contributed to modern art’s foundations.
Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin
- Title: Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin or “Joseph-Etienne Roulin”
- Artist: Vincent van Gogh
- Year: 1889
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions 66.2 × 55 cm (26.1 × 21.7 in)
- Museum: The Barnes Foundation
Van Gogh’s Portraits of Joseph Roulin
Vincent van Gogh
- Name: Vincent Willem van Gogh
- Born: 1853 – Zundert, Netherlands
- Died: 1890 (aged 37) – Auvers-Sur-Oise, France
- Resting place: Cimetière d’Auvers-Sur-Oise, Auvers-Sur-Oise, France
- Nationality: Dutch
- Movement: Post-Impressionism
- Notable works:
- Starry Night
- Starry Night Over the Rhône
- Irises (Getty Museum)
- Self Portrait, dedicated to Paul Gauguin
- Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin
- White House at Night
- The Night Café
- Self-Portrait as a Painter
- Self Portrait with Felt Hat
- Green Wheat Field with Cypress
- The Raising of Lazarus
- Self-Portrait’ Mutilated Ear
- Café Terrace at Night
- Tarascon Stagecoach
- Wheatfield with Crows
- Bedroom in Arles
- Portrait of the Artist’s Mother
Vincent van Gogh, Joseph Roulin, 1888
- Vase with Red Poppies
- Memory of the Garden at Etten
- Great Peacock Moth
- Farmhouse in Provence
- Agostina Segatori Sitting in the Café du Tambourin
- Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries
- Seascape at Saintes-Maries
- Girl in White
- Young Peasant Woman with Straw Hat Sitting in the Wheat
- Van Gogh’s Chair
- Gauguin’s Chair
- Road with Cypress and Star
- Almond Blossoms
- The Church at Auvers
- The Yellow House
- Portrait of Père Tanguy
- Portrait of Doctor Félix Rey
- Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background
- The Red Vineyard
- View of Vessenots Near Auvers
Vincent van Gogh’s The Postman
“The best way to know God is to love many things.”
– Vincent van Gogh
Photo Credit: 1) Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons