Vincent van Gogh. Portrait of Joseph Roulin. Arles, early 1889

Vincent van Gogh

Portrait of Joseph Roulin

Arles, early 1889

Oil on canvas
25 3/8 x 21 3/4" (64.4 x 55.2 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William A. M. Burden, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Rosenberg, Nelson A. Rockefeller, Mr. and Mrs. Armand P. Bartos, The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection, Mr. and Mrs. Werner E. Josten, and Loula D. Lasker Bequest (all by exchange)
Object number
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view on Floor 5, in a Collection Gallery, with 19 other works online.
Vincent van Gogh has 6 works  online.
There are 2,374 paintings online.

This portrait of Joseph Roulin is one of six van Gogh painted of his close friend, a postal employee in the southern French town of Arles, a fifteen-hour train ride from Paris. Van Gogh had moved to Arles in 1888, hoping to create an artists cooperative there. The plan never came to fruition, and the artist became lonely and isolated. He found comfort and companionship with the Roulin family, and they are the subjects of many of his paintings. In this portrait, Roulin is depicted in the uniform he always wore proudly, set against an imaginative backdrop of swirling flowers. In a letter to his brother Theo, the artist wrote that, of all genres, "the modern portrait" excited him the most: "I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize, and which we try to convey by the actual radiance and vibration of our coloring."

Gallery label from 2012

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Theo van Gogh (1857–1891), Paris. 1889 – 1891
Mme Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam (Theo van Gogh’s widow), Amsterdam. 1891 – 1923
Leicester Galleries, London (agent for Jo van Gogh-Bonger). December 1923
Tate Gallery (National Gallery Millbank), London. Acquired from Jo van Gogh-Bonger at Leicester Galleries. Purchase funded by the Courtauld Trustees, December 1923– [February] 1924
Mme Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, Amsterdam. [February] 1924 (agreed to take back The Portrait of Joseph Roulin from the Tate, in exchange for Sunflowers F454 JH1562)
Leicester Galleries, London (agent for Jo van Gogh-Bonger). February 1924
Galerie Thannhauser, Lucerne. Purchased form Leicester Galleries by Siegfried Rosengart (partner of Heinrich Thannhauser, the Munich gallery owner) for Galerie Thannhauser, Lucerne, on February 21, 1924– March 30, 1926
Bernhard Mayer, Zurich. Purchased from Siegfried Rosengart (partner of Heinrich Thannhauser, Munich), June 30, 1926 – at least 1930
Ernst Mayer and Gabrielle Mayer (Bernhard Mayer’s children), Zurich and Ascona. Inherited from Bernhard Mayer, by 1946
Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich. On consignment from Swiss private collection, by 1989
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired from Thomas Ammann Fine Art through exchange and sale of seven works of art, 1989

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