|Artist||Vincent van Gogh|
|Medium||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||73.5 cm × 91.5 cm (28.9 in × 36 in)|
|Location||Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg|
Les Arènes is a painting by Vincent van Gogh executed in Arles, in November or December 1888, during the period of time when Paul Gauguin was living with him in The Yellow House. The bullfight season in Arles that year started on Easter Sunday 1 April and ended on 21 October. Van Gogh's painting is therefore not a study from nature but done from memory. Gauguin encouraged van Gogh to work in the studio in this manner. The painting may not be finished as the paint is very thinly applied, and patches of bare jute show through in places.
A matter of weeks after painting this canvas, van Gogh cut off part of his own ear. One of the many theories about this notorious incident is that the bullfights (or "bull games" as they are called in Arles) made a deep impression on van Gogh, in particular the custom of severing one ear of a defeated bull. The victorious matador circles the arena displaying this prize to the crowd, before presenting it to a lady of his choice. There is some doubt as to whether the bulls were killed in this fashion in Arles in van Gogh's time.
- L'Homme de Bronze, March 18, 1888, and October 21, 1888; see Roland Dorn 1990, p. 433. - L'Homme de Bronze and Le Forum Républicain were the two newspapers, edited in Arles in these years.
- Gayford, Martin. The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles, Fig Tree, Penguin, 2006, ISBN 0-670-91497-5. page 152
- for example, Arnold, Wilfred N. Vincent van Gogh: Chemicals, Crises, and Creativity, Birkhãuser, Boston, 1992. ISBN 0-8176-3616-1. page 253
- The theory is attributed to J. Olivier of Saint Rémy de Provence, see for example, Lubin, Albert J. (1961). 'Vincent Van Gogh's Ear' in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 30:351-384, and by the same author Stranger on the earth: A psychological biography of Vincent van Gogh, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1972. ISBN 0-03-091352-7, page 158. The substance of the theory is described in a 1951 letter to V. W. van Gogh (the artist's nephew) ... letter A13
- Graetz, H. R., The Symbolic Language of Vincent van Gogh, McGraw-Hill 1963