Vincent Van Gogh was born on this day in 1853

Word of the Day – Thursday, March 30th



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ARLES (ahrlz)

A city of south-central France on the Rhone River delta.
Common clues: City on the Rhone; Van Gogh painted here; Van Gogh's "The Bedroom at _____"; Where Van Gogh painted “Sunflowers”; Inspiring city for Van Gogh
Crossword puzzle frequency: 3 times a year
Frequency in English language: 40408 / 86800
Van Gogh in Arles

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream – Vincent Van Gogh

Arles is a city in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhone departement, of which it is a sous-prefecture, in the former province of Provence. Population (1999): 50,513.

The Rhone river divides itself in two arms in Arles, forming the Camargue delta. Because the Camargue is administratively part of Arles, the latter is the largest commune in France in terms of territory, although its population is only slightly more than 50,000. Its area is 759 km², which is seven times the area of Paris.

Arles is an ancient town, having been established by the Greeks as early as the 6th century BC under the name of Theline. It was captured by the Celtic Saluvii in 535 BC, who renamed it to Arelate. The Romans took the town in 123 BC and expanded it into an important city, with a canal link to the Mediterranean Sea being constructed in 104 BC. However, it struggled to escape the shadow of Massalia (Marseille) further along the coast.

Its chance came in 40 BC, when it sided with Julius Caesar against Pompey, providing military support. Massalia made the mistake of backing Pompey; when Caesar emerged victorious, Massalia was stripped of its possessions, which were transferred to Arelate as a reward. The town was formally established as a colony for veterans of the Roman legion Legio VI Ferrata, which had its base there. Its full title as a colony was Colonia Iulia Paterna Arelatensium Sextanorum, "the ancestral Julian colony of Arles of the soldiers of the Sixth."

Arles remained economically important for many years as a major port on the Rhone. The arrival of the railway in the 19th century eventually killed off much of the river trade, leading to the town becoming something of a backwater.

Starry Night Over the Rhone

This made it an attractive destination for the painter Vincent van Gogh, who arrived there on 21 February 1888. He was fascinated by the Provencal landscapes, producing over 300 paintings and drawings during his time in Arles. Many of his most famous paintings were completed there, including the Night Cafe, the Yellow Room, Starry Night Over the Rhone, and L'Arlesienne. Paul Gauguin visited van Gogh in Arles. However, van Gogh's mental health deteriorated and he became alarmingly eccentric, culminating in the infamous ear-severing incident in December 1888. The concerned Arlesians circulated a petition the following February demanding that van Gogh be confined. In May 1889 he took the hint and left Arles for the asylum at nearby Saint-Remy-de-Provence.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Arles".