Jean Valjean and
the Buddhist Monk
Van Gogh in Anticipation of Gauguin
From the winter until the fall of 1888, when Gauguin joined Vincent in Arles, both artists made tremendous artistic strides. Vincent famously reached that "high yellow note" that allowed him to produce some of the most accomplished works in his oeuvre. And Gauguin in Pont-Aven finally broke free of all vestiges of Impressionism to create his first fully Symbolist paintings. It would be an exaggeration to say that the two artists' entirely epistolary relationship during this period proved indispensable to their artistic advances. But it certainly affected the content, the quantity, and, in subtle ways, the style of their output. On the emotional level, the impact was greatest on Vincent, who turned the prospect of sharing his "Yellow House" with Gauguin into an overriding obsession. Yet Gauguin, who received many letters from Vincent and could read those sent to Bernard, did not remain unaffected. He became absorbed by a sensibility whose depths he had hardly penetrated in Paris.
The central drama during these months was when and how Gauguin would make his way to Arles. As early as May, Theo and Vincent had offered to pay Gauguin's living expenses in Arles in exchange for paintings. Yet it would take