During this period Van Gogh mastered the use of light by subjugating shadows and painting the trees as if they are the source of light – almost in a sacred manner.[252] Early the following year he painted another smaller group of orchards, including View of Arles, Flowering Orchards.[254] Van Gogh was enthralled by the landscape and vegetation of the south of France, and often visited the farm gardens near Arles. In the vivid light of the Mediterranean climate his palette significantly brightened.[255]
Van Gogh stayed within what he called the "guise of reality",[218] and was critical of overly stylised works.[219] He wrote afterwards that the abstraction of Starry Night had gone too far and that reality had "receded too far in the background".[219] Hughes describes it as a moment of extreme visionary ecstasy: the stars are in a great whirl, reminiscent of Hokusai's Great Wave, the movement in the heaven above is reflected by the movement of the cypress on the earth below, and the painter's vision is "translated into a thick, emphatic plasma of paint".[220]
After seeing the portrait of Adolphe Monticelli at the Galerie Delareybarette, Van Gogh adopted a brighter palette and a bolder attack, particularly in paintings such as his Seascape at Saintes-Maries (1888).[104][105] Two years later, Vincent and Theo paid for the publication of a book on Monticelli paintings, and Vincent bought some of Monticelli's works to add to his collection.[106]
In Paris in 1901 a large Van Gogh retrospective was held at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, which excited André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, and contributed to the emergence of Fauvism.[269] Important group exhibitions took place with the Sonderbund artists in Cologne in 1912, the Armory Show, New York in 1913, and Berlin in 1914.[273] Henk Bremmer was instrumental in teaching and talking about Van Gogh,[274] and introduced Helene Kröller-Müller to Van Gogh's art; she became an avid collector of his work.[275] The early figures in German Expressionism such as Emil Nolde acknowledged a debt to Van Gogh's work.[276] Bremmer assisted Jacob Baart de la Faille, whose catalogue raisonné L'Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh appeared in 1928.[277][note 15]
Ill from drink and suffering from smoker's cough, in February 1888 Van Gogh sought refuge in Arles.[14] He seems to have moved with thoughts of founding an art colony. The Danish artist Christian Mourier-Petersen became his companion for two months, and at first Arles appeared exotic. In a letter, he described it as a foreign country: "The Zouaves, the brothels, the adorable little Arlésienne going to her First Communion, the priest in his surplice, who looks like a dangerous rhinoceros, the people drinking absinthe, all seem to me creatures from another world."[114]
By this time van Gogh was ready for such lessons, and the changes that his painting underwent in Paris between the spring of 1886 and February 1888 led to the creation of his personal idiom and style of brushwork. His palette at last became colourful, his vision less traditional, and his tonalities lighter, as may be seen in his first paintings of Montmartre. By the summer of 1887 he was painting in pure colours and using broken brushwork that is at times pointillistic. Finally, by the beginning of 1888, van Gogh’s Post-Impressionist style had crystallized, resulting in such masterpieces as Portrait of Père Tanguy and Self-Portrait in Front of the Easel, as well as in some landscapes of the Parisian suburbs.