In February 1888, tired of the bustle of Parisian life and in search of warmth and tranquility, Van Gogh moved to the southern French town of Arles. He sought inspiration from the landscape and light of the south and - as in the Netherlands - rural life. He painted the blossoming fruit trees and the cornfields just outside town. His ambition was still to be a real figure painter and, after some searching, he was able to find people that were willing to pose for him; The Seated Zouave, Armand Roulin, La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin) and the Postman Joseph Roulin.
Van Gogh hoped to establish an artists' colony with his friend
Paul Gauguin and other painters in the 'Yellow
House' which he rented from May
1888. He painted his famous still-lifes with Sunflowers, and other works, to
decorate the house. After a great deal of persuasions, Gauguin finally arrived
in October. However, towards the end of the year, the first signs of Van Gogh's
mental illness began to appear, probably a form of epilepsy that took the form
of delusions and psychotic attacks.
It was during one of these seizures that Van Gogh cut off his left earlobe. Gauguin made a hasty departure and Van Gogh's dreams of founding an artist's colony disappeared.