Les Alyscamps is one of the old access roads to Arles. The long avenue of poplar trees, flanked by tombs from the Roman and early Christian times, is already a well-known tourist attraction in Van Gogh’s day and the ideal place for the Arlésiens and Arlésiennes to take an intimate stroll arm in arm.
In Falling leaves, Van Gogh places his viewpoint on a higher level, so that you look down on the scene. Because no horizon is visible and the three trees in the centre are directly in the foreground, an unusual perspective is created, which is reminiscent of Japanese prints. Incidentally, the trees were originally purple, but have turned blue due to discolouration of the red pigment in the paint.
The two figures on the left, ‘an old fellow and a fat woman, round as a ball’, are depicted with a few well-chosen, almost caricatural lines; a technique that Van Gogh admires in Japanese printmaking. With the third figure, a young woman in red, the artist seems to refer to the girls in search of a sweetheart in the ‘lovers’ lane’ of Arles.