Van Gogh goes for long walks in the vicinity of the asylum to take in the nature. In October he walks to the Les Alpilles mountain range for the first time. There he finds a ‘beautiful melancholy’ in the rock formations. He tries to use a ‘tauter drawing style’ to depict the spirit of this place convincingly.

Suppressed passion

Using short brushstrokes and a multitude of colours, he paints the rocks and the brook ‘white and foaming like soapsuds’. He leaves the canvas unpainted in many areas. ‘This imparts atmosphere and uses less paint.’ He tells Theo that the work demonstrates ‘suppressed passion’, but his brother finds it too stylized and too far-fetched.

Bowl-shaped formations

The name ‘Les Peiroulets’ is derived from the bowl-shaped formations that the rocks here have acquired through centuries of corrosion by mountain water. The inhabitants of the region called them ‘peirou’ or ‘peyrols’, which means something like ‘pots’. In 1891 a dam was built on the south side of the ravine, permanently changing the character of the place.