The good Samaritan (after Delacroix)

Vincent van Gogh1890-05

Kröller-Müller Museum

Kröller-Müller Museum
Otterlo, Netherlands

Following another serious breakdown, Van Gogh copies an engraving of The Good Samaritan by Delacroix. Copying does not mean that he slavishly imitates the revered master. He works from a black and white reproduction of the work and makes his own translation in colour and on canvas, based on his memories of the painting.

Delacroix is Van Gogh’s spiritual mentor in colour, which is apparent in the contrasts of blue/violet-yellow and red-green. He works with heavy lines and wavy brushwork. ‘The vague consonance of colours that are in the same sentiment, if not right – that’s my own interpretation.’

It does not seem coincidental that Van Gogh chooses Delacroix’s Samaritan, the compassionate man who interrupts his journey to help a defenceless man who has been robbed. Van Gogh also has to recover. And with this painting, perhaps he also alludes to his brother Theo, his own good Samaritan who is always there for him.


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