This religious-themed, oil-on-paper work by Vincent Van Gogh was painted in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in May, 1890. It's unique because the title refers to another artist, Rembrandt. An earlier work by Rembrandt, based on a similar theme, is what inspired this painting. Rembrandt was Dutch like Van Gogh, yet he was from an earlier time. Van Gogh based his work on part of one of Rembrandt's originals. Rembrandt's version of the painting featured Christ with his arm raised. Van Gogh's version featured a 'Lasarus' that is thought to represent the painter himself. The painter has chosen to concentrate less on the divine aspects of the original, to highlight the human side, rather than the divine aspects. The painter also features two ladies who were well-known to the painter. The lady in green was Mrs. Roulin, whereas the lady in stripes was Mrs. Ginoux. This work is concentrated on the theme of human suffering and the 'Lasarus' of the painting is considered by some to a self-portrait by the artist. The 'Lasarus' sports a red beard, as did the artist himself. This gives a clue to the identity of this particular 'Lasarus'. Measuring just 50 cm x 65.5 cm, this is not a large painting, yet it conveys a powerful message. The message has faded a little over time, as the pigments have faded through the years.. The 'Lasarus' is coloured in cold, dead shades, whereas the background is bathed in much warmer tones, conveying that Lasarus is returning from the world of the dead, not at all a desirable place. Putting his acquaintances into the painting gives it a strongly personal touch, merging the painter's world with that of his artwork. Van Gogh's world consisted of the world in which he lived physically, as well as the very spiritual world of his paintings, the interior world. This particular painting of his somehow merges his worlds into one.
About the Artist
Much has been written on the subject of Vincent Van Gogh. Everyone knows he was one of the greatest of the post-impressionist painters. He was a master of colour and used colour as one of his tools of expression. Although a genius with a unique talent, he had many struggles in his life, particularly his struggles with mental illness. This particular painting shows us how Rembrandt was not afraid to draw inspiration from the work of others and put his own spin on it too. He was truly a creative genius.