In February 1888 Van Gogh moved to Arles, in the south of France, and continued to paint landscapes and portraits. Between late July 1888 and April 1889, he painted at least six portraits of Joseph-Etienne Roulin (1841–1903), a postman in Arles. Here, the artist concentrated on Roulin's head, which he described in a letter as "somewhat like Socrates, hardly any nose at all, a high forehead, bald crown, little gray eyes, bright red chubby cheeks, a big pepper-and-salt beard, large eyes."
Artist Vincent van Gogh, Dutch, 1853-1890
Title
  • Portrait of Postman Roulin
Date 1888
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 25 9/16 × 19 7/8 × 11/16 inches (65 × 50.5 × 1.8 cm)
Framed: 34 7/8 × 29 1/8 × 3 1/4 inches, 23 pounds (88.6 × 74 × 8.3 cm, 10.4 kg)
Credit Line Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Buhl Ford II
Accession Number 1996.25
Department European Painting
On View Modern C236, Level 2 (see map)
Theo van Gogh [1857-1891] (Paris, France);
1891-1910, by descent to Johanna van Gogh-Bonger [1862-1925] (Amsterdam, Netherlands);
June 1910, acquired by (Paul Cassirer Gallery, Berlin, Germany);
by 1915, acquired by J. Freudenberg (Berlin, Germany);
Arnold Seligmann (New York, New York, USA);
(Wildenstein & Co., New York, New York, USA);
1935, acquired by Edsel and Eleonor Ford (Grosse Pointe, Michigan, USA);
by descent to Mrs. Walter Ford;
1996-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Exhibition. Exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam, 1905, cat. 443. [lent by Mrs. J. van Gogh-Bonger.]

Exposition. Exh. cat., Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. Paris, 1908, cat. 54.

Ausstellung. Exh. cat., Paul Cassirer Gallery, Berlin, 1908, cat. 16.

Ausstellung. Exh. cat., Kunstverein, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1908, cat. 55.

Ausstellung. Exh. cat., Künstlerhaus, Zürich, 1908, cat. 30.

Ausstellung. Exh. cat., Brakl, Kunstverein, Galerie Ernst Arnold, Kunstsalon Gerstenberger. Munich, Frankfurt, Dresden, and Chemnitz, 1909, cat. 28.

Ausstellung. Exh. cat., Paul Cassirer Gallery, Berlin, 1910, cat. 41.

Kunst und Künstler: illustrierte Monatsschrift für bildende Kunst und Kunstgewerbe 9, no. 5 (February 1911): p. 227 (ill.).

L'art décoratif 13, no. 156 (September 1911): p. 83.

Ausstellung. Exh. cat. Dresden, 1926, cat. 211.

Faille, J.-B. de la. L'oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh. Paris and Brussels, 1928, vol.1, p. 122, no. 433; vol. 2, pl. XCLVIII.

Exhibition of Dutch Art, 1450-1900. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1929, cat. 461.

Faille, J.-B. de la. L'oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh. Paris, 1939, p. 334, no. 466.

Faille, J.-B. de la. The Works of Vincent van Gogh. Amsterdam, 1970, p. 202, no. 433 (ill.).

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Van Gogh in Arles. Exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, pp. 152-153, cat. 88 (ill.).

Feilchenfeldt, W. Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cassirer, Berlin. Zwolle, 1988, p. 94, no. F433 (ill.).

Goldner, G. European Drawings I. Catalogue of the Collections, J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu, 1988, pp. 238-239 (ill.), cat. 106.

Hulsker, J. "Van Gogh, Roulin and the two Arlesiennes, a re-examination: Part II." Burlington Magazine 134 (November 1992): pp. 707 -715, p. 708.

Henshaw, Julia P. A Visitor's Guide: The Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1995, p. 226 (ill.).

Impressionist and Modern Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture. Sales cat., Christie's, New York, May 11, 1995, pp. 48, 50, fig. 1 (ill.) [see lot 116]

Message 1995. Exh. cat., Toyota Municipal Museum of Art. Toyota, 1995, pp. 60, 203, cat. 15 (ill.).

Hulsker, J. The New Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, 1996, pp. 342, 349, no. 1524 (ill.). [July 31, 1888 - August 3, 1888.]

Walther, I.F. and R. Metzger. Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Paintings, Cologne, 1997, p. 393 (ill.). [as Collection Walter Ford.]

Piantoni, G. Dossier van Gogh I ritratti Roulin, l'Arlesiana, il Gardiniere. Exh. cat., Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna. Rome, 1999, pp. 26-27 (ill.).

Keyes, George, George T.M. Shackelford, and Joseph J. Rishel. Van Gogh: Face to Face–The Portraits. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, and Philadelphia Museum of Art. Detroit, Boston, and Philadelphia, 200, p. 238 (fig. 215.).

Johnson, K. "Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman, Please. Keep Still!" New York Times, February 6, 2001, pp. B1, B3 (ill.).

Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings. Exh. cat., Van Gogh Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Amsterdam and New York, 2005, p. 235, (ill.) (fig. 159.). [Not included in exhibition; Included in entry for cat. no. 81.]

Beal, Graham W.J. and Debra N. Mancoff. Treasures of the DIA. Detroit, 2007, p. 367, no. 291 (ill.).

Van Gogh. Exh. cat., Albertina Museum. Vienna, 2008, cat. 98, p. 338-340 (ill.), p. 339; p. 82 (ill. detail).

Kessemeier, Gesa. Ein Feentempel der Mode oder Eine vergessene Familie, ein ausgelöschter Ort: Die Familie Freudenberg und das Modekaufhaus "Herrmann Gerson." Berlin, 2013, pp. 132 (ill. 4), 133-34.

Beal, Graham W.J. and Debra N. Mancoff. Treasures of the DIA. Detroit, 2015, p. 137 (ill.).