Prisoners that, his lucidity is clear in his painting

Prisoners Exercising
(also known as Prisoners’ Round) was
painted during Vincent Van Gogh’s stay at the asylum in Saint-Rémy. It was during
the month of February 1890 that Van Gogh produced a number of paintings that
were copies of works by other artists. For this painting, Van Gogh’s influence
came from Newgate: The Exercise Yard,
drawn by Gustav Doré from 1833-1883. Van Gogh suffered from a mental illness
that led him to have episodes of instability and psychotic outbreaks, which led
him to star in such famous events as cutting his own ear and, they say,
offering it to his friend Gauguin as a sign of repentance after a fight. But
apart from that, his lucidity is clear in his painting and the numerous letters
he addressed to Theo, his brother and friend. To control his attacks, he
voluntarily entered a sanatorium in the French province of Saint-Remy, where
his pictorial activity did not stop for a second.

            This is an oil on canvas painting
that measures 80.0 x 64.0 cm.
It is in a monochromatic palette theme, which creates a feeling of confinement that
Van Gogh created by of the image of futile activity, reflecting Vincent’s own
frustration and discontent. The walls seem to rise to infinity and the
polygonal shape only accentuates the enclosure. Prisoners, are superbly drawn,
exhibiting a firm and sure stroke in each of its contours. They seem to circle
around without end or sense, while being watched by prison guards. The faces,
denote suffering and a deep pessimism. However, near the upper margin of the
canvas, two butterflies fly unconcerned. They are a powerful symbol of freedom:
in spite of everything there is hope behind those walls and it is possible to
escape. The use of color and light plays an important role. The blue here,
combined with the green, is cold and impersonal, is present in the ground and
the wall, and even merges with the prisoners, tying them even more to the
prison. The light, unreal and without a clear focus, illuminates unevenly and
falls plumb over the figures. Very important the use of horizontal lines,
present in the structure of bricks and slabs, whose parallelism gives a sense
of monotony.

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symbolism of the painting can be extended or another problematic of the
artist’s life as the vicious circle of relapses and recoveries of his illness;
his doubts about leaving or staying in the South; or lack of professional
success, despite his efforts to improve his painting by changing his style,
color or shape: in the end he always encounters the stumbling block of the lack
of commercial acceptance of his works. Undoubtedly, the subject of the painting
reflected the mood of the painter, who, at the beginning of 1890, informed his
brother of his intention to return to the north and leave the hospital, since
the atmosphere was increasingly oppressive. The anguish caused by the lack of
freedom due to his stay in the psychiatric hospital is reflected in the painting.
Due to the constant prohibitions for painting in the outside, and his health,
Vincent chose for a time to stay, voluntarily, inside his room. It was in that place and in that situation
of confinement where Vincent began performing some works, having as a model
some prints by Millet, Daumier and Gustave Doré.

my opinion, I think it is very obvious how unhappy he was in that place, he
knew that what he wanted to do was paintings and being in that asylum was only
making it worse because he was not even allowed to get inspired from the
outside. Also, it not only represents his feelings, people can relate to this
painting, those that feel trapped in a room following whatever comes in life,
having no aspirations or dreams, or not knowing their purpose in life; can feel
a strong connection with this painting. Lastly, I believed that the butterflies
are just a symbol of hope, to understand that even if you feel very low, lost
and cornered, there is always something to do to get the freedom that you have
been wanting.