Roulin’s family’s structure resembled that of Van Gogh’s and so he reciprocated their hospitality with an almost family-like affection. The Roulin’s projected the archetypal working class of the 1900s, struggling to make ends meet. While the father toiled and earned bread for the family, the mother took charge of the house and raised her children righteously.
The Roulin family consisted of father Joseph Roulin, mother Augustine Roulin and three children; the dutiful son Armand, the playful boy Camille and a pleasant newborn daughter Marcelle Roulin. Marcelle was four-months old when Van Gogh painted her portrait with her mother.
The portrait is set against a yellow background with two participants; the subdued Madame Augustine, clad in an olive-green dress, sitting on a wooden chair and the plump baby girl Marcelle, dressed in a pompous white fluffy frock with a complementary headband that rests above her forehead. Madame wears her hair in an uptight bun with a sorrowful expression on her face while the baby girl looks inquisitively important as she stares into the painting. Augustine parks herself in a relaxed posture and her face is in shadow like that of a passive figure, while the baby, whose chubby face looks outward in a directly engaging manner, is the more active and central subject. One of the most dramatic aspects of the Roulin series is Van Gogh’s experiments with color.
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