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Turns out I’ve made two trips now to Arles for the same reason Vincent Van Gogh did, which is to say it’s an inexplicable one. In their sweeping biography of the self-tortured artist, Van Gogh : The Life, authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith tried to noodle out why Van Gogh bolted Paris for Arles. “If he had come to the legendary South of France in search of warmer weather, surely he would have stayed on the train and continued farther south…Instead, he stepped off into snow deep enough to cover his shoes, and trudged through the coldest winter in Arles in a decade… If he had come looking for the “brilliant Midi light” promised by Lautrec and Signac, he wouldn’t have picked as the subject of his first painting a butcher shop on an Arles side street—a sunless, skyless urban vignette that he could have found anywhere in Montmartre. If he had come just for the women…he would have moved on to Marseille…where women of every kind were always available.”