During his stay at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Van Gogh turns to the surrounding countryside to enrich his geography as an artist. He tirelessly paints and draws new Provençal motifs: cypress trees, olive groves and hills. The low Alpilles range rising behind the hospital buildings provides Vincent with an opportunity to paint the rugged massif as well as the quarry located nearby.
In 1889 he treats this latter in two canvases, of which he executes the first in mid-July – just after suffering a fresh health crisis – and the second in October.
Writing to his brother Theo on 22 August 1889, Vincent says of Entrance to a Quarry: “And it was precisely a more sober attempt, matt in colour without looking impressive, broken greens, reds and rusty ochre yellows, as I told you that from time to time I felt a desire to begin again with a palette like the one in the north.”1 This palette of the North is that of the earth, made up of ochres and dark greens.
1 Letter from Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, 22 August 1889, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence: http://vangoghletters.org/vg/letters/let797/letter.html