Structures - Drawbridge at Arles (1999)

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"Drawbridge at Arles" was made using nine different drawings and paintings which were produced by van Gogh in 1888. All details and dimensions for the construction of the model were estimated from these works.

The paintings and drawings appear to have been produced from a distance of between 25m to 100m away from both sides of the canal and both sides of the drawbridge.

The inclusion of human figures, horses and carts etc. were the main clues used for estimating the overall size of the structure.

The model is constructed at a scale of 1/20th of the estimated full size of the actual drawbridge. Van Gogh occasionally called the drawbridge "Pont du l'Anglois" (Bridge of l'Anglois) as l'Angloise was the name of the drawbridge keeper.

The blocks inside the walls of the bridge which were shown in one of the drawings, were obviously placed there to protect the walls from the traffic of horses and carts, and could have been old tombstones from an adjacent cemetery, which was used by the local women to hang their washing to dry from clotheslines between the taller tombstones, as shown in the drawing.

The ropes which lifted the drawbridge were of a multiple pulley arrangement, however in the model, due to lack of weight, this system caused too much friction for the drawbridge to return gravitationally to the closed position, therefore a single rope was used and 0.8mm thick brass plates were attached to the extremities of the drawbridge to give added weight, this system was successful in closing the drawbridge automatically in the model.

The construction is hand made from scrap timber, MDF board and brass plate, the only power tool used was an electric drill for the small holes required for the brass fittings and dowels.

The support is painted in ultramarine blue to give a contemporary feeling to the old fashioned structure, which was destroyed in 1935, probably due to the war, because it would have been incapable of carrying heavy armoured vehicles.

The model is a homage to the accuracy of van Gogh's draughtsmanship, from which a working construction could be made 112 years later.


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