Letter 1, page 3

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Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard,Paris, ca. December 1887

About this exhibition: 

Painted with Words is a compelling look at Vincent van Gogh's correspondence to his young colleague Émile Bernard between 1887 and 1889. Van Gogh's words and sketches reveal his thoughts about art and life and communicate his groundbreaking work in Arles to his fellow painter.

Van Gogh's letters to Bernard reveal the tenor of their relationship. Van Gogh assumed the role of an older, wiser brother, offering praise or criticism of Bernard's paintings, drawings, and poems. At the same time the letters chronicle van Gogh's own struggles, as he reached his artistic maturity in isolation in Arles and St. Rémy. Throughout the letters are no less than twelve sketches by van Gogh meant to provide Bernard with an idea of his work in progress, including studies related to the paintings The Langlois Bridge, Houses at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Boats on the beach at Saintes-Maries, The Sower, and View of Arles at Sunset.


desire for ourselves.

If, therefore, you have already considered that Signac and the others who are doing pointillism often make very beautiful things with it—

Instead of running those things down, one should respect them and speak of them sympathetically, especially when there's a falling out.

Otherwise one becomes a narrow sectarian oneself and the equivalent of those who think nothing of others and believe themselves to be the only righteous ones.

This extends even to the academicians, because take, for example, a painting by Fantin-Latour —and above all his entire oeuvre. Well then—there's someone who hasn't rebelled, and does that prevent him, that indefinable calm and righteousness that he has, being one of the most independent characters in existence?

I also wanted to say a word to you about the military service that you will be required to do. You must absolutely see to that now.

Directly, in order to inform yourself properly about what one can do in such an event; first to retain the right to work, to be able to choose a garrison, etc. But indirectly, by taking care of your health. You mustn't arrive there


© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Major support for Painted with Words: Vincent van Gogh's Letters to Émile Bernard and its accompanying catalogue was provided by the International Music and Art Foundation. Generous support was also provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.