Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 15 July 1888
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.
as beautiful as the sea—but I find it even more beautiful than the ocean because it's inhabited." Which of the spectators was more the artist, the first or the second, the painter or the soldier—I myself prefer that soldier's eye. Isn't that true?
Now it's my turn to say to you, reply to me quickly this time by return of post—to let me know if you agree to make me some sketches of your Breton studies. I have a consignment that's about to go off, and before it clears off I want to do at least another half a dozen subjects in pen sketches for you. Having few doubts that you will do it for yours, I'm getting down to work on my side, anyway, without even knowing if you want to do that. Now, I'll send these sketches to my brother, to urge him to take something from them for our collection.
© 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.