Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 5 August 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.
I have just made a portrait of a postman—or rather, two portraits even—Socratic type, no less Socratic for being something of an alcoholic, and with a high color as a result. His wife had just given birth, the good fellow was glowing with satisfaction. He's a fierce republican, like père Tanguy. Goddamn, what a subject to paint à la Daumier, eh? He was getting too stiff while posing, and that's why I painted him twice, the second time at a single sitting, on white canvas, background blue, almost white, in the face all the broken tones: yellow, green, purples, pinks, reds, the uniform Prussian blue trimmed with yellow.
Write to me soon if you feel like it; am very encumbered and have not yet found time for figure sketches. Handshake
Cézanne is as much a respectably married man as the old Dutchmen were. If he has a good hard-on in his work it's because he's not overly dissipated through riotous living.
© 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.