Letter 16, page 2

Vincent van Gogh
(1853–1890)

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 25 September 1888

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.

Translation: 

One of these days I'm going to do the portrait of that second lieutenant of Zouaves whom I've spoken to you about, who's now on the point of leaving for Africa.

Why have you not replied to me about your plans regarding your military service?

Now let's talk a little about what you say, that you're thinking of coming to spend the winter in Arles. I have deliberately set myself up here in such a way as to be able to fit someone in if necessary. If Gauguin comes, however. He still hasn't categorically said no, in any case.

But even if I could put you up, I don't see that you could feed yourself well here for less than 3 francs a day. And I'd prefer to say 4 francs. Naturally, in the case of being broke, we could make many meals cheaply at the studio, certainly we could save that way; all the same, living here, I tell you, comes a bit dearer than in Pont-Aven, where I believe you're paying, aren't you, only 2.50 francs a day, and that's for everything. Lodging included.

Credits: 

© 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.