Letter 17, page 3

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Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 1 October 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.


In any event, I would like you to come enormously, and if Gauguin comes too, all that will be left for us to regret will be that it's winter and not the warm season. I'm beginning to believe more and more that food has something to do with our power to think and to make paintings; as for me, it doesn't contribute to the success of my work if my stomach's bothering me. Anyway, I believe that if your father wanted quietly to keep your paintings and to fund you fairly generously, on balance he'll lose less than by doing otherwise. In the south, the senses are elated, the hand becomes nimbler, the eye livelier, the brain clearer, on one condition, though: that dysentery or something else does not spoil all that by debilitating you too much. On that point, I really dare to take my stand in believing that he who loves artistic work will see his productive capacities develop in the south, but watch your blood, and watch everything else.


© 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.