Letter 2, page 1

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Vincent van Gogh
(1853–1890)

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 18 March 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: 

My dear Bernard,
Having promised to write to you, I want to begin by telling you that this part of the world seems to me as beautiful as Japan for the limpidity of the atmosphere and the gay color effects. The stretches of water make patches of a beautiful emerald and a rich blue in the landscapes, as we see it in the Japanese prints. Pale orange sunsets making the fields look blue—glorious yellow suns. So far, however, I've hardly seen this part of the world in its usual summer splendor. The women's costume is pretty, and especially on the boulevard on Sunday you see some very naive and well-chosen arrangements of color. And that, too, will doubtless get even livelier in summer.

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.