Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 12 April 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.
that will be earth will share the same purplish tint, that the whole sky will have a blue tonality, that the greenery will either be blue greens or yellow greens, deliberately exaggerating the yellow or blue values in that case. Anyway, my dear pal, no trompe l'oeil in any case. As for going to visit Aix, Marseille, Tangier, no fear; if I were to go there, however, it would be in search of cheaper lodgings, etc. Otherwise, I'm convinced that if I worked my whole life, couldn't do as much as half of all that is characteristic of this town alone.
By the way, have seen bullfights in the arenas, or rather, simulated fights, seeing that the bulls were numerous but nobody was fighting them. But the crowd was magnificent, great multicolored crowds. One on top of the other on two, three tiers, with the effect of sun and shade and the shadow of the immense circle. Wish you bon voyage—handshake in thought, your friend
© 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.