Letter 4, page 3

Vincent van Gogh
(1853–1890)

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 19 April 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: 

Saw a brothel here on Sunday (not to mention the other days), a large room tinged with a bluish limewash—like a village school—a good fifty or so red soldiers and black civilians, with faces of a magnificent yellow or orange (what tones in the faces down here), the women in sky blue, in vermilion, everything that's of the purest and gaudiest. All of it in yellow light. Far less gloomy than the establishments of the same kind in Paris. Spleen is not in the air down here. At present I'm still keeping very quiet and very calm, because first I have to get over a stomach ailment of which I am the happy owner, but afterwards I'll have to make a lot of noise, because I aspire to share the renown of the immortal Tartarin de Tarascon.

It interested me enormously that you intend spending your time in Algeria. That's perfect and a hell of a long way from being a misfortune. Truly, I congratulate you on it. We'll see each other in Marseille in any case.

You'll find that you'll enjoy seeing the blue down here and feeling the sun.

I now have a terrace for a studio.

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.