Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 19 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.
I really intend to go and do seascapes, too, in Marseille, and I don't pine here for the gray sea of the north. If you see Gauguin, greet him warmly for me; I must write to him in a moment.
My dear old Bernard, don't despair and above all, don't be downhearted, my good fellow, because with your talent and your stay in Algeria, you'll be a hell of a good artist. True—you'll be a southerner, too. If I have a piece of advice to give you, it's to build yourself up by eating healthy and simple things for a year beforehand, yes. Starting now. Because it's better not to come here with a ruined stomach or spoiled blood. That was the case with me, and although I'm recovering, I'm recovering slowly, and I regret not having been a little more prudent beforehand. But who can do anything in a bloody winter like this one, because it was a preternatural winter. So see that your blood's good beforehand; with the bad food here it's difficult to regain that, but once you're healthy it's less difficult to stay that way than in Paris.
Write to me soon, still same address, Restaurant Carrel, Arles. Handshake.
© 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.