Letter 5, page 3

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Vincent van Gogh
(1853–1890)

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, ca. 22 May 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: 

the women of our boulevard—le petit—usually sleep alone at night because they screw five or six times during the day or the evening and—late at night it's that honorable carnivore, their pimp, who comes to collect them and take them home; yes, but he doesn't sleep with them (only rarely). The worn-out and haggard woman usually goes to bed alone and sleeps a leaden sleep. But with two or three lines redone, it'll be there.

What have you painted now? I myself have done a still life with—a coffeepot in blue enameled iron—a royal blue cup and saucer, a milk jug with pale cobalt and white checks, a cup with orange and blue designs on a white background, a blue majolica jug with green, brown, pink flowers and foliage, all of it on a blue tablecloth against a yellow background. With these pieces of crockery, two oranges, and three lemons. It's thus a variation of blues enlivened by a series of yellows ranging all the way to orange.

Then I have another still life, some lemons in a basket against a yellow background.

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.