Purchase cataloguePainted 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.
The translations used in this presentation are from the catalogue for the exhibition: Vincent van Gogh
Painted with Words, The Letters to Émile Bernard and are reproduced by kind permission of the 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.
Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 19 April 1888, Letter 4, page 1
My dear old Bernard,
Many thanks for sending your sonnets. For form and sonority I very much like the first one,
"Under the sleeping canopies of the gigantic trees." Now for idea and sentiment it's perhaps the
last one that I prefer: "For hope has poured its nervousness into my breast," but it seems to me that
what you want to evoke isn't stated clearly enough: the certainty that we seem to have and which
anyway we can prove, of nothingness, of emptiness, of the treachery of desirable, good, or beautiful
things, and despite this knowledge we forever allow ourselves to be deceived by the spell that
external life, things outside ourselves, cast over our six senses, as though we knew nothing, and
especially not the difference between objective and subjective. And fortunately for us, in that way
we remain ignorant and hopeful. Now I also like "In winter, have neither a sou nor a flower," and
"Contempt." "Corner of a chapel" and "Drawing by Albrecht Dürer" I find less clear. For example,
precisely which drawing by Albrecht Dürer is it? But excellent passages in it nevertheless. "Having
come from the blue plains, Made pale by the long miles" is a jolly good rendering of the landscapes
bristling with blue rocks between which the roads wind in the backgrounds of Cranach and Van Eyck.
Twisted on his cross in a spiral is a very, very good rendering of the exaggerated thinness of the
mystical Christs; why not add to it that the anguished expression of the martyr is like the eye of
a brokenhearted cab horse? That way it would be more utterly Parisian, where you see looks like
that, either in the drivers of the little carriages or in poets and artists.