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, 7 June 1888, Letter 6, page 3
The harsh, hard white of a white wall against the sky can be expressed, at a pinch and in a
strange way, by harsh white and by that same white softened by a neutral tone. Because the sky
itself colors it with a delicate lilac hue. Again, in this very naive landscape, which is meant
to show us a hut, whitewashed overall (the roof, too), placed in an orange field, of course, because
the sky in the south and the blue Mediterranean produce an orange that is all the more intense
the higher in tint the range of blues.
The black note of the door, of the windowpanes, of the little cross on the rooftop creates a
simultaneous contrast of white and black just as pleasing to the eye as that of the blue
with the orange.
To take a more entertaining subject, let's imagine a woman dressed in a black and white
checked dress, in the same primitive landscape of a blue sky and an orange earth—that would
be quite amusing to see, I imagine. In fact, in Arles they often do wear white and black checks.
In short, black and white are colors too, or rather, in many cases may be considered colors, since their simultaneous contrast is as sharp as that of green and red, for example.