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 June 1888, Letter 7, page 2
I don't hide from you that I don't detest the countryside—having been brought up there, snatches
of memories from past times, yearnings for that infinite of which the sower, the sheaf, are the symbols,
still enchant me as before.
But when will I do the starry sky, then, that painting that's always on my mind? Alas, alas, it's just
as our excellent pal Cyprien says, in "En ménage" by J. K. Huysmans, the most beautiful paintings are
those one dreams of while smoking a pipe in one's bed but which one doesn't make. But it's a matter
of attacking them nevertheless, however incompetent one may feel vis-à-vis the ineffable perfections
of nature's glorious splendors.
But how I should like to see the study you did at the brothel. I reproach myself endlessly for not
having done figures here yet. Here's another landscape.11 Setting sun? Moonrise? Summer
evening, at any rate.
Town violet, star yellow, sky blue green; the wheat fields have all the tones: old gold, copper, green
gold, red gold, yellow gold, green, red and yellow bronze. Square no. 30 canvas.
I painted it out in the mistral. My easel was fixed in the ground with iron pegs, a method that I
recommend to you. You shove the feet of the easel in and then you push a 50-centimeter-long
iron peg in beside them. You tie everything together with ropes; that way you can work in the wind.
Here's what I wanted to say about the white and the black. Let's take the Sower. The painting is divided
into two; one half is yellow, the top; the bottom is violet. Well, the white trousers rest the eye
and distract it just when the excessive simultaneous contrast of yellow and violet would annoy it. That's what I wanted to say.