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, 30 July 1888, Letter 13, page 3
Possible that these great geniuses are no more than loonies, and that to have faith and boundless
admiration for them you'd have to be a loony too. That may well be—I would prefer my madness
to other people's wisdom.
To go to Rembrandt indirectly is perhaps the most direct route. Let's talk about Frans Hals.
Never did he paint Christs, annunciations to shepherds, angels or crucifixions and resurrections;
never did he paint voluptuous and bestial naked women.
He painted portraits; nothing nothing nothing but that.
Portraits of soldiers, gatherings of officers, portraits of magistrates assembled for the business
of the republic, portraits of matrons with pink or yellow skin, wearing white bonnets, dressed in
wool and black satin, discussing the budget of an orphanage or an almshouse; he did portraits of
good citizens with their families, the man, his wife, his child; he painted the sozzled drinker,
the old fishwife full of a witch's mirth, the beautiful gypsy whore, babies in swaddling clothes,
the gallant, bon vivant gentleman, mustachioed, booted and spurred; he painted himself and
his wife as young lovers on a turf bench in a garden, after their first wedding night. He painted
guttersnipes and laughing urchins, he painted musicians and he painted a fat cook.
He doesn't know much more than that, but it's———————well worth Dante's Paradise
and the Michelangelos and Raphaels and even the Greeks. It's beautiful like Zola, and healthier
and more cheerful, but just as alive, because his epoch was healthier and less sad. Now what is
Rembrandt? The same thing entirely—a painter of portraits. That's the healthy, broad, clear idea
that one must have first of all of the two eminent Dutchmen, who are on a par, before going into
the subject more deeply.