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, 3 October 1888, Letter 18, page 2
be sure to tell your
father that with a little more money you would make much better paintings.
The idea of making a kind of freemasonry of painters does not please me hugely; I deeply
despise rules, institutions, etc. In short, I'm looking for something other than dogmas, which, very
far from settling things, only cause endless disputes.
It's a sign of decadence. Now, as a union of painters exists so far only in the form of a vague
but very broad sketch, then let's calmly allow what must happen to happen.
It will be better if it crystallizes naturally; the more one talks about it, the less it comes about.
If you wish to support it, you have only to continue with Gauguin and me. It's in progress, let's not
talk any more; if it must come it will come about without big negotiations but through calm and
As regards the exchanges, it's precisely because I have often had occasion to hear mention in
your letters of Laval, Moret and the other young man, that I have a great desire to get to know
them. But—I don't have five dry studies—will have to add at least two slightly more serious
attempts at paintings, a portrait of myself and a landscape angry with a nasty mistral.
Then I would have a study of a little garden of multicolored flowers.