Letter 1, page 1

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Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Paris, ca. December 1887, Letter 1, page 1

About this exhibition: 

Painted 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.


54 rue Lepic.

My dear old Bernard,
I feel the need to beg your pardon for leaving you so abruptly the other day. Which I therefore do herewith, without delay. I recommend that you read Tolstoy's Les Légendes Russes, and I'll also let you have the article on E. Delacroix that I've spoken to you about.

I, for my part, did go to Guillaumin's anyway, but in the evening, and I thought that perhaps you didn't know his address, which is 13 quai d'Anjou. I believe that, as a man, Guillaumin has sounder ideas than the others, and that if we were all like him we'd produce more good things and would have less time and inclination to be at each other's throats.

I persist in believing that—not because I gave you a rocket but because it will become your own conviction—I persist in believing that you'll realize that in the studios not only does one not learn very much as far as painting goes, but not much that's good in terms of savoir vivre, either.


© 2007 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.