Letter 1, page 4

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Vincent van Gogh

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

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.


too anemic or too agitated if you want to emerge from it stronger.

I do not see it as a very great misfortune for you that you have to join the army but as a very grave ordeal, from which, if you emerge from it, you'll emerge a very great artist. Until then, do all you can to build yourself up, because you'll need quite a bit of spirit. If you work hard that year, I believe that you may well succeed in having a fair stock of canvases, some of which we'll try to sell for you, knowing that you'll need pocket money to pay for models.

I 'll gladly do all I can to make a success of what was started in the dining room, but I believe that the first condition for success is to put aside petty jealousies; it's only unity that makes strength. It's well worth sacrificing selfishness, the "each man for himself," in the common interest.

I shake your hand firmly.



© 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.