Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 29 July 1888, Letter 12, page 2
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
It would be a treat for me to spend a morning with you in the Dutch gallery. All that is barely
describable. But in front of the paintings I could show you marvels and miracles that are the reason
that, for me, the primitives really don't have my admiration first and foremost and most directly.
But there you are; I'm so far from eccentric. A Greek statue, a peasant by Millet, a Dutch portrait, a
nude woman by Courbet or Degas, these calm and modeled perfections are the reason that many other
things, the primitives as well as the Japanese, seem to me . . . like WRITING WITH A PEN; they interest me
infinitely . . . but something complete, a perfection, makes the infinite tangible to us.
And to enjoy such a thing is like coitus, the moment of the infinite.
For instance, do you know a painter called Vermeer, who, for example, painted a very beautiful
Dutch lady, pregnant? This strange painter's palette is blue, lemon yellow, pearl gray, black, white. Of
course, in his few paintings there are, if it comes to it, all the riches of a complete palette, but the
arrangement of lemon yellow, pale blue, pearl gray is as characteristic of him as the black, white, gray,
pink is of Velázquez.
Anyway, I know, Rembrandt and the Dutch are scattered around museums and collections, and
it's not very easy to form an idea of them if you only know the Louvre.
© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam