Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 30 July 1888, Letter 13, page 4
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
This fully understood, ALL this glorious republic, represented by these two prolific portraitists,
re-created in broad strokes, we retain very wide margins for landscapes, interior scenes, animals,
But I beg you, carefully follow this straightforward argument, which I am doing my utmost to
present to you in a very very simple way.
Get him into your head, this Master Frans Hals, painter of various portraits of a whole selfassured
and lively and immortal republic. Get into your head the no less great and universal master
portrait painter of the Dutch republic, Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, a broad and naturalistic
and healthy man, as much as Hals himself. And after that we'll see flowing from that source, Rembrandt,
the direct and true pupils, Vermeer of Delft, Fabritius, Nicolaas Maes, Pieter de Hooch, Bol;
and those influenced by him, Potter, Ruisdael, Ostade, ter Borch. I mention Fabritius to you there,
by whom we know only—two canvases—I don't mention a heap of good painters, and especially
not the paste of these diamonds, paste firmly embedded in ordinary French skulls.
Am I, my dear old Bernard, terribly incomprehensible this time? I'm trying to make you see
the great simple thing, the painting of humanity, let us rather say of a whole republic, through the
simple medium of the portrait. This first and foremost; later———if, on the subject of Rembrandt,
we're dealing to some extent with magic, with Christs and nude women, it's very interesting—but
it's not the main thing. Let Baudelaire hold his tongue in this department, they're resounding
words, and how hollow!!! Let's take Baudelaire for what he is, a modern poet just as Musset is
another, but let them leave us alone when we're talking painting.
I don't like your drawing Lubricity as much as the others; I like the tree, however, it has a great look.
© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam