Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 5 August 1888, Letter 14, page 1
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
My dear old Bernard,
I realize that I've forgotten to answer your question as to whether Gauguin is still in Pont-Aven.
Yes, he's still there, and if you feel like writing to him am inclined to believe that it will please him.
It is still likely that he will join me here shortly, as soon as either one of us is able to find the travel
I do not believe that this question of the Dutchmen, which we're discussing these days, is without
interest. It is quite interesting to consult them when it's a matter of any kind of virility, originality,
In the first place, I must speak to you again about yourself, about two still lifes that you have
done, and about the two portraits of your grandmother. Have you ever done better, have you ever
been more yourself, and somebody? Not in my opinion. Profound study of the first thing to come
to hand, of the first person to come along, was enough to really create something. Do you know
what made me like these three or four studies so much? That je ne sais quoi of something deliberate,
very wise, that je ne sais quoi of something steady and firm and sure of oneself, which they
show. You have never been closer to Rembrandt, my dear chap, than then. In Rembrandt's studio,
the incomparable sphinx, Vermeer of Delft, found this extremely sound technique that has not
been surpassed. Which today . . . we're burning . . . to find. Oh, I know that we are working and
arguing COLOR as they did chiaroscuro, value.
What do these differences matter when in the end it's a question of expressing oneself powerfully?
At present . . . you're examining primitive Italian and German techniques, the symbolic meaning
that the Italians' abstract and mystical drawing may contain. Do so.
© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam