Letter 17, page 1

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Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 1 October 1888

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.


My dear old Bernard,
I'm writing a line to thank you kindly for your drawings; I find them done in a bit too much of a rush, and I like the two drawings of whores the most; but there's an idea in all of them. I've been overloaded with work these past few days, because the weather's really beautiful and you have to make the most of the fine days, which are short.

I can't alter the price that I quoted to you, 3 francs for food alone, and in addition, well, whatever there would be on top of that. But I have no doubt that everything Gauguin tells you about the prices down here is correct. But I see you near your departure to do your service, and would like to be able to persuade your father to supply you with enough to strengthen you thoroughly first, without your work suffering as a result.

Let him stump up at last, to the point of giving you whatever's fair during the interval between now and your service.

I have not ceased writing this same thing to you all the time, that if you go to Africa you'll work there and you'll see just the kind of


© 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.