Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 5 October 1888, Letter 19, page 1
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
My dear old Bernard.
The consignment Gauguin and you sent arrived at almost the same time as my studies went off.
I was delighted, it really warmed my heart to see the two faces again. As for your portrait—you
know—I like it very much—I actually like everything that you do, as you know—and perhaps
nobody before me has liked what you do as much as I do.
I really urge you to study the portrait; make as many as possible and don't give up—later we'll
have to attract the public through portraits—in my view that's where the future lies. But let's not
get sidetracked into hypotheses now. Because it's up to us next to thank you for the collection of
rough sketches entitled At the brothel.
Bravo! The woman washing herself and the one who says "I'm second to none when it comes
to taking it out of a man" are the best, it seems to me. The others are grimacing too much—and
most of all, are too vague, too little flesh and bone properly built up.
It doesn't matter; it's already something altogether new and interesting, and the rest, too—at
the brothel—yes, that's what needs to be done, and I assure you that I for one almost envy you
this bloody good opportunity you have to go in there in uniform. Which those good little women
adore. The poem at the end is really beautiful; stands up better than some of the figures. What you
want, and what you say you believe, you say well and resonantly.
Write to me when you're going to be in Paris—the thing is that I've already written you a
thousand times that my night café is not a brothel, it's a café where night prowlers cease to be night prowlers,
since, slumped over tables, they spend the whole night there without prowling at all.
Occasionally a whore brings her fellow there. But arriving there one night I came across a little
© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam