Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 5 October 1888, Letter 19, page 3
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
If Laval, Moret and the other one agree to make exchanges with me, perfect, but on my side I
would be especially satisfied if they wanted to do their portraits for me.
You know, Bernard, it always seems to me that if I want to do studies of brothels, I'd need more
money than I have; I'm not young or womanizer enough for them to pose for me for free. And
I can't work without a model. I'm not saying that I don't flatly turn my back on reality to turn a
study into a painting—by arranging the color, by enlarging, by simplifying—but I have such a fear
of separating myself from what's possible and what's right as far as form is concerned.
Later, after another ten years of studies, I'm not saying so, but in very truth I have so much
curiosity for what's possible and what really exists that I have so little desire or courage to search
for the ideal, in so far as it could result from my abstract studies.
Others may have more clarity of mind than I for abstract studies—and you might certainly be
among them, as well as Gauguin and perhaps myself when I'm old.
But in the meantime I'm still living off the real world. I exaggerate, I sometimes make changes
to the subject, but still I don't invent the whole of the painting; on the contrary, I find it readymade—
but to be untangled—in the real world.
© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam