Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, ca. 22 May 1888, Letter 5, page 1
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
My dear Bernard,
I've just received your last letter—you're quite right to see that those negresses were heartrending—
you're quite right not to find it innocent.
I've just read a book—not beautiful and not well written, by the way—on the Marquesas Islands,
but very heartrending in its description of the extermination of an entire tribe of natives—cannibals
in the sense that let's say an individual was eaten once a month, and what of that?
The whites, very Christian, etc., to put an end to this barbarity? REALLY NOT VERY SAVAGE. . . .
could think of nothing better than to exterminate both the tribe of cannibal natives and the tribe
with which the former was at war (in order to obtain the requisite edible prisoners of war on both
sides). Then the two islands were annexed, and did they become dismal!!! Those tattooed races, those
negroes, those Indians, everything, everything, everything disappears or is corrupted. And the frightful
white man, with his bottle of alcohol, his wallet and his pox, when will we have seen enough of
him! The frightful white man, with his hypocrisy, his greed and his sterility! And those savages were
so gentle and so loving.
© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam