Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 7 June 1888, Letter 6, page 3
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
The harsh, hard white of a white wall against the sky can be expressed, at a pinch and in a
strange way, by harsh white and by that same white softened by a neutral tone. Because the sky
itself colors it with a delicate lilac hue. Again, in this very naive landscape, which is meant
to show us a hut, whitewashed overall (the roof, too), placed in an orange field, of course, because
the sky in the south and the blue Mediterranean produce an orange that is all the more intense
the higher in tint the range of blues.
The black note of the door, of the windowpanes, of the little cross on the rooftop creates a
simultaneous contrast of white and black just as pleasing to the eye as that of the blue
with the orange.
To take a more entertaining subject, let's imagine a woman dressed in a black and white
checked dress, in the same primitive landscape of a blue sky and an orange earth—that would
be quite amusing to see, I imagine. In fact, in Arles they often do wear white and black checks.
In short, black and white are colors too, or rather, in many cases may be considered colors, since their simultaneous contrast is as sharp as that of green and red, for example.
>© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam