Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 19 June 1888, Letter 7, page 3
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
I know a second lieutenant of Zouaves here called Milliet. I give him drawing lessons—with my
perspective frame—and he's beginning to make drawings—my word, I've seen a lot worse than
that, and he's eager to learn; has been to Tonkin, etc. He's leaving for Africa in October. If you were
in the Zouaves, he'd take you with him and would guarantee you a wide margin of relative freedom
to paint, provided you helped him a little with his own artistic schemes. Could this be of some use
to you? If so, let me know as soon as possible.
One reason for working is that canvases are worth money. You'll tell me that first of all this reason is
very prosaic, then that you doubt that it's true. But it's true. A reason for not working is that in the
meantime canvases and paints only cost us money. Drawings, though, don't cost us much.
Gauguin's bored too in Pont-Aven; complains about isolation, like you. If you went to see
him—but I have no idea if he'll stay there, and am inclined to think that he intends to go to Paris.
He said that he thought you would have come to Pont-Aven.
My God, if all three of us were here! You'll tell me it's too far away. Fine, but in winter—because
here one can work outside all year round. That's my reason for loving this part of the world, not
having to dread the cold so much, which by preventing my blood from circulating prevents me from
thinking, from doing anything at all. You can judge that for yourself when you're a soldier. Your melancholy will go away, which may darned well come from the fact that you have too little blood—
or spoiled blood, which I don't think, however. It's that bloody filthy Paris wine and the filthy fat
of the steaks that do that to you—dear God, I had come to a state in which my own blood was no
longer working at all, but literally not at all, as they say. But after 4 weeks down here it got moving
again, but, my dear pal, at that same time I had an attack of melancholy like yours, from which I
would have suffered as much as you were it not that I welcomed it with great pleasure as a sign that
I was going to recover—which happened too.
© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam