Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 19 June 1888, Letter 7, page 4
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
Instead of going back to Paris, then, stay out in the country, because you need strength to get
through this ordeal of going to Africa properly. Now the more blood, and good blood, that you
make yourself beforehand, the better, because over there in the heat it's perhaps harder to produce it.
Painting and fucking a lot are not compatible; it weakens the brain, and that's what's really damned
The symbol of Saint Luke, the patron of painters, is, as you know, an ox; we must therefore be as
patient as an ox if we wish to labor in the artistic field. But bulls are pretty glad not having to work
in the filthy business of painting. But what I wanted to say is this. After the period of melancholy
you'll be stronger than before, your health will pick up—and you'll find the surrounding nature so
beautiful that you'll have no other desire than to paint. I believe that your poetry will also change, in
the same way as your painting. After some eccentric things you have succeeded in making some that
have an Egyptian calm and a great simplicity.
How short is the hour
We spend loving—
—It's less than an instant—
—A little more than a dream—:
—Time takes away
That's not Baudelaire, I don't even know who it's by, they're the words of a song in Daudet's Le
Nabab, that's where I took it from—but doesn't it say the thing like a real Lady's shrug of her shoulder?
These last few days I read Pierre Loti's Madame Chrysanthème; it provides interesting remarks
about Japan. At the moment my brother has an exhibition of Claude Monet, I'd very much like to
see them. Guy de Maupassant, among others, had been there, and said that from now on he would
often revisit the boulevard Montmartre.
I have to go and paint, so I'll finish—I'll probably write to you again before long. I beg a thousand
pardons for not having put enough stamps on the letter, and yet I did stamp it at the post office and
this isn't the first time that it's happened here, that when in doubt, and asking at the post office itself, I've
been misled about the postage.
You can't imagine the carelessness, the nonchalance of the people here. Anyway, you'll see that
shortly with your own eyes in Africa. Thanks for your letter, I hope to write to you soon at a moment
when I'm in less of a hurry. Handshake,
© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam