Vincent van Gogh, letter to Émile Bernard, Arles, 26 June 1888, Letter 8, page 4
Thaw Collection, given in honor of Charles E. Pierce, Jr., 2007
Your letter gave me great pleasure—the SKETCH IS VERY INTERESTING and I do
thank you for it—for my part I'll send you a drawing one of these days—this evening I'm too worn
out in that respect; my eyes are tired, not to mention my brain.
Listen—do you remember John the Baptist by Puvis? I find it marvelous and as much the
MAGICIAN as Eugène Delacroix.
The passage about John the Baptist that you dug out of the gospel is absolutely what you saw
in it . . . People pressing around somebody—art thou Christ, art thou Elias? As it would be in our
day to ask impressionism or one of its searcher-representatives, "have you found it?" That's just it.
At the moment my brother has an exhibition of Claude Monet—10 paintings done in Antibes
from February to May. It seems it's very beautiful.
Have you ever read the life of Luther? Because Cranach, Dürer, Holbein belong to him—it's
he—his personality—that's the lofty light of the Middle Ages.
I like the Sun King no more than you do—extinguisher of light it rather seems to me—that
Louis xiv—my God, what a pain, in every way, that Methodist Solomon. I don't like Solomon
either, and the Methodists not at all, as well. Solomon seems a hypocritical pagan to me; I really
have no respect for his architecture, an imitation of other styles, nor for his writings, which the
pagans have done much better.
Tell me a bit about where you stand as far as your military service is concerned; should I talk
to that second lieutenant of Zouaves or not? Are you going to Africa or not? In your case, do the
years count double in Africa or not? Most of all, see that your blood's in order—you don't get very
far with anemia—painting goes slowly—better try to make your constitution as tough as old boots,
a constitution to make old bones—better live like a monk who goes to the brothel once a fortnight—
I do that, it's not very poetical—but anyway—I feel that my duty is to subordinate my life
If I was in the Louvre with you, I'd really like to see the primitives with you.
In the Louvre, I still return with great love to the Dutch, Rembrandt first and foremost—
Rembrandt whom I once studied so thoroughly—then Potter, for example—who makes—on a
no. 4 or no. 6 panel, a white stallion alone in a meadow, a stallion neighing, and with a hard-on
—forlorn under a sky brewing up a thunderstorm—heartbroken in the tender green immensity of
a wet meadow—ah well, there are wonderful things in the old Dutchmen having no connection
with anything at all. Handshake, and thank you again for your letter and for your sketch.
The sonnets are going well—i.e.—the color in them is good—the design isn't as strong, less
sure of itself, rather; the conception's still hesitant, I don't know how to put it—its moral
purpose isn't clear.
© 2007 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam