My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your letter. How glad I am for Gauguin; I
shall not try to find words to tell you - let's be of good
I have just received the portrait of Gauguin by himself and
the portrait of Bernard by Bernard and in the background of the
portrait of Gauguin there is Bernard's on the wall, and vice
The Gauguin is of course remarkable, but I very much like
Bernard's picture. It is just the inner vision of a painter, a
few abrupt tones, a few dark lines, but it has the distinction
of a real, real Manet.
The Gauguin is more studied, carried further. That, along
with what he says in his letter, gave me absolutely the
impression of its representing a prisoner. Not a shadow of
gaiety. Absolutely nothing of the flesh, but one can
confidently put that down to his determination to make a
melancholy effect, the flesh in the shadows has gone a dismal
So now at last I have a chance to compare my painting with
what the comrades are doing. My portrait, which I am sending to
Gauguin in exchange, holds its own, I am sure
of that. I have written to Gauguin in reply to his letter that
if I might be allowed to stress my own personality in a
portrait, I had done so in trying to convey in my portrait not
only myself but an impressionist in general, had conceived it
as the portrait of a bonze, a simple worshiper of the eternal
And when I put Gauguin's conception and my own side by side,
mine is as grave, but less despairing. What Gauguin's portrait
says to me before all things is that he must not go on like
this, he must become again the richer Gauguin of the
I am very glad to have these two portraits, for they finally
represent the comrades at this stage; they will not remain like
that, they will come back to a more serene life.
And I see clearly that the duty laid upon me is to do
everything I can to lessen our poverty.
No good comes the way in this painter's job. I feel that he
is more Millet than I, but I am more Diaz then he, and like
Diaz I am going to try to please the public, so that a few
pennies may come into our community. I have spent more than
they, but I do not care a bit now that I see their
painting—they have worked in too much poverty to
Mind you, I have better and more saleable stuff than what I
have sent you, and I feel that I can go on doing it. I have
confidence in it at last. I know that it will do some people's
hearts good to find poetic subjects again, “The Starry
Sky,” “The Vines in Leaf,”
the “Poet's Garden.”
Bernard has again sent me a collection of ten drawings with
a daring poem - the whole is called At the Brothel.
You will soon see these things, but I shall send you the
portraits when I have had them to look at for some time.
I hope you will write soon, I am very hard up because of the
stretchers and frames that I ordered.
What you told me of Freret gave me pleasure, but I venture
to think that I shall do things which will please him better,
and you too.
Yesterday I painted a sunset.
Gauguin looks ill and tormented in his portrait!! You wait,
that will not last, and it will be very interesting to compare
this portrait with the one he will do of himself in six months'
Someday you will also see my self-portrait, which I am
sending to Gauguin, because he will keep it, I hope.
The head is modeled in light colours painted in a thick
impasto against the light background with hardly any shadows.
Only I have made the eyes slightly slanting like the
Write me soon and the best of luck. How happy old Gauguin
A good handshake, and thank Freret for the pleasure he has
given me. Good-by for now.
Ever yours, Vincent.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 7 October 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 545.
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