My dear Theo,
Gauguin and I went yesterday to Montpellier to see the
museum there and especially the Brias room. [Alfred Bruyas (or
Brias) had left his personal collection to the Museum.] There
are a lot of portraits of Brias, by Delacroix, Ricard, Courbet,
Cabanel, Couture, Verdier, Tassaert, and others. Then there are
pictures by Delacroix, Courbet, Giotto, Paul Potter,
Botticelli, Th. Rousseau, very fine. Brias was a benefactor of
artists, I shall say no more to you than that. In the portrait
by Delacroix he is a gentleman with red beard and hair,
confoundedly like you or me, and made me think of that poem by
de Musset - “Partout ou j'ai touché la terre -
un malheureux vétu de noir, auprès de nous venait
s'asseoir, qui regardait comme un frère.”
[Wherever I touched the earth, a wretch clad in black came and
sat by us, looking at us like a brother.] It would have the
same effect on you. I am sure. Please do go to that bookshop
where they sell the lithographs by past and present artists,
and see if you could get, not too dear, the lithograph after
Delacroix's “Tasso in the Madhouse,” since I think
the figure there must have some affinity with this fine
portrait of Brias.
They have got some more Delacroixs, the study of a
“Mulatto Woman” (which Gauguin copied once), the
“Odalisques,” “Daniel in the Lions'
Den”; and by Courbet: first, the “Village
Girls,” magnificent, a woman seen from behind, another
lying on the ground in a landscape, second, the “Woman
Spinning,” superb, and a whole heap more of Courbet's.
But after all, you must know this collection exists, or else
know people who have seen it, and consequently be able to talk
about it. So I shan't say more about the museum (except the
Barye drawings and bronzes).
Gauguin and I talked a lot about Delacroix, Rembrandt, etc.
Our arguments are terribly electric, we come out of them
sometimes with our heads as exhausted as an electric battery
after it has run down. We were in the midst of magic, for as
Fromentin well says: Rembrandt is above all else a
I tell you this in connection with our Dutch friends de Haan
and Isaäcson, who have so sought after and loved Rembrandt
so as to encourage you all to pursue your researches.
You must not be discouraged in them.
You know the strange and magnificent “Portrait of a
Man,” by Rembrandt, in the Lacaze Gallery. I said to
Gauguin that I myself saw in it a certain likeness in family or
in race to Delacroix or to Gauguin himself, I do not know why,
but I always call this portrait “The Traveller,” or
“The Man Come from Far.” It is a similar and
parallel idea to the one I've already spoken to you about, that
I always look on the portrait of old Six, the fine portrait of
the “Man with a Glove,” as you in the future, and
the etching by Rembrandt, “Six reading near a window in a
shaft of sunlight,” as you in the past and present. This
is how things stand. Gauguin was saying to me this morning when
I asked him how he felt “that he felt his old self coming
back,” which gave me enormous pleasure.
I do wish that some day you could see this Montpellier
Museum - there are some very fine things.
Say to Degas that Gauguin and I have been to see the
portrait of Brias by Delacroix at Montpellier, for we must make
bold to believe that what it is, and the portrait of
Brias by Delacroix is as like you and me as a new brother.
As for founding a way of life for artists chumming it
together, you see such queer things, and I will wind up with
what you are always saying - time will show. You can say all
that to our friends Isaäcson and de Haan, and even boldly
read them this letter. I should have written to them already if
I had felt the necessary electric force.
A good hearty handshake all round from Gauguin as from
If you should be thinking that Gauguin and I have facility
in our work, I assure you that work does not always come easy,
and that our Dutch friends may get no more discouraged than we
do in their difficulties is my wish both for them and for
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 2nd half December 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 564.
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