My dear comrade Bernard,
More and more it seems to me that the pictures which must be
made so that painting should be wholly itself, and should raise
itself to a height equivalent to the serene summits which the
Greek sculptors, the German musicians, the writers of French
novels reached, are beyond the power of an isolated individual;
so they will probably be created by groups of men combining to
execute an idea held in common.
One may have a superb orchestration of colours and lack
ideas. Another one is cram-full of new concepts, tragically sad
or charming, but does not know how to express them in a
sufficiently sonorous manner because of the timidity of a
limited palette. All the more reason to regret the lack of
corporative spirit among the artists, who criticize and
persecute each other, fortunately without succeeding in
annihilating each other.
You will say that this whole line of reasoning is banal - so
be it! However, the thing itself - the existence of a
renaissance - this fact is certainly no banality.
A technical question. Just give me your opinion on it in
your next letter.
[See illustration of page with sketches.]
Furthermore, imagine in this so naïve landscape, which
is reasonable, a cottage whitewashed all over (the roof too)
standing in an orange field - certainly orange, for the Midi
sky and the blue Mediterranean provoke an orange tint that gets
more intense just as the scale of blues gets more vigorous
tones. The black note of the door, the windows and the little
cross on the ridge of the roof produce a simultaneous contrast
of black and white just as pleasing to the eye as that of blue
To take a more amusing motif: let's imagine a woman in a
black and white checked dress in the same primitive landscape
with a blue sky and an orange soil - that would be a rather
funny sight, I imagine. In Arles they often do wear black and
Suffice it to say that black and white are also colours, for
in many cases they can be considered as colours, for their
simultaneous contrast is as striking as that of green and red,
At last I have seen the Mediterranean, which you will
probably cross sooner than I shall.
I spent a week at Saintes-Maries, and to get there I drove
in a diligence across the Camargue with its vineyards, moors
and flat fields like Holland. There, at Saintes-Maries, were
girls who reminded one of Cimabue and Giotto - thin, straight,
somewhat sad and mystic. On the perfectly flat, sandy beach
little green, red, blue boats, so pretty in shape and colour
that they made one think of flowers. A single man is their
whole crew, for these boats hardly venture on the high seas.
They are off when there is no wind, and make for the shore when
there is too much of it.
Gauguin, it seems, is still sick.
I am very eager to know what you have been working at lately
- I myself am still doing nothing but landscapes - enclosed a
sketch. I should also very much like to see Africa, but I
hardly make any definite plans for the future, it will all
depend on circumstances.
well, you will tell me that what I write to you are only
A handshake in thought,
Sincerely yours, Vincent
[The following sketches were enclosed with letter.]
Boats on the beach at Stes.-Maries.
Beach at Stes.-Maries.
Still life: Blue Enamel Coffeepot, Earthenware and Fruit.
Cottages at Stes.-Maries
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Emile Bernard. Written 6-11 June 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number B06.
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