My dear comrade Bernard,
Perhaps you will be inclined to forgive me for not replying
to your letter immediately, when you see that I am sending you
a little batch of sketches along with this letter.
In the sketch “The Garden” maybe there is
“Des tapis velus
De fleurs et de verdures tissus”
[Shaggy carpets woven
Of flowers and greenery]
by Crivelli or Virelli, it doesn't matter much which.
Well, anyway, I wanted to answer your quotations with the
pen, but not by writing down words. Today too I am hardly in a
mood for discussions; I am up to my ears in work.
I have done some large pen-and-ink drawings. Two: an immense
stretch of flat country, a bird's-eye view of it seen from the
top of a hill - vineyards and fields of newly reaped wheat. All
this multiplied in endless repetitions, stretching away toward
the horizon like the surface of a sea, bordered by the little
hills of the Crau.
It does not have a Japanese look, and yet it is really the
most Japanese thing I have done; a microscopic figure of a
ploughman, a little train running across the wheat field - this
is all the animation there is in it.
Listen, one of the first days after I came to this spot I
talked to a painter friend of mine, who said, “How boring
it would be to do this.” I didn't say anything, but I
thought it so astounding that I didn't even have the strength
to give that idiot a piece of my mind. And I am still going
there, over and over again. All right! I have done two drawings
of it - of that flat landscape, where there was nothing but ...
infinity - eternity.
All right! While I was drawing, there came along a fellow
who is not a painter but a soldier [Milliet]. I said to him “Does
it amaze you that I think this as beautiful as the
Now this fellow knew the sea. “No, it doesn't amaze
me,” he said, “that you think this as beautiful as
the sea, but I myself think it even more beautiful than the
ocean; because it is inhabited”
Which of the two spectators was more of an artist, the first
or the second, the painter or the soldier? Personally I prefer
the soldier's eye - am I right or not?
Now it is my turn to say to you, Answer me quickly - this
time by return mail - to let me know whether you will consent
to make some sketches after your Breton studies for me. I have
a package ready to be forwarded, but before it goes off I want
to do at least halt a dozen new subjects for you, pen-and-ink
Having little doubt of what you will do for your friends, I
myself shall start working all the same, even if I don't know
whether or not you want to do it. You see, I am going to send
these sketches to my brother to persuade him to take some of
them for our collection. As a matter of fact I have already
written to him on the subject; but we have started on an
enterprise which leaves us absolutely without a penny. The fact
is that Gauguin, who has been very ill, is probably going to
spend next winter with me here, in the South. And it is the
cost of his journey which causes us a lot of worry. Once he is
here - my goodness, when you are two you spend less than when
you are alone. All the more reason why I want to have some of
your things here. Now I should like to have some things of
yours too - without spoiling your chances of making a sale in
Paris, however. At any rate I don't think you will lose by it,
if I can persuade you to make a mutual exchange of sketches
after painted studies. And we shall strike another bargain as
soon as I can, but I am rather hard up at the moment.
I am sure of one thing - namely, if sooner or later Gauguin
and I have an exhibition in Marseilles, Gauguin as well as I
myself will invite you to participate in it. At last Thomas has
bought Anquetin's study, “The Peasant.”
A cordial handshake; more before long,
Sincerely yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Emile Bernard. Written 15 July 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number B10.
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