My dear comrade Bernard,
We have worked a lot these days, and in the meantime I read
Le rêve by Zola, and because of this I had hardly any
time to write. Gauguin interests me very much as a man - very
For a long time now it has seemed to me that in our nasty
profession of painting we are most sorely in need of men with
the hands and the stomachs of workmen. More natural tastes -
more loving and more charitable temperaments - than the
decadent dandies of the Parisian boulevards have.
Well, here we are without the slightest doubt in the presence
of a virgin creature with savage instincts. With Gauguin blood
and sex prevail over ambition.
But enough, you have seen him at close range for a longer time
than I have; I only wanted to tell you in a few words what my
first impressions are.
As for me, with my presentiment of a new world, I firmly
believe in the possibility of an immense renaissance of art.
Whoever believes in this new art will have the tropics for a
I have the impression that we ourselves serve as no more than
intermediaries. And that only the next generation will succeed
in living in peace. Apart from all this, our duties and the
possibilities of action for us can become clearer to us only by
experience and nothing else. I am a bit surprised at the fact
that I have not yet received the studies you promised me in
exchange for mine.
Now something that will interest you - we have made some
excursions to the brothels, and it is probable that in the end
we shall often go and work there.
At the moment Gauguin is working on a canvas of the same night
cafe I painted too, but with figures seen in
the brothels. It promises to turn out beautiful.
I myself have done two studies of the fall of leaves in an
avenue of poplars, and a third
study of this whole avenue, entirely yellow.
I must say I cannot understand why I don't do studies after
the figure, seeing that it is often so difficult for me to
imagine the painting of the future theoretically as otherwise
than a new succession of powerful, simple portraitists,
comprehensible to the general public. Well, perhaps I shall go
do the brothels before long. I leave a page open for Gauguin,
who will probably write to you too, and I heartily shake your
hand in thought.
Sincerely yours, Vincent
Milliet, the 2nd lieutenant of the Zouaves, has
gone to Africa; he would like you to write him a letter one of
[Underneath this letter there is a postscript by Gauguin, in
which he says that he agrees with Vincent's idea of a new
generation of painters in the tropics. He intends to go there
as soon as he gets a chance. The two pictures by Vincent of the
falling leaves are hanging in his room, and Bernard would think
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Emile Bernard. Written c. 2 November 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number .
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