Arles, c. 27 August 1888
My dear sister,
It will really simplify the writing of my letter if you will
let me write in French.
I am quite delighted to hear that you get more excited by
sculpture than by painting - all the more since Theo assures me
that your judgment of pictures is sound too.
Of course this cannot yet be a fixed taste that would never
waver; but having intuition, instinct, is already a great
thing, and it is exactly what not everybody always has. But all
the same I am very curious to know what impression the
Luxembourg will make on you.
It is true that at moments, when I am in a good mood, I
think that what is alive in art, and eternally alive, is in the
first place the painter and in the second place the
Never mind, it is of no importance - however, to see
fellows work is still something one will not find under
glass in museums.
Poor Miss Harriet in Guy de Maupassant's book was perhaps in
the right. But did the painter do wrong when he went with the
servant girl from the farm? Perhaps not. There is always some
pretty annoying fatality in life. Well, painters die, or go mad
with despair, or are paralyzed in their production, because
nobody likes them personally.
Have you read the American poems by Whitman? I am
sure Theo has them, and I strongly advise you to read them,
because to begin with they are really fine, and the English
speak about them a good deal. He sees in the future, and even
in the present, a world of healthy, carnal love, strong and
frank - of friendship - of work - under the great starlit vault
of heaven a something which after all one can only call God -
and eternity in its place above this world. At first it makes
you smile, it is all so candid and pure; but it sets you
thinking for the same reason.
The “Prayer of Columbus” is very beautiful.
What is your opinion of the bunch of flowers by Monticelli
which is at Theo's, and also of the “Spanish Woman”
by Prévost? These are truly two pictures of the
We just spoke of the hour of fatality which seems sad to us.
But isn't there another fatality which is charming? And what do
we care whether there is a resurrection or not, as long as we
see a living man arise immediately in the place of the dead
man? Let us take up the same cause again, continuing the same
work, living the same life, dying the same death.
When my friend Gauguin is here, and we two go to Marseilles,
it is my firm intention to go saunter in the
Cannebiére there, dressed exactly like him,
Monticelli, as I have seen his portrait, with an enormous
yellow hat, a black velvet jacket, white trousers, yellow
gloves, a bamboo cane, and with a grand southern air.
And there I shall find Marseillais who used to know him when
he was alive, and if you have read in Tartarin what
fên de brût means …
And there will be noise du bruit, on that occasion.
Monticelli is a painter who did the South all in yellow, all in
orange, all in sulphur. The great majority of the painters,
because they aren't colourists in the true sense of the word,
do not use these colours there, and they call a painter mad if
he sees with eyes other than theirs.* Of course all this is
only to be expected. So I myself too have already finished a
picture all in yellow - of sunflowers (fourteen flowers in a
yellow vase and against a yellow background,
which is certainly different from the previous one with twelve
flowers on a blue-green background).
Did Theo show you the tansy? It is very beautiful.
Enjoy yourself as much as possible; I embrace you in
* You will see Monthenards in the Luxembourg which are not
yellow at all, and that I like very much nevertheless, but it
is likely that Monthenard would think the things I do
1. Written in French.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Wilhelmina van Gogh. Written c. 27 August 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number W08.
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