My dear Theo,
Many thanks for the package of canvases, brushes, tobacco
and chocolate which reached me in good condition.
Also I have been out for several days, working
in the neighborhood.
Your last letter, if I remember correctly, was dated May 21.
I have had no more news of you since, except only that M.
Peyron told me he had had a letter from you. I hope you are
well, and your wife too.
M. Peyron intends to go to Paris to see the exhibition and
he will pay you a visit then.
What news can I tell you? - not much. I am working on two
landscapes (size 30 canvases), views taken in the hills, one is
the country that I see from the window of my bedroom. In the
foreground, a field of wheat ruined and hurled to the ground by
a storm. A boundary wall and beyond the grey foliage of a few
olive trees, some huts and the hills. Then at the top of the
canvas a great white and grey cloud floating in the azure.
It is a landscape of extreme simplicity in colouring too.
That will make a pendant to the study of the
“Bedroom” which has got damaged.
When the thing represented is, in point of character,
absolutely in agreement and one with the manner of representing
it, isn't it just that which gives a work of art its
That is why, as far as painting goes, a household loaf is
especially good when it is painted by Chardin.
Now what makes Egyptian art, for instance, extraordinary -
isn't it that these serene, calm kings, wise and gentle,
patient and kind, look as though they could never be other than
what they are, eternal tillers of the soil, worshippers of the
I should so have liked to have seen an Egyptian house at the
exhibition constructed by Jules Garnier the architect - painted
in red, yellow, and blue, with a garden regularly divided into
beds by rows of bricks - the dwelling place of beings whom we
know only as mummies or in granite.
But then to come back to the point, the Egyptian artists,
having faith, working by feeling and by instinct,
express all these intangible things - kindness, infinite
patience, wisdom, serenity - by a few knowing curves and by the
marvellous proportions. That is to say once more, when the
thing represented and the manner of representing it agree, the
thing has style and quality.
So also the servant girl in Leys's great fresco, once she is
engraved by Braquemond, becomes a new work of art - or the
little “Reader” by Meissonier, when it is
Jaequemart who engraves it - since the manner of
engraving is one with the thing represented.
As I wish to preserve this study of the
“Bedroom,” if you would send it back to me, rolled
up, when they are sending me some canvas again, I will copy
At first I had wished to have it recanvassed because I did
not think I could do it again. But as my brain has grown calmer
since, I can quite well do it again now.
The thing is that among the number of things you make, there
are always some that you felt more or put more into and that
you want to keep in spite of everything. When I see a picture
that interests me, I can never help asking myself, “In
what house, room, corner of a room, in whose home would it do
well, would it be in the right place?”
Thus the pictures of Hals, Rembrandt, Van der Meer
[Vermeer], are only at home in an old Dutch house. Now as to
the impressionists - once again, if an interior is not complete
without a work of art, neither is a picture complete if it is
not in harmony with surroundings originating in and resulting
from the period in which it was produced. And I do not know if
the impressionists are better than their time or, on the
contrary, are not yet so good. In a word, are there minds and
interiors of homes more important than anything that has been
expressed by painting? I am inclined to think so.
I have seen the announcement of a coming exhibition of
impressionists called Gauguin, Bernard, Anquetin and other
names. So I am inclined to think that a new sect has again been
formed, no less infallible than those already existing.
Was that the exhibition you spoke of? What storms in
My health is all right, considering; I feel happier here
with my work than I could be outside. By staying here a good
long time, I shall have learned regular habits and in the long
run the result will be more order in my life and less
susceptibility. That will be so much to the good. Besides, I
should not have the courage to begin again outside. Face to face with nature it
is the feeling for work that supports me. But anyway, this is
to show you that there must have been within me some too
powerful emotion to upset me like that, and I have no idea what
can have caused it. I get bored to death sometimes after
working, and yet I have no desire to begin again. The doctor
who has just called says that he is not going to Paris for
several weeks, so do not expect his visit yet. I hope you will
write me soon.
Only you may be
sure I shall do all I can to become active again and perhaps
useful, at least in the sense that I want to do better pictures
In this country there are many things that often make you
think of Ruysdael, but the figures of the labourers are
Everywhere at home and at all times of the year you see men,
women, children and animals at work, and here not a third of
that, and besides, it is not the genuine worker of the North.
They seem to work here with languid, clumsy hands, without
energy. Perhaps this is a wrong idea I have got hold of, not
belonging to the country, anyhow I hope so. But this makes
things colder than one would think when reading
Tartarin, but perhaps he had been exiled with his whole
family for many long years.
Above all, write me soon, because your letter is very slow
in coming; I hope you are well. It is a great consolation to me
to know that you are not living alone any more.
If some month or other it should be too difficult to send me
paint, canvas, etc., then do not send them, for believe me it
is better to live than to work at art in the abstract.
And above all your home must not be sad or dull. That first
and painting after. Then I feel tempted to begin again with the
simpler colours, the ochres for instance.
Is a Van Goyen ugly because it is painted entirely in oils
with very little neutral colour, or a Michel? The shrubbery
with the ivy is completely finished. I very
much want to send it to you as soon as it's dry enough to be
With a right good handshake for you and your wife.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 9 June 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 594.
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