My dear Theo,
. We have had some glorious days and I
have set even more canvases going, so that there are twelve
size 30 canvases in prospect.
I think that very often the Monticellis were prepared like
this. You put other colours on that. But I do not know if the
canvases are strong enough for that sort of work.
Speaking of Gauguin and Bernard, and that they may well give
us painting of greater consolation. I must however add what I
have also said many a time to Gauguin himself, namely that we
must not then forget that others have done it already. But
however it may be, outside Paris you quickly forget Paris, when
throwing yourself into the heart of the country, your ideas
change; but I for one cannot forget all those lovely canvases
of Barbizon, and it seems hardly probable that anyone will do
better than that, and unnecessary besides.
What is André Bonger doing; you have not
mentioned him in the last two or three letters.
I have received - probably from one of our sisters - a book
by Rod, which is not bad, but the title Le Sens de la vie is
really a little pretentious for the contents, it seems to
It certainly is not very cheering. I think the author must
be suffering a good deal from his lungs and consequently a
little from everything.
Anyway, he admits that he finds consolation in the
companionship of his wife, which is all to the good, but after
all, for my own use he teaches me nothing about the meaning of
life, whatever is meant by it. For my part I might well think
him a little trite and be surprised that he has had a book like
that published these days and gets it sold at 3.50 fr.
Altogether I prefer Alphonse Kair, Souvestre and Droz because
they are a bit more alive than this. It's true that I am
perhaps ungrateful, not even appreciating Abbé
Constantin and other literary works, which gave lustre to the
gentle reign of the naive Carnot. It seems that this book has
made a great impression on our good sisters. At least, Wil had
mentioned it to me, but good women and books are two different
I have reread with much pleasure Zadig ou la
destinée bv Voltaire. It is like Candide. Here the
mighty author gives at least a glimpse of the possibility that
life may have some meaning, though it is agreed in conversation
that things in this world do not always go as the wisest
As for me, I do not know what to wish, to work here or
elsewhere now seems to come to very much the same thing, and
being here, staying here seems the simplest thing to do.
Only I have no news to tell you, for the days are all the
same; I have no ideas, except to think that a field of wheat or
a cypress is well worth the trouble of looking at close up, and
I have a wheat field, very yellow and very light, perhaps
the lightest canvas I have done.
The cypresses are always occupying my thoughts, I should
like to make something of them like the canvases of the
sunflowers, because it astonishes me that they have not yet
been done as I see them.
It is as beautiful of line and proportion as an Egyptian
obelisk. And the green has a quality of such distinction.
It is a splash of black in a sunny landscape, but it
is one of the most interesting black notes, and the most
difficult to hit off exactly that I can imagine.
But then you must see them against the blue, in the
blue rather. To paint nature here, as everywhere, you must be
in it a long time. Thus a Monthénard does not give
me the true intimate note, for the light is mysterious, and
Monticelli and Delacroix felt that. Then Pissarro used to talk
very well about it in the old days, and I am still a long way
from being able to do what he said would have to be done.
It would of course be a pleasure to me if you sent me the
paints, if possible, soon, but above all do only what you can
do without too much worry. So if you would rather send them to
me at two different times, it will do just as well.
[A sketch of Cypresses was drawn here.]
I think that of the two canvases of cypresses, the one I am
making this sketch of will be the best. The trees in it are
very big and massive. The foreground, very low with brambles
and brushwood. Behind some violet hills, a sky green and pink
with a crescent moon. The foreground especially is painted very
thick, clumps of brambles with touches of yellow, violet and
green. I will send you the drawings of it with
two other drawings that I have done too.
That will keep me busy these days. The great question here
is to find occupation for the day.
What a pity one cannot shift this building here. It would be
splendid to hold an exhibition in, all the empty rooms, the
I should have very much liked to see that picture by
Rembrandt which you spoke of in your last letter.
Some time ago I saw in Braun's window a photo of a picture
which must belong to the fine last period (probably in the
Hermitage series). In this were great figures of angels, it was
“Abraham's Meat,” five figures I think. That was
extraordinary too. As moving as the “Men of
Emmaus,” for instance.
If later on there should ever be a question of giving
something to M. Salles - for the trouble he has taken - we
should give him Rembrandt's “Men of Emmaus.”
Is your health good? A handshake for you and your wife, I
hope to send you some new drawings next week.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 25 June 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 596.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.