van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
 
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Saint-Rémy, c. 2 November 1889
Relevant paintings:


"Evening: The Watch (after Millet)," Vincent van Gogh
[Enlarge]


"Two Peasants Digging (after Millet)," Vincent van Gogh
[Enlarge]


"Evening: The End of the Day (after Millet)," Vincent van Gogh
[Enlarge]


"Sower (after Millet)," Vincent van Gogh
[Enlarge]


"Wheat Field in Rain," Vincent van Gogh
[Enlarge]


"Pine Trees against a Red Sky with Setting Sun," Vincent van Gogh
[Enlarge]


"The Walk: Falling Leaves," Vincent van Gogh
[Enlarge]


"Pine Trees with Figure in the Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital," Vincent van Gogh
[Enlarge]

My dear Theo,

You gave me great pleasure by sending those Millets. I am working at them zealously. Because I haven't been seeing anything artistic, I was getting slack, and this has revived me. I have finished the “Veillée” and am working on the “Diggers” and the “Man Putting on His Jacket,” size 30 canvases, and the “Sower,” smaller. The “Veillée” is in a colour scheme of violets and tender lilacs with the light of the lamp pale lemon, then the orange glow of the fire and the man in red ochre. You will see it; it seems to me that painting from these drawings of Millet's is much more translating them into another tongue than copying them.

Besides that, I have a rain effect going and an evening effect with some big pines. And also one of the falling leaves.

Also in my work my ideas are becoming - it seems to me - more stable. But then I do not quite know if you will like what I am doing now. For in spite of what you said in your last letter, that the search for style often harms other qualities, the fact is that I feel strongly inclined to seek style, if you like, but by that I mean a more virile, deliberate drawing. I can't help it if that makes me more like Bernard or Gauguin. But I am inclined to think that in the end you will come to like it.

For, yes, you must feel the whole of a country - isn't that what distinguishes a Cézanne from anything else? And Guillaumin whom you cite, he has so much style and such a personal manner of drawing.

Anyhow, I will do the best I can. Now that most of the leaves have fallen, the countryside is more like the North, and then I realize that if I returned to the North, I should see it more clearly than before.

I hope to go to Arles one of these days.

I should so much like Jo to see the “Veillée.” I think I shall send you a package in a little while, but it is drying very badly because of the dampness of the studio. Here there is hardly any cellar or foundation to the houses, and you feel the damp more than in the North.

Those at home will have moved by now. I will add six canvases for them to the next package. Is it necessary to have them framed? - perhaps not, because they are not worth it. Above all do not get the studies that I send from time to time framed, we can do that later on, it's no use their taking up too much room.

I have also done a canvas for M. Peyron; a view of the house with a big pine.

I hope you and Jo continue well.

I am glad that you are not alone any more and that everything is more normal than it used to be.

Is Gauguin back, and what is Bernard doing?

Good-by for now. A good handshake for you and Jo and our friends, and believe rue,

Ever yours,

Vincent

however I beg you to believe that in landscape I am going on trying to mass things by means of a drawing style which tries to express the interlocking of the masses. Do you happen to remember that landscape by Delacroix - “Jacob Struggling with the Angel”? And there are others of his! For instance, the cliffs and those very flowers of which you sometimes speak. Bernard has really done some perfect things in this respect. Well, don't cultivate a prejudice against it too quickly.

Anyhow, you will see that in a big landscape with some pines, trunks of red ochre defined by a black stroke, there is already more character than in the previous ones.


At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Source:
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 2 November 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 613.
URL: http://webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/20/613.htm.

This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.
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