Paris, 16 June 1889
My dear Vincent,
It is a very, very long time since I ought to have written
you a letter, but I have not been able to formulate my
thoughts. There are moments when one's feelings are clear, but
sometimes it is difficult to form an idea of what has taken
shape in one's thoughts and what is still in a state of
vagueness. I am also not sure of being able to write you in the
way I should like to today, 1 but my letter will be
sent off anyway, if only to let you know that we think of you
often, and that your last pictures have given me much food for
thought on the state of your mind at the time you did them. In
all of them there is a vigour in the colours which you have not
achieved before - this in itself constitutes a rare quality -
but you have gone further than that, and if there are some who
try to find the symbolic by torturing the form, I find this in
many of your canvases, namely in the expression of the epitome
of your thoughts on nature and living creatures, which you feel
to be so strongly inherent in them. But how your brain must
have laboured, and how you have risked everything to the very
limit, where vertigo is inevitable!
For this reason, my dear brother, when you tell me that you
are working again, in which from one point of view I rejoice,
for by this you avoid lapsing into the state of mind which many
of the poor wretches who are taken care of in the establishment
where you are staying succumb to, it worries me a little to
think about it, for you ought not to venture into the
mysterious regions which it seems one may skim cautiously but
not penetrate with impunity before you recover completely.
Don't take more trouble than necessary, for if you do nothing
more than simply tell the story of what you see, there will be
enough qualities in it to make your pictures last. Think of all
the still lifes and the flowers which Delacroix painted when he
went to the country to stay with George Sand. It is true that
after that he had a reversal, when he did the “Education
of the Virgin,” and who can tell whether you will not
produce a masterpiece later if you do as I say? But arrange
your work in such a way that you do not overexert yourself. As
you know, there is an exhibition at a café àl'esposition 2
where Gauguin and some others (Schuffenecker) are exhibiting pictures. At first I had
said you would exhibit some things, too, but they assumed an
air of being such tremendous fellows that it made one sick. Yet
Schuffenecker claims that this manifestation will eclipse all
the other painters, and if they had let him have his way, he
would have paraded all over Paris adorned with flags of all
manner of colours to show he was the great conqueror. It gave
one somewhat the impression of going to the Universal
Exhibition by the back stairs. As always, there were
exclusions. Lautrec, who had exhibited with a Centre, was not
allowed to be in it, and so on. The other day a sketch by
Rembrandt was sold at a public auction; I wish you could have
seen it. It is the figure of the Angel Gabriel, standing, as he
is in the heaven of his etching “The Annunciation to the
Shepherds.” What a marvel! The colour has remained quite
clear; perhaps originally it was all yellow. The shadows were
much more coloured than was his habit, and were probably a very
pronounced blue, green and violet, but the general effect and
the harmony are exquisite.
Those who hold out best at the big exhibition are Corot,
Manet, Delacroix, Millet, Ricard, and especially Daumier. They
had hung Degas too, but he has had his pictures removed.
Gauguin went off to Pont-Aven two weeks ago, so he has not
seen your pictures. Isaäcson thinks very highly
of your last consignment. I shall send you back the bedroom,
but you must not think of retouching this canvas if you can
repair the damage. Copy it, and then send back this one, so
that I can have it re-canvassed. The red vine is very
beautiful; I have hung it in one of our rooms. I am also very
fond of that vertical portrait of a woman. I had a visit from a
certain Polack, who knows Spain and the pictures there well. He
said it was as fine as one of the great Spaniards.
Good health and a handshake from Jo and Theo.
See Vincent's letter 595.
A café where painters were allowed to
exhibit their work.
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Theo van Gogh. Letter to Vincent van Gogh. Written 16 June 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number T10.
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