Paris, 16 November 1889
My dear Vincent,
Enclosed I am sending you a letter from Gauguin which he
sent me for you. The forest he speaks of in this letter has
arrived too. What an excellent workman he is! This one
has been executed with a care which must have cost him an
enormous amount of labour. The figure of the woman especially,
in polished wood, is very fine, whereas the surrounding figures
are in rough coloured wood. It is obviously bizarre, and does
not express a very sharply defined idea but it is like a piece
of Japanese work, whose meaning, at least for a European, is
equally difficult to grasp, but in which one cannot but admire
the combination of the lines and the beautiful parts. The
general effect has a very “sonorous” tone. I should
very much like you to see it. You would undoubtedly love
This week I went to see Bernard, who showed me what he had
done recently. In my opinion he has made much progress. His
drawing is less definite, but it is there for all that. There
is more suppleness in his stroke. There is a more direct
influence of the Primitives in him; for instance, he did a
kneeling figure surrounded by angels. The ground is covered
with large tiles, and the figures are distributed as on a
chessboard, but there is one figure of an angel which really
has nobility. He has also done a Christ in the olive grove.
1 Christ with red hair and a yellow angel.
It is very difficult to understand, and the search for a
style often lends the figures a ridiculous quality, but perhaps
something good will come of it. If one sees a great many
pictures, so many that now and then one wishes not to see any
for some time, those which satisfy one most under those
circumstances are the wholesome, true things without all that
business of schools and abstract ideas.
Perhaps you will tell me that every work of art must of
necessity be the result of a great number of complicated
combinations. That is true, but for the painter too there must
come moments when he is so inspired by his subject or theme
that he renders it in such a way that one can know, or at least
feel, it like a thing you are simply confronted with. I feel
this when I stand before many of your canvases. At the moment
there is one in the show window at Tangui's, a view of the
countryside in spring with poplars that run across the canvas
in such a way that one can see neither the bottoms nor the tops
of the trees. I am enormously fond of it. Truly this is pure
A letter came for you this morning from the “XX”
at Brussels. I have put your address on it. A note from Maus,
which I received at the same time, tells me that they will be
happy if you will send in things, paintings and drawings. When
he came here he liked the apple trees in bloom
very much, but Van Rysselberghe knew better what you are after
in your more recent things, the portrait of Roulin, the
sunflowers, etc. It is necessary for you to tell me what you
think of the exhibition, and what you would like to send. I
think there are from 5 to 7 meters of ledge length. For this
year they invited Puvis de Chavannes, Bartholomé,
Cézanne, Dubois, Pillot, Forain, Signac, L.
Pissarro, Hayet, Renoir, Sisley and de Lautrec, and you.
However bad the exhibition of the Independents was, the
“Irises” was seen by a lot of
people, who now talk to me about them every once in a while. It
would be a good thing if we could have a regular exhibition in
Paris of the works of artists who are not well known to the
public but it is almost unavoidable that this should be a
permanent exhibition. The places here are so expensive that
this will always be an obstacle. Pissarro wrote me that his
wife and he have been looking around the country for a
boardinghouse for you, but he tells me he thinks that it will
be better for you to go stay with that doctor in Auvers. He
will have to go to him very soon. I am pleased to hear that you
are feeling better; the stronger you are physically, the
better. Please tell me what the condition of your clothes is.
Don't you want something warm?
Fortunately Jo is well, she gives you her kind regards;
winter is beginning to make itself felt here already.
Does the mistral blow at St. Rémy as it does in
A cordial handshake and
All yours, Theo
1. See Vincent's letters 615 and B21.
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Theo van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 16 November 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number T20.
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