[An unfinished letter found among his papers]
My dear friend Gauguin,
Thank you for having written to me again, my dear friend, and
rest assured that since my return I have thought of you every
And it gives me enormous pleasure when you say the
Arlésienne's portrait, which was
based strictly on your drawing, is to your liking. I tried to
be religiously faithful to your drawing, while nevertheless
taking the liberty of interpreting through the medium of colour
the sober character and the style of the drawing in question.
It is a synthesis of the Arlésiennes, if you like;
as syntheses of the Arlésiennes are rare, take
this as a work belonging to you and me as a summary of our
months of work together. For my part I paid for doing it with
another month of illness, but I also know that it is a canvas
which will be understood by you, and by a very few others, as
we would wish it to be understood. My friend Dr. Gachet here
has taken to it altogether after two or three hesitations, and
says, “How difficult it is to be simple.” Very well
- I want to underline the thing again by etching it, then let
it be. Anyone who likes can have it.
Have you also seen the olives? Meanwhile I have a portrait
of Dr. Gachet with the heart-broken expression of our time.
If you like, something like what you said of
your “Christ in the Garden of Olives” not meant to
be understood, but anyhow I follow you there, and my brother
grasped that nuance absolutely.
[Here Vincent drew a sketch of the "Cypress with Star."]
I still have a cypress with a star from down there, a last
attempt - a night sky with a moon without radiance, the slender
crescent barely emerging from the opaque shadow cast by the
earth - one star with an exaggerated brilliance, if you like, a
soft brilliance of pink and green in the ultramarine sky,
across which some clouds are hurrying. Below, a road bordered
with tall yellow canes, behind these the blue Basses
Alpes, an old inn with yellow lighted windows, and a very
tall cypress, very straight, very sombre.
On the road, a yellow cart with a white horse in harness,
and two late wayfarers. Very romantic, if you like, but also
Provence, I think.
I shall probably etch this and also other landscapes and
subjects, memories of Provence, then I shall look forward to
giving you one, a whole summary, rather deliberate and studied.
My brother says that Lauzet, who does the lithographs after
Monticelli, liked the head of the Arlésienne in
But you will understand that having arrived in Paris a
little confused, I have not yet seen your canvases. But I hope
to return for a few days soon.
[Here was drawn a sketch of "Ears of Wheat."]
I'm very glad to learn from your letter that you are going
back to Brittany with De Haan. It is very likely that - if you
will allow me - I shall go there to join you for a month, to do
a marine or two, but especially to see you again and make De
Haan's acquaintance. Then we will try to do something
purposeful and serious, such as our work would probably have
become if we had been able to carry on down there.
Look, here's an idea which may suit you, I am trying to do
some studies of wheat like this, but I cannot draw it - nothing
but ears of wheat with green-blue stalks, long leaves like
ribbons of green shot with pink, ears that are just turning
yellow, lightly edged with the pale pink of the dusty bloom - a
pink bindweed at the bottom twisted round a stem.
After this I would like to paint some portraits against a
very vivid yet tranquil background. There are the greens of a
different quality, but of the same value, so as to form a whole
of green tones, which by its vibration will make you think of
the gentle rustle of the ears swaying in the breeze: it is not
at all easy as a colour scheme.
At this time, Vincent was 37 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Paul Gauguin. Written c. 17 June 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 643.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.