[Letter presented here in Vincent's unaltered English.]
My dear Russell,
For ever so long I have wanted to write you - but then the
work has so taken me up. We have harvest time here at present
and I am always in the fields.
And when I sit down to write I am so abstracted by
recollections of what I have seen that I leave the letter. For
instance at the present occasion I was writing to you, and
going to say something about Arles as it is - and as it was in
the old days of Boccaccio.
Well, instead of continuing the letter I began to draw on
the very paper the head of the dirty little girl I saw this
afternoon whilst I was painting a view of the river with a
greenish yellow sky.
The dirty “mudlark” I thought yet had a vague
Florentine sort of figure like the heads in the Monticelli
pictures, and reasoning and drawing this wise I worked on the
letter I was writing to you. I enclose the slip of scribbling
that you may judge of my abstractions, and forgive my not
writing before as such. Do not however imagine I am painting
old Florentine scenery - no, I may dream of such - but I spend
my time in painting and drawing landscapes or rather studies of
The actual inhabitants of this country often remind me of
the figures we see in Zola's work.
And Manet would like them as they are, and the city as it
is. Bernard is still in Brittany and I believe he is working
hard and doing well.
Gauguin is in Brittany too, but has again suffered of an
attack of his liver complaint. I wished I were in the same
place with him, or he were here with me.
How is your house in Brittany getting on - and have you been
working in the country?
I believe my brother has also another picture by Gauguin
which is as I heard say very fine, two negro women talking, it
is one of those he did at Martinique. McKnight told me he had
seen at Marseilles a picture by Monticelli, flowerpiece.
Very soon I intend sending over some studies to Paris and
then you can, if you like, choose one for our exchange.
I must hurry off this letter for I feel some more
abstractions coming on and if I did not quickly fill up my
paper I would again set to drawing and you would not have your
I heard Rodin has a beautiful head at the salon.
I have been to the seaside for a week and very likely am
going thither again soon. Flat shore sands - fine figures there
like Cimabue - straight stylish.
Am working at a sower:
the great field all violet the sky & sun very yellow, it
is a hard subject to treat.
Please remember me very kindly to Mrs. Russell - and in
thought I heartily shake hands.
Yours very truly, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to John Russell. Written c. 17 June 1888 in Arles. Translated by None, edited by Robert Harrison, number .
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