van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Emile Bernard
Arles, 9 April 1888
Relevant paintings:

"Orchard in Blossom, Bordered by Cypresses," Vincent van Gogh

"Sketch by Vincent," Vincent van Gogh

My dear comrade Bernard,

Thanks for your kind letter and for the enclosed sketches of your decoration, which I think very funny. Sometimes I regret that I cannot make up my mind to work more at home and extempore. The imagination is certainly a faculty which we must develop, one which alone can lead us to the creation of a more exalting and consoling nature than the single brief glance at reality - which in our sight is ever changing, passing like a flash of lightning - can let us perceive.

A starry sky, for example. See, that's a thing I'd like to try to do, just as by day I want to try to paint a green meadow spangled with starry dandelions. Yet how can I do it, unless I work it out at home, and from my imagination? Of course, this faults my idea while yours gets praised.

At the moment I am absorbed in the blooming fruit trees, pink peach trees, yellow-white pear trees. For that matter here is a sketch, the entrance to a Provençal orchard with its yellow fences, its enclosure of black cypresses (against the mistral), its characteristic vegetables of varying greens: yellow lettuces, onions, garlic, emerald leeks.

In short, my dear comrade, in no case an eye-deceiving job. 1

As for visiting Aix, Marseilles, Tangier, no fear of that. If notwithstanding this I should go there, it would be in search of cheaper lodgings. Otherwise I am convinced that even if I were to work all my life, I should not be able to do one half of all that is characteristic in this town alone.

By the way, I have seen bullfights in the arena, or rather sham fights, seeing that the bulls were numerous but there was nobody to fight them. However, the crowd was magnificent, those great colourful multitudes piled up one above the other on two or three galleries, with the effect of sun and shade and the shadow cast by the enormous ring.

I wish you a good journey - a handshake in thought.

Your friend, Vincent

  1. By this Vincent meant “photographic deadness,” for to him photography with its one dead eye produced an optical illusion.

[Sketch “Orchard with Cypresses enclosed with letter.]

At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Emile Bernard. Written 9 April 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number B03.

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