van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Paul Gauguin to Vincent van Gogh
Brittany, 7 - 9 September 1888

c. 7 - 9 September 1888

My dear Vincent,

I recieved your letter just when I was going to write you. Forgive me if I write so seldom and so little. I am terribly bored and I have stomach problems; we constantly have rain. I work and I don't do anything, in the sense that I draw with my hand, my head, and my heart with an eye toward what I want to do later. Yes, you're right to want painting with colouring suggestive of poetic ideas, and in this sense I agree with you, with one difference. I don't know any poetic ideas; it's probably a sense I'm lacking. I find everything poetic, and it's in the corners of my heart, which are sometimes mysterious, that I perceive poetry. Led harmoniously, forms and colours in themselves produce poetry. Without letting myself be surprised by the motif, I feel a sensation in front of someone else's painting that brings me to a poetic state, depending on the painter's intellectual forces, which emanate from it. Useless to go on about this, we'll talk at length about it another time. On this matter, I'm quite sad to be held here in Pont-Aven; each day my debts increase and make my trip more and more unlikely. What a long Calvary an artist's life is! And that's perhaps what makes us go on living. Passion gives life, and we die when it's no longer nourishing. Let's abandon these paths lined with thorny bushes, although they have their savage poetry…

I study little Bernard, who I know less than you; I know that you want to do something good for him, and he needs it. He has naturally suffered, and he started life filled with gall, driven to see the bad side of man. I hope that, with his intelligence and his love of art he will one day perceive that goodness is a strength against the other, and a consolation for our own misfortunes. He likes you and values you, therefore you can have a good influence on him. We very much need to be united in heart and intelligence if we want the future to put us in our true places.

Is your brother away on a journey? I don't have any news of him anymore.

Yours sincerely, Gauguin.

At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Paul Gauguin. Letter to Vincent van Gogh. Written 7 - 9 September 1888 in Brittany. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number htm.

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