Toward the end of the year I come once more to say good day
to you - you will say that I have forgotten that several times.
But reasoning and thinking about these things is sometimes
so difficult, and sometimes my feelings overwhelm me more than
I discovered that in Paris, how much more Theo
did his best to help Father practically than I, so that his own
interests were often neglected. Therefore I am so thankful now
that Theo has got a wife and is expecting his baby. Well, Theo
had more self-sacrifice than I, and that is deeply rooted in
his character. And after Father was no more and I came to Theo
in Paris, then he became so attached to me that I understood
how much he had loved Father. And now I am saying this to you,
and not to him - it is a good thing that I did not stay in
Paris, for we, he and I, would have become too interested in
And life does not exist for this, I cannot tell you how much
better I think it is for him this way than in the past, he had
too many tiresome business worries, and his health suffered
A French writer says that all painters are more or less
crazy, and though quite a lot can be said against this, it is
certain that one gets too distrait in it. Whatever the truth of
it may be, I imagine that here, where I don't have to worry
about anything, etc., the quality of my work is
And thus, I go on with relative calmness, and do my best in
my work, and don't consider myself among the unhappy ones.
For the moment I am working on a picture of a path between
the mountains and a little brook forcing its way between the
stones. The rocks are of a plain violet-grey or pink, with here
and there palm bushes and a kind of broom, which has all kinds
of colours, green, yellow, red, brown, all through the autumn.
And the brook in the foreground, white and foaming like
soapsuds, and farther on, reflecting the blue of the sky.
And now the work that people do here at the moment is
certainly quite different - with more colour, and drawn more
boldly, than what they used to do in Holland in Schelfout's
time, for instance. And yet one thing is simply the consequence
of the other. For instance, at the time you knew old Van de
Sande Bakhuysen and Jules Bakhuysen. Only a little while ago I
thought of their work, and that with all the apparent
difference, there is yet so little change in people's thoughts.
Well, I believe that Jules Bakhuysen, for instance, would quite
well understand what I am painting these days - this ravine
with the brook, and another picture of the hospital park - big
fir trees against an evening sky.
I hope Theo has sent you my studies, but I started still
another rather big picture for you of women gathering olives.
The trees, grey-green, with a pink sky and a purplish soil. All
the colours softer than usual. I had hoped to
send it one of these days, but it is drying slowly.
As I told you, I am sometimes sorry that I am often so
absent-minded, I struggle against it, but it makes me unable to
do many things I ought to do. As for my health, there is
literally nothing the matter with it, but the shock of last
year makes me feel like not leaving the hospital. Sometimes I
imagine that if I gave up painting and had to lead a hard life,
say, as a soldier in the East, it would cure me. But it is
somewhat late for that, and I am afraid I should be refused. I
am thinking this half in jest, half in earnest.
For the present my work is going well, but of course my
thoughts are always directed on the colours and on drawing,
going around in a rather small circle. So I want only to live
by the day - trying to get on from one day to the other. And
besides, my painter-friends also often complain that the
profession makes one so powerless, or that it is the powerless
who follow it.
How much you will be thinking of Theo and Jo and the coming
event. I hope from the bottom of my heart that it will go well.
I am glad to be able to imagine how your house is after Wil's
description of it.
Is there any news of Cor? It is a very good thing that you
are near Anna, and see your grandchildren about you. Give my
kindest regards to all at Anna's, and my best wishes for the
The weather here is rather soft these days, though there are
also many days of frost and wind, but here the sun shines more
strongly than in Holland. Do you remember that Rappard once
said, “It is sometimes refreshing,” when he was
staying with us after he had typhoid fever; I sometimes think
of it when I am feeling much stronger and at times more
clear-headed than last year.
And now I wish you a happy Christmas and a good Old and New
An embrace in thought from,
Your loving Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 20 December 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 619.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.