van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Saint-Rémy, 3 May 1890
Relevant paintings:

"Raising of Lazarus sketch," Vincent van Gogh

"Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt)," Vincent van Gogh 1890

"La Berceuse (Augustine Roulin)," Vincent van Gogh

"L'Arlesienne (Madame Ginoux)," Vincent van Gogh

"Good Samaritan (after Delacroix)," Vincent van Gogh

[The sketch Raising of Lazarus was drawn here.

My dear Theo,

I think the best thing will be for me to go myself to see this doctor in the country as soon as possible, then we can soon decide if I shall go to stay with him or temporarily at the inn; and thus we shall avoid too prolonged a stay in Paris, a thing I dread.

You remember that six months ago I said after an attack that if it was repeated I should ask you for a change. We have got to this - though I do not feel capable of passing judgment on the way they treat the patients, it is enough that I feel that what still remains of my wits and of the power to work is absolutely in danger, whereas on the contrary, I undertake to prove to this doctor of whom you speak that I can still work rationally, and he will treat me accordingly, and since he likes painting, there is really a chance that a lasting friendship will result.

I do not think that M. Peyron will object to a very prompt departure; besides, I tell myself that the pleasure of spending some days with you will do me a lot of good.

And from that time on we can really count on a period of comparative health. So do not delay taking the necessary steps so that this does not keep dragging on.

Once there, I can send for my bed, which is in Arles.

Besides, I should make a change in any case, as I prefer being in an asylum where the patients work to this terrible idleness here, which really seems to me simply a crime. But then, you will tell me that one sees it practically everywhere, and that it even abounds in Paris. However that may be, I hope we shall see each other again shortly.

The etchings which you sent me are very fine. On the back of this page I have scribbled a sketch after a painting I have done of three figures which are in the background of the etching of “Lazarus”: the dead man and his two sisters. The cave and the corpse are white-yellow-violet. The woman who takes the handkerchief away from the face of the resurrected man has a green dress and orange hair, the other has black hair and a gown of striped green and pink. In the background a countryside of blue hills, a yellow sunrise.

Thus the combination of colours would itself suggest the same thing which the chiaroscuro of the etching expresses.

If I should still have at my disposal the model who posed for “La Berceuse,” and the other one whose portrait after Gauguin's drawing you have just received, I would certainly try to make a painting of it in large size, this canvas, as these persons are just what I would have dreamed as characters. But subjects of this kind aside, when I am back in the North, there will always be the study from nature of peasants and landscapes.

As for the order for paints, if I should have to stay here a few more days, then please send part of them at once. If, however, I am leaving one of these days - which I hope - you can quite well keep them in Paris.

Write me soon in any case: I hope you will have received the canvases safely. I have done another one of a nook of greenery, which I think has some freshness. I have also tried a copy of the “Good Samaritan” by Delacroix.

I think, from a note in the Figaro, that father Quost must have a tremendous picture at the Salon.

Kind regards to your wife, I am looking forward to making her acquaintance with great pleasure, and a good handshake in thought.

Ever yours, Vincent

At this time, Vincent was 37 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 3 May 1890 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 632.

This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.
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