van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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 Memoir of Johanna Gesina van Gogh - Bonger

May 18

The opening was on May 16. It was not beautiful - not enough care had been spent on it for that - but there was space and light to see the pictures that was all. Many people came in the afternoon. Most of all I was pleased to see old Israëls. 4 Some of them he thought very fine, but he said there were impassable bounds between things that can be painted and things that cannot, and Vincent had often wanted to paint things that were impossible, for instance the sun.

But where he had chosen things that were within his power, he had given much beauty.... Toorop was charming as always, kind, simple, affable.

June 21

Next Sunday opening of the Selection exhibition. I hope I can go there with Wil…

June 26

Opening of the Selection Exhibition. Oh, how many beautiful things I have seen. “The Little Bride” by Thijs Maris, it is fragile and tender like our happiness. And that large piece by Israëls, “Alone in the World,” it is gloomy and sad.... I grieve because they did not select two more beautiful ones of Vincent's.... I am beginning to make a plan for an exhibition in Arti of everything of Vincent's work. Once this will have to happen.

How lonely I felt in the midst of this crowd of people. The kindest one of them was Derkinderen, 5 his pleasant greeting has remained in my memory.

Toorop was there, Breitner, Van Eeden, Jolles, 6 all of them people who are only half known to me....

September 26

Nearest to my heart is the exhibition of Vincent's works which will be held in the Panorama Gallery in December. I spoke with Van Kesteren 7 myself, and Jan Veth 8 and Holst 9 will arrange it; this is again something to look forward to....

Yesterday was a strange day. First I took a walk in the afternoon with Mother and the child, along the `s Graveland Road. It was a deliciously quiet autumn day. After dinner I went with them to Amsterdam in order to hear Bep 10 sing in “Ons Huis.” 11 It was a pleasant sight; the hall not full of daintily dressed ladies and gentlemen, but full of (common) people in their shabby clothes with tired and weather-beaten faces, who at long last also had a night of enjoyment and recreation. 1 sat watching the expression on their faces during the various items. Grieg's &ldSonata” left them cold, nobody understood a note of it. The songs that Bep sang were greatly enjoyed, and during the pathetic passages they became very sentimental, their eyes swimming with tears. The recitations were thought beau-tiful too, “The Blind” by Van Beers, “They Were Eight” and "The Knitting Girl.” It was a nice evening. And the view on the town at night from the railway-station was enchanting and beautiful.

...Tomorrow I shall start some translating, I must earn a bit more....

So for a number of years my mother translated short stories from the French and the English to be used as serials for De Kroniek (The Chronicle), a weekly edited by P. L. Tak, in which modern literary and political life found expression. The publisher during the first years was the firm of C. M. van Gogh, Vincent's uncle's firm (see letters); every week it featured prints by Marius Bauer 12 and a series of lithographs, “Well known Contemporaries,” by Jan Veth. In a letter to a friend she wrote regarding Vincent's letters:

“The letters have taken a large place in my life already, since the beginning of Theo's illness. The first lonely evening which I spent in our home after my return I took the package of letters. I knew that in them I should find him again. Evening after evening that was my consolation after the miserable days. It was not Vincent whom I was seeking but Theo. I drank in every word, I absorbed every detail. I not only read the letters with my heart, but with my whole soul. And so it has remained all the time. I have read them, and reread them, until I saw the figure of Vincent clearly before me. Imagine for one moment my ex-perience, when I came back to Holland - realizing the greatness and the nobility of that lonely artist's life. Imagine my disappointment at the indifference which people showed, when it concerned Vincent and his work.... Sometimes it made me very sad. I remember how last year, on the day of Vincent's death, I went out late in the evening. The wind blew, it rained, and it was pitch-dark. Everywhere in the houses I saw light and people gathered around the table. And I felt so forlorn that for the first time I understood what Vincent must have felt in those times, when every body turned away from him, when he felt “as if there were no place for him on earth…” I wished that I could make you feel the influence Vincent had on my life. It was he who helped me to accommodate my life in such a way that I can be at peace with myself. Serenity - this was the favorite word of both of them, the something they considered the highest. Serenity - I have found it. Since that winter, when I was alone, I have not been unhappy - “sorrowful yet always rejoicing,” that was one of his expressions, which I have come to understand now.”

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