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From Vincent to Wil


"It is very probably that I shall have to suffer a great deal yet. And to tell the honest truth, this does not suit me at all, for under no circumstances do I long for a martyr's career. For I have always sought something different from heroism, which I do not have, which I certainly admire in others, but which, I tell you again, I consider neither my duty nor my ideal."

Vincent van Gogh
Letter W11
30 April 1889



Of the letters that Vincent van Gogh wrote to his sister, Wilhelmina (Wil), 22 survive. All of them are presented in this section in their entirety.

Letter

Keywords

Excerpt / Full Text

Link to Painting(s) Mentioned in Letter

W 1

Paris
Summer or Fall, 1887

Guy de Maupassant, Rabelais, Henry Rochefort, Voltaire, Candide, de Goncourt, Germinie Lacerteux, la Fille Elisa, Zola, La Joie de Vivre, L'assommoire, Zola, Flaubert, Richepin, Daudet, Huysmans, Bel Ami, De Groot, Margot Begemann, Mont Oriol I have a dirty and hard profession--painting--and if I were not what I am, I should not paint; but being what I am, I often work with pleasure, and in the hazy distance I see the possibility of making pictures in which there will be some youth and freshness, even though my own youth is one of the things I have lost.

Full Text

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W 2

Arles
c. 28 February 1888

Voltaire, Candide, Mauve Full Text ---
W 3

Arles
30 March 1888

Tersteeg, Jet Mauve, Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Pierre Loti, Le mariage de Loti, Otaheite, [Richard] Wagner Full Text Still Life with French Novels and a Rose: F 489, JH 1332; Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass with a Book: F 393, JH 1362; Pink Peach Tree in Blossom (Reminiscence of Mauve): F 394, JH 1379
W 4

Arles
c. 22 June 1888

Rise and fall of the Dutch Republic, Mauve, Israëls, Domela Nieuwenhuis, Delacroix, Millet, Corot, Courbet, Daumier, Chaplin, Madame Chrysanthème, Pierre Loti, L'Abbé Constantin, Ohnet, Van Eeden, Mr. Vosmaer, An acquaintance of ours used to assert that the best treatment for all diseases is to treat them with profound contempt.
People give a lot of money for the work after a painter himself is dead.

Full Text

Self-Portrait in Front of the Easel: F 522, JH 1359
W 5

Arles
31 July 1888

Uncle Cor, postman [Joseph Roulin], Le mariage de Loti, Otaheite When your body forsakes you, use your brains--you and I with our constitutions should take this to heart.

Full Text

Zouave (Half Length), The: F 423, JH 1486; Sunny Lawn in a Public Park: F 428, JH 1499; Flowering Garden with Path: F 429, JH 1513; La Mousmé, Sitting: F 431, JH 1519; Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin: F 433, JH 1524
W 6

Arles
c. 21 August 1888

Gauguin, the Louvre, Millet, Jules Breton, Daubigny, Corot, Delacroix, Joseph Roulin, Daudet I hope when you go back to Holland you will take along some study of mine to decorate your room.

Full Text

Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers: F 456, JH 1561
W 7

Arles
9 and 16 September 1888

Bel Ami, Zola, de Maupassant, de Goncourt For my part I don't need Japanese pictures here, for I am always telling myself that here I am in Japan.
At present I absolutely want to paint a starry sky. It often seems to me that night is still more richly coloured than the day; having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens.
It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot. They used to draw and paint the picture in the daytime after the rough sketch. But I find satisfaction in painting things immediately.
The more ugly, old, vicious, ill, poor I get, the more I want to take my revenge by producing a brilliant colour, well arranged, resplendent.

Full Text

Three White Cottages in Saintes-Maries: F 419, JH 1465; Portrait of Eugene Boch: F 462, JH 1574; Night Cafe in the Place Lamartine in Arles, The: F 463, JH 1575; Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night, The: F 467, JH 1580; Self-Portrait (Dedicated to Paul Gauguin): F 456, JH 1581; Night Cafe in Arles, The: F 456, JH 1576
W 8

Arles
c. 27 August 1888

Guy de Maupassant, Whitman, "Prayer of Columbus", Prévost, Monticelli, Gauguin, Cannebière, Monthenard There is always some pretty annoying fatality in life. Well, painters die, or go mad with despair, or are paralyzed in their production, because nobody likes them personally.

Full Text

Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers: F 456, JH 1561; Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers: F 458, JH 1667
W 9

Arles
c. 16 November 1888

Mrs. Mauve, Au bonheur des dames, Guy de Maupassant, Dickens I don't know whether you can understand that one may make a poem only by arranging colours, in the same way that you can say comforting things in music.

Full Text

Memory of the Garden at Etten: F 496, JH 1630; Novel Reader, The: F 497, JH 1632
W 11

Arles
30 April 1889

Mme. Duquesne, Voltaire, Candide, Flaubert, Bouward and Pécuchet, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Beecher Stowe, Dickens, Christmas Tales, Renan, Drône I have had in all four great crises, during which I didn't in the least know what I said, what I wanted and what I did
I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me; now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety, apparently without cause, or otherwise a feeling of emptiness and fatigue in the head.

Full Text

La Crau with Peach Trees in Blossom: F 514, JH 1681; View of Arles with Trees in Blossom: F 515, JH 1683; Orchard in Blossom with View of Arles: F 516, JH 1685; Courtyard of the Hospital at Arles, The: F 519, JH 1687; Ward in the Hospital in Arles: F 646, JH 1686
W 12

Saint-Rémy
16 June 1889

--- Though it is with an obstinate ingratitude that I feel my health gradually returning, the fact is that I am quite well; but, as I told you, my inclination to take up the joys of life again can hardly be called strong.

Full Text

Mountainous Landscape behind Saint-Paul Hospital: F 611, JH 1723; Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background: F 712, JH 1740; Green Wheat Field with Cypress: F 719, JH 1725
W 13

Saint-Rémy
2 July 1889

Rod, Le sens de la vie, Le philosophe sous les toits, Souvestre, Diuz, Shakespeare Today I sent Theo a dozen drawings after canvases I am working on; otherwise my life is definitely as inept as it was when I was a twelve-year-old boy at boarding school, where I learned absolutely nothing.

Full Text

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W 14

Saint-Rémy
19 September 1889

Delacroix, Millet, Pierre Loti, My Brother Yves, Fisherman of Iceland [Pécheur d'Islande], Madame Chrysanthème, Carmen Sylva, Germinie Lacerteux, de Goncourt, Tolstoi, Mauve, Zola, Flaubert, Maupassant, Huysmans, Guillaumin, Rembrandt, Hals, Masker I always think photographs abominable, and I don't like to have them around, particularly not those of persons I know and love.
It is splendid weather outside--but for a long time--two months to be exact--I have not left my room; I don't know why.

Full Text

Wheat Field behind Saint-Paul Hospital with a Reaper: F 619, JH 1792; Self-portrait: F 626, JH 1770; Self-portrait: F 627, JH 1772; Pietà (after Delacroix): F 630, JH 1775; Portrait of Madame Trabuc: F 631, JH 1777; Olive Trees: F 711, JH 1791; Pieta (after Delacroix): F 757, JH 1776
W 15

Saint-Rémy
c. 20-22 October 1889

Cor, Mauve, Lecomte, Margot Begemann, Felix Holt, Isaäcson, Dostoevski, Souvenirs de la maison des morts, Carmen Sylva's "Thoughts" Full Text Vincent's Bedroom in Arles: F 483, JH 1793; Red Vineyard, The: F 495, JH 1626; Self-portrait: F 525, JH 1665; Wheat Field behind Saint-Paul Hospital with a Reaper: F 619, JH 1792; Enclosed Field with Ploughman: F 625, JH 1768; Ward in the Hospital in Arles: F 646, JH 1686; Olive Trees: F 711, JH 1791; Wheat Field with Cypresses: F 743, JH 1790
W 16

Saint-Rémy
c. 10 December 1889

Boussod, English Pre-Raphaelites, Millais, "The Huguenot", "The Light of the World" Full Text Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers/a>: F 456, JH 1561; Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers: F 458, JH 1667; Red Vineyard, The: F 495, JH 1626; Orchard in Blossom with View of Arles: F 516, JH 1685; Olive Grove: Orange Sky: F 586, JH 1854; Corner in the Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital, A: F 609, JH 1693; Mulberry Tree, The: F 637, JH 1796; Pine Trees against a Red Sky with Setting Sun: F 652, JH 1843; Olive Picking: F 654, JH 1868; Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun: F 710, JH 1856; Enclosed Field with Rising Sun: F 737, JH 1862; Breton Women (after Emile Bernard): F 1422, JH 1654
W 17

Saint-Rémy
4 January 1890

--- And it is not necessary to say that I think of you all every day.

Full Text

Pine Trees against a Red Sky with Setting Sun: F 652, JH 1843; Olive Picking: F 655, JH 1869
W 18

Saint-Rémy
c. 20 December 1889

--- Full Text Olive Picking: F 654, JH 1868; Olive Picking: F 655, JH 1869
W 19

Saint-Rémy
20 January 1890

Gauguin, Millet, Bernard, Daudet Well, the fact is that one cannot retrace one's steps, and the steps one has taken greatly influence the future.

Full Text

Olive Picking: F 655, JH 1869
W 20

Saint-Rémy
c. 20 February 1890

Monticelli, Gauguin, Degas, Millet, Delacroix, Henri Conscience Thinking of this, but far away, I feel the desire to renew myself, and to try to apologize for the fact that my pictures are after all almost a cry of anguish, although in the rustic sunflower they may symbolize gratitude.

Full Text

L'Arlesienne (Madame Ginoux): F 540, JH 1892; L'Arlesienne (Madame Ginoux): F 543, JH 1895; Blossoming Almond Tree: F 671, JH 1891
W 21

Auvers-sur-Oise
c. 20 May 1890

--- In Paris it was a great joy for me to see Theo again, and to make the acquaintance of Jo and the little one. Jo made an excellent impression of me; she is charming and very simple and brave.

Full Text

Olive Grove with Picking Figures: F 587, JH 1853; Olive Picking: F 654, JH 1868; Olive Picking: F 656, JH 1870; Meadow in the Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital: F 672, JH 1975; Pine Trees and Dandelions in the Garden of Saint-Paul Hospital: F 676, JH 1970; Still Life: Vase with Irises against a Yellow Background: F 678, JH 1977; Still Life: Vase with Irises: F 680, JH 1978; Still Life: Vase with Roses: F 681, JH 1976; Still Life: Pink Roses in a Vase: F 682, JH 1979; Road with Cypress and Star: F 683, JH 1982; Landscape with Couple Walking and Crescent Moon: F 704, JH 1981; Olive Grove: Pale Blue Sky: F 708, JH 1855; Green Wheat Fields: F 807, JH 1980
W 22

Auvers-sur-Oise
5 June 1890

Puvis de Chavannes, André Bonger What impassions me most--much, much more than all the rest of my métier--is the portrait, the modern portrait.

Full Text

Old Cemetery Tower at Nuenen, The: F 84, JH 772; L'Arlesienne (Madame Ginoux): F 540, JH 1892; L'Arlesienne (Madame Ginoux): F 542, JH 1894; L'Arlesienne (Madame Ginoux): F 543, JH 1895; Self-Portrait: F 627, JH 1772; Blossoming Almond Tree: F 671, JH 1891; Still Life: Vase with Irises against a Yellow Background: F 678, JH 1977; Still Life: Vase with Irises: F 680, JH 1978; Still Life: Vase with Roses: F 681, JH 1976; Still Life: Pink Roses in a Vase: F 682, JH 1979; Portrait of Doctor Gachet: F 753, JH 2007; Doctor Gachet's Garden in Auvers: F 755, JH 1999; Marguerite Gachet in the Garden: F 756, JH 2005; Marguerite Gachet at the Piano: F 772, JH 2048; Church at Auvers, The: F 789, JH 2006
W 23

Auvers-sur-Oise
c. 12 June 1890

--- At times this [the Dr. Gachet portrait] might make a certain impression on people. There are modern heads which people will go on looking at for a long time to come, and which probably they will mourn over after a hundred years.

Full Text

Portrait of Doctor Gachet: F 753, JH 2007; Landscape with Carriage and Train in the Background: F 760, JH 2019; Vineyards with a View of Auvers: F 762, JH 2020; Wheat Field at Auvers with White House: F 804, JH 2018


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