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Kunst und Künstler:
“With Van Gogh’s Friends in Arles”


Dr. Félix Rey, interviewed by Max Braumann (1928)

Vincent was above all a miserable, wretched man, short--Please get up! About your height--and thin. He always wore a sort of overcoat, smeared with paint--as he painted with his thumb, he would then wipe it on his coat--and an enormous straw hat without a band, as is the custom with the shepherds of the Camargue, for protection against the scorching sun. He often complained that he was the only painter in town and therefore could not talk to anyone about his art. For lack of such a colleague, he would talk to me about complementary colors. But I really could not understand why red should not be red, and green not green! . . .

Before he would set out to go to work I the morning with canvas and easel, he would put a pot of chick-peas on the coal fire. When he returned in the evening, usually extremely tired, the fire, naturally was out and the dish of peas usually half-cooked and inedible. Nevertheless, he would eat this very unappetizing food, unless he chose to calm his stomach with alcohol.

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When I saw that he outlined my head entirely in green (he had only two main colors, red and green), that he painted my hair and my mustache--I really did not have red hair--in a blazing red on a biting green background, I was simply horrified. What shouldn’t I do with this present? Nor did I know what to do with other paintings, The Hospital Garden and Dormitory in the Hospital, that were also presented to me. I offered them to the Administrator of Hospitals, who happened to be visiting, but he would have no part of them and passed them on to the secretary of the clinic. You see, this gentleman is himself a painter . . . . Unfortunately, Van Gogh’s paintings did not find favor with him either. This gentleman called them "dirty obscenities" and presented them, now for the fourth time, to the druggist. More careful than the previous owners, this man kept them and sold them much later, when the value of the works by the dead Van Gogh had reached a very high level, for fabulous prices.


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