From the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France:
After staying in the south of France, in Arles, and then at the psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy de Provence, Vincent Van Gogh settled in Auvers-sur-Oise, a village in the outskirts of Paris. His brother Théo, concerned with his health, incited him to see the Doctor Gachet, himself a painter and a friend of numerous artists, who accepted to treat him. During the two months separating his arrival, on May 21, 1890 and his death on July 29, the artist made about seventy paintings, over one per day, not to mention a large number of drawings. This is the only painting representing in full the church in Auvers that may sometimes be distinguished in the background of views of the whole village. This church, built in the 13th century in the early Gothic style, flanked by two Romanesque chapels, became under the painter's brush a flamboyant monument on the verge of dislocating itself from the ground and from the two paths that seem to be clasping it like torrents of lava or mud. If one compares this painting with Claude Monet's paintings of the cathedral in Rouen, painted shortly afterwards, one can measure how different Van Gogh's approach was from that of the impressionists. Unlike Monet, he did not try to render the impression of the play of light on the monument. Even though the church remains recognisable, the painting does not so much offer the spectator a faithful image of reality than a form of "expression" of a church. The artistic means used by Van Gogh anticipate the work of the fauvists and expressionist painters.
To Anna van Gogh-Carbentus. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Wednesday, 19 February 1890.
I’ve been meaning to answer your letter for days, but didn’t get round to writing because I was painting from morning till night, and so the time passed. I imagine that your thoughts, like mine, are with Jo and Theo. How glad I was when the news came that it had gone well; very good thing Wil stayed. I’d much rather that he’d called his boy after Pa, whom I’ve thought about so often these days, than after me, but anyway, as it’s been done now I started right away to make a painting for him, to hang in their bedroom. Large branches of white almond blossom against a blue sky.
I thank you for the news about Cor. You won’t forget to send him my regards when you write, will you? What you write about Aunt Mina, that she bears her pain with so much patience, touched me. You must be back in Leiden again by now. The last few days we’ve had rather miserable weather here, but today it was a real spring day, and the fields of young wheat and the lilac hills in the distance so beautiful, and the almond trees are beginning to blossom everywhere. I was really rather surprised at that article they wrote about me — Isaäcson wanted to do it some time ago and I asked him not to put pen to paper; I was saddened by it when I read it because it’s so exaggerated; it’s not like that — precisely what sustains me in my work is the feeling that there are several people who are doing exactly the same as I, and so why an article about me and not about those 6 or 7 others etc.?
Now I must confess that later, when my surprise had abated somewhat, I felt very heartened by it at times; yesterday, what’s more, Theo informed me that they’d sold one of my paintings in Brussels for 400 francs. In comparison with other prices, including the Dutch ones, this isn’t much, but that’s why I try to be productive in order to be able to keep working at reasonable prices. And if we have to try to earn our living with our hands, I have an awful lot of expenses to make up for.
The letter from Wil and you just arrived, thank you very much for it. I should have written to you before but, as I said, my mind wasn’t on writing because I was so busy working.
Now I’m seriously thinking of profiting from that windfall of selling that painting to go to Paris — to visit Theo. And thanks to the doctor here I feel I’ll leave calmer and healthier than I came here. Just to see how it goes outside an asylum is perhaps only a matter of course. The work may possibly be more difficult for me, though, when I’m at liberty again.
Anyway, we’ll hope for the best. It’s odd that my friend with whom I worked for a time in Arles should want to go to Antwerp, and that way I’d be a little closer to you all again. But I’m afraid this isn’t entirely practicable, partly because I think it would be more expensive, and if one’s accustomed to the climate here it might also be bad for one’s health to return further north. Anyway, I’ll start by trying a week or so in Paris. Embraced in thought by your loving