From the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia:
The painting was executed in Auvers not long before van Gogh's death. He repeated the motif of peasant juts on many occasions: "In my opinion, the most marvellous of all that I know in the sphere of architecture is huts with their roofs of moss-grown straw and a smoky hearth," wrote van Gogh in one of his letters.
The thatched roofs seem to be just as much an organic part of nature as the hills, fields and sky. The hilly relief of the distance allowed the artist to accentuate the dynamics of space, which he reinforced through the use of colour contrasts. The tense, wavy brushstrokes and lines convey the dramatism of the artist's perception of life and the world.
Paul Gauguin to Vincent van Gogh. Le Pouldu, Wednesday, 22 or Thursday, 23 January 1890.
My dear Vincent
Thanks for your letter and for your projected proposals, they gave me a lot to think about, and I admit that I consider life together possible, very possible, but with many precautions. Your state of ill-health, which isn’t yet completely cured, requires calm and a lot of careful handling. You say yourself that memories disturb you when you go to Arles. Do you not fear that I may also be a similar cause? In any event, it wouldn’t seem prudent to me to start out in a town where you’d find yourself isolated and consequently lack immediate care should you relapse – so I’m looking for the most propitious place. We’ve chatted about this with De Haan (a completely serious man), and I consider that Antwerp would completely fit the bill.
Because life is as cheap as in some provincial hole.
Next, because there are museums which aren’t to be sneered at for painters. Then one can work for sale there.
Why shouldn’t we found a studio in my name; with a few connections, with our names a little known through the Vingtistes it would be possible, and however little one does one is still making a profitable step. In my opinion, Impressionism won’t really find its place in France until it’s back from abroad. It’s there where one reasons about it best and gives it the warmest welcome, so it’s there that one must work. You will be two Dutchmen, that’s to say from the country, although Antwerp is Belgian.
There’s been an exhibition of mine in Copenhagen recently with works that were previously refused, as I told you. Well it was very successful. It’s an indication that the 1st work I did was bearing fruit after germinating slowly.
In the same way in Antwerp, by bestirring ourselves, 3 talented fellows, firm in their beliefs, we’ll take a step forward. And a little later, if it works out a bit, why not make a small branch of your brother’s in terms of selling. Your brother could lend you a few canvases by other artists, and with this drop of water hollow out the rock.
There you have it, my dear Vincent, broadly speaking my opinion on your project. Answer me with your frank opinion about it. In any event, all of this is very cloudy, since I’m pursuing my Tonkin project vigorously.
At the moment we have spring tide storms that are keeping us in the studio, and it’s very sad.
Regards from De Haan.