Vincent van Gogh - Montmartre Path with Sunflowers 1887

Montmartre Path with Sunflowers 1887
Montmartre Path with Sunflowers
Oil on canvas 32.0 x 41.0 cm. Paris: June, 1887
San Francisco: Legion of Honor Museum

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theodorus van Gogh and Anna van Gogh-Carbentus. Nieuw-Amsterdam, on or about Friday, 26 October 1883.
Dear Parents,
I received your letters and I thank you for them.
The death of Cousin Anna Tak touched me too; yes, it could have happened at any time. I sometimes thought that she wasn’t entirely happy, or rather, for my part I don’t doubt it for a moment. I think it must be difficult to be happy with a banker, less than ever nowadays. You will say that it isn’t so — but I just happen to have certain ideas about it in regard to the way of all businesses.
There’s a certain sphere that it’s better to keep out of, in my view.
To change the subject — the people of Het Heike cheated one another, and I wouldn’t swear that it never happens here. But as to the people of Het Heike, I believe that they have shown that, despite the way they may have cheated one another, despite this being taken for granted, when it comes down to it people like that are very united, taken as a whole. I found Het Heike a remarkable example of energy; the little houses each with a patch of green land, that poor little band battling together against the barrenness of the heath — I don’t deny their faults, but they’re by no means the first things that strike me. I had never thought about whether the people cheated one another here. Now that I come to think of it, well — it probably does happen sometimes — but generally what strikes me is the same as I saw on a small scale in Het Heike. It’s more spacious here and more interesting, and has more character. Something at least as attractive and orderly as an ants’ nest or beehive. So there you have things writ large — I find them admirable as they are — and as to how they might be — I won’t deny that they could be better — but, as I said, I already see so much positive good here that I refrain from commenting, particularly since as yet I’m by no means able to distinguish coincidences from character flaws. I’ll have to see more before I can do that.

Well, if I compare the population of a city and these people, I don’t hesitate for one moment in saying that these heathland people or peat workers seem better to me. Yes, the difference seems to me to be enormous, even if they cheat one another no less than on Het Heike, although I don’t say that they do, I don’t know yet.
I recently spoke about something of the kind to the man I lodge with, who also farms — by chance, because he asked me what it was like in London, he’d heard so much about it. I told him that, to me, a simple peasant who worked and thought while he was working was the civilized man — that this has always been so, will always remain so, that here and there in the country one sees someone in whom one sees what that is, and in the city one finds a few among the very, very rare excellent people who are almost exactly as noble in a very different way. But that in my view it goes no further, and that generally speaking one has more chance of meeting a reasonable human being in the country than in the city. And also that I thought that the more one went to the big cities, the more one went into the darkness of uncivilization and stupidity and wickedness. He said that it actually appeared the same to him. There is a difference, and in the country it is quieter, more peaceful, something better; even if they do cheat one another, they don’t do it as badly as in the city.
We have, by turns, beautiful, clear autumn days here and stormy ditto. Actually I find the latter the most beautiful, even though they make it more awkward to work outdoors, even though it’s sometimes completely impossible to do so. All the same, going out and reworking a study one has made on a fine day in accordance with what one sees outdoors in the rain can be done, and it satisfies me. Don’t worry about my health, I’m taking care of myself, and in these early days here I’m even feeling better than in the last few months in The Hague, when I was much troubled by nervousness &c. And that has calmed down altogether. In my view, there’s nowhere one can think better than by a peasant hearth, with a baby in an old cradle beside it — and where one can see through the window a delicate green wheatfield and the alder bushes waving.
I’m following the ploughmen a great deal at present and must get back there. Regards, dear parents — my overcoat is perfectly all right, the undervest is splendid.
Believe me
Your loving