Vincent van Gogh - Self-Portrait 1887

Self-Portrait 1887
Oil on canvas 47.0 x 35.0 cm. Paris: Autumn, 1887
Paris: Musee d'Orsay

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, on or about Sunday, 20 July 1884.
My dear Theo,
I was delighted to learn from your letter to Pa and Ma that you plan to go to London on 4 Aug. and then to come on here from there. I’m again looking forward very much to your arrival and to finding out what you’ll think of the work that I’ve done since. The last things I did are a couple of rather large studies of ox-carts, a black ox and a red and white one.
And have also been working again on the old tower in the fields in the evening; I’ve made a larger study of it than my previous ones — with the wheatfields around it.
Rappard sent me back the little book by Vosmaer that belongs to you — I started to read it but — is it just me? — find it almighty boring and actually written in an academic, sermonizing tone. Perhaps you will too when you look at it again. Have you read Sapho by Daudet? It’s very beautiful, and so vigorous, and so close to life that the female figure lives, breathes, and one can hear, literally hear the voice, and forgets that one is reading.
You’ll also see a couple more new weavers when you come.
Nature is certainly pure here — I’m still very pleased with the studio, too.
We must visit some farms and weavers together when you come.
Rappard’s plan is to come back again in October; he’s probably in Drenthe again now.
Well, I write in some haste because I’m hard at work. I work a good deal early in the morning or in the evening, and then sometimes everything is so inexpressibly beautiful. Regards, believe me
Ever yours,

To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, on or about Monday, 4 August 1884.
My dear Theo,
Just wanted to drop you a line while you’re in London. I thank you for your last letter and enclosed 150 francs. Would really like to go for a walk with you again there in London, preferably in real London weather, though, when the city has very melancholy aspects, particularly in certain old areas by the river — but at the same time has an extraordinarily poignant character.
Which some present-day English artists have started to make, after having learned to see and paint from the French.
But, unfortunately, it’s difficult to see that part of English art that’s actually the most interesting to you and to me. The majority of the paintings in the exhibitions are usually not appealing. Yet I hope, though, that you’ll come across something here and there that will enable you to understand how I, for my part, always keep thinking about some English paintings — for instance, Chill October by Millais — for instance, the drawings by Fred Walker and Pinwell. Look out for the Hobbema in the National Gallery — you certainly won’t forget to look at a couple of very fine Constables there (Cornfield) and also in South Kensington (where that farm is, Valley farm). I’m very curious as to what will have struck you most and what you’ll have seen there.
Last week I was in the fields every day during the wheat harvest — of which I’ve made a composition. I made this for someone in Eindhoven who wants to decorate a dining room. He wanted to do it with compositions of various saints. I suggested he consider whether 6 scenes from the peasant life of the Meijerij — at the same time symbolizing the 4 seasons — might not whet the appetites of the good folk who would have to sit at table there more than the above-mentioned mystical personages. Well, the man warmed to the idea after visiting the studio.
But he wants to paint those panels himself, and will that work? (However, I was to design and paint the compositions on a reduced scale.)
He’s a man I want to remain on good terms with if possible — a former goldsmith who has amassed and sold a very considerable collection of antiques no fewer than 3 times. Is now rich and has built a house that he’s filled with antiques again, and furnished with some very fine oak chests &c. He decorates the ceilings and walls himself, and really well sometimes.
But he specifically wants painting in the dining room, and has started painting 12 panels of flowers.
That leaves 6 panels across the width, and for those I gave him provisional plans for sower — ploughman — shepherd — wheat harvest — potato harvest — ox-cart in the snow. But I don’t know whether it’ll come to anything — because I haven’t got a definite agreement from him. Only, he’s taken with this first panel as well as with my little sketches for the other subjects.
I’m really looking forward to your arrival. I’m still pleased to be here — I miss some things from time to time, but the work absorbs me enough. Well — give my regards to Mr Obach if you run into him.
When you come here you’ll find all the peasants busy ploughing — and sowing spurrey — or — it will just be coming to an end then. I’ve seen magnificent sunsets over the stubble fields. Goodbye for now.
Ever yours,