From the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France:
This woman is without doubt Agostina Segatori (1843-1910), a former model of Corot, Gérôme and Manet with whom Van Gogh seems to have had a brief love affair a few months before this portrait was painted. During his time in Paris, between March 1886 and February 1888, he was initiated into the scientific colour-theories developed by the Neo-impressionists. He was also profoundly interested in Japanese etchings, and in this portrait, Van Gogh offers a very personal synthesis of these two influences.
Several elements are reminiscent of Japanese prints: the asymmetrical border, the stylisation of the character in a portrait with neither shadows nor perspective, the monochrome background… But instead of the refined touch of Eastern aesthetics Van Gogh employs an energetic treatment, which results in an impression of almost primitive might.
The Neo-impressionists juxtaposed complementary colours in order to achieve intensity. Here, Van Gogh did likewise, associating reds with greens and blues with oranges but instead of the pointillist brush-stroke characteristic of Seurat and Signac, he uses a criss-cross of overlapping nervous hatching. The colours are violent, expressive, revealing Van Gogh to be a precursor of Fauvism.
Agostina Segatori's face, in which red and green prevail, is an incarnation of the artist's objective, verbalised a year later in Arles: "to be able to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green".
To Anthon van Rappard. Nuenen, between about Wednesday, 24 and about Monday, 29 September 1884.
My dear friend Rappard,
A very brief line in haste. My parents asked me yesterday whether I knew anything more about your visit. I said I knew in general that in all likelihood you’d be coming in October, but no further indication of the date than that. Between ourselves, I tell you that although you’re equally welcome at any time and can be expected at any time — I think that it would suit them at home better in October than in November, say, because I believe that they’re expecting other guests later, for which reason I may perhaps go somewhere else myself for a while in November.
You’ll see from what I say here that it isn’t just me but also my parents in particular who are counting on you, and it would be a disappointment to us if your visit were to fall through. To the extent that I’d actually regret having written to you like this if it even shortened your visit. The fact that my parents mentioned it was more a hint to me that certain people who would, I imagine, rather not meet me are coming in November, a hint, I repeat, to me that they wouldn’t take it amiss if I weren’t here in November, for instance, and possibly half of December.
But both they and I are definitely expecting you, and would be disappointed if you didn’t come.
But because I’ve already said that I was intending to go on a trip somewhere else in November, precisely with a view to not getting in anyone’s way, my parents are counting on it. So do come in October, and for as long as possible. As you already said in your last letter anyway. But I have to be away during November.
It’s very beautiful here. Just don’t put it off for too long. Regards — with a handshake.
It’s actually almighty inconvenient for me not to be able to be here in November, and I imagine I’ll stay in the vicinity anyway, somewhere else in Brabant. But since I think that they’re expecting guests then, whose custom it is to come at the beginning of the winter until Christmas time, say, I immediately said something myself about a proposed trip that actually wouldn’t have been my intention at all if there’d been no reason for it.
Something else — when you come, come via Eindhoven, writing to tell me which train — then I’ll meet you at Eindhoven station. Then we’ll go together to the man I’m making the decoration for — the 6 canvases I already wrote to you about. This art lover is now busy copying them, and all 6 of them are with him. He’s a very nice fellow, a goldsmith by profession, and a chaser of brass and metal for church ornaments &c.
1r:4 I think that if you leave Utrecht early in the morning you’ll be in Eindhoven shortly before or after 12. That would be the very best time to go there together, and go to Nuenen by train or on foot in the early evening.