Vincent van Gogh - A Road at Saint-Remy with Female Figure 1889

A Road at Saint-Remy with Female Figure 1889
A Road at Saint-Remy with Female Figure
Oil on canvas 32.2 x 40.5 cm. Saint-Rémy: December, 1889
Kasama Japan: Kasama Nichido Museum of Art

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Theo van Gogh to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, Thursday, 5 September 1889.
My dear Vincent,
You gave me really great pleasure by writing to me, when one doesn’t know one thinks that things are even worse than they really are. It’s bad enough that you’ve had a crisis, but fortunately I see from your letter that now you’re better. The view from your window, of which you give a croquis, must be really beautiful; in Paris one sometimes yearns to see the real countryside as you draw a fragment of it. One never sees peasants in the surroundings of Paris, and truly I no longer know when the wheat or potatoes are harvested. It’s true that in town one meets people who are certainly interesting too, but one sometimes has enough of it, and then when one can’t go away a painting of the real countryside does one good, and in those moments, certainly, a Bodmer will give as much or more pleasure as some painting that is technically clever but which doesn’t have that something true and healthy like a slice of black bread. Rousseau also has this knowledgeable side. There are paintings of his at the Exhibition with areas of forest in which one can recognize all the species of tree with real heather and real ferns at their feet. Certainly, if these people aren’t artists, and one must be darned fussy not to take them as such, they’re in any case men, and of the sort one would like the world to be full of.

There’s old père Pissarro, who has all the same done some really fine things lately, and it’s precisely there that one also finds these qualities of rusticity which show immediately that the man is more at his ease in a pair of clogs than in polished boots. He recently lost his mother, who was very old but it hit him hard all the same; he also had to have an operation on one eye, but I don’t think it has cured him. He still wears a sort of muzzle which really annoys him. He has quite a lot of difficulty selling and has a lot of trouble, but always courageous. One of his sons is in London, it appears that there are schools there where one learns decoration and where the pupils are absolutely free to grasp the subject as they understand it. The first thing he was given to do was a frieze of brambles. It would be really good if the same thing was done here, leaving people to follow their own inclinations, they’ll find ornaments taken from nature, and many changes for interior decoration etc. might follow from it. It’s a pity that the Impressionists aren’t known in England, there must be people there who would like them.
This week Tersteeg sent me eight watercolours by J.H. Weissenbruch, who isn’t dead, by the way, they’re really really fine. Even if he isn’t attached to the detail of the vegetation, he knows the nature of the Dutch countryside as Daumier knew his lawyers, the stunted trees, the muddy roads through the meadows, and his skies, aren’t they really like one sees them in Holland! I’m very pleased that Tersteeg had the courage to buy some from him, he’s always the same, he begins by saying no and after a while he returns to it and often changes his mind. Here, where Jongkind was understood, people may well understand him too. In any event, it can be tried. Gauguin has sent me a few new canvases. He says that he hesitated to send them, as what he seeks isn’t in them as he wanted it.
He says that he found it in other canvases that aren’t dry yet. Anyway, it’s a fact that his consignment didn’t appear as fine to me as the one from last year, but there’s one canvas that’s once again a really fine Gauguin. He calls it Beautiful Angèle. It’s a portrait arranged on the canvas like the big heads in Japanese prints, there’s the bust portrait with its frame, and then the background. It’s a Breton woman seated, hands folded, black dress, lilac apron and white collar, the frame is grey and the background a beautiful lilac blue with pink and red flowers. The expression of the head and the posture are very well found. The woman looks a little like a young cow, but there’s something so fresh and once again so countrified, that it’s most agreeable to see. Now I must also tell you that the Independents’ exhibition is open and that in it there are your two paintings, ‘The irises’ and the Starry night. The latter is badly placed, for one can’t position oneself far enough away, as the room is very narrow, but the other one looks extremely well. They’ve placed it on the narrow side of the room and it strikes you from a long way off. It’s a fine study, full of air and life. There are some Lautrecs which look very well, among them a Ball at the Moulin de la Galette which is very good. One could send only two paintings each because the exhibition is being held in premises much smaller than where it was up to now. Seurat has some seasides, Signac two landscapes. There’s also a painting by Hayet, that friend of Lucien Pissarro: place de la Concorde in the evening with carriages, the gaslights etc. It’s a little like that painting of the tumblers by Seurat, but more harmonious.

We’re very well, I’m hardly coughing any more and I feel sturdier. Jo is well too, one begins to see that she’s pregnant, but it doesn’t inconvenience her yet. One of her sisters is with us at the moment. Mother has had a letter from Cor, he’s already far away and was well. Write me a few words if you wish, thank you once again for your letter. Be of good heart, and good handshake, from Jo as well.
Ever yours,