Vincent van Gogh - Peasants Lifting Potatoes 1890

Peasants Lifting Potatoes 1890
Peasants Lifting Potatoes
Oil on canvas 32.0 x 40.5 cm. Saint-Rémy: March-April, 1890
Private collection

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Theo van Gogh to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, Saturday, 16 November 1889.
My dear Vincent,
I enclose a letter which Gauguin sent me for you. The wood he speaks of has also arrived here. What an excellent workman he is, this is worked with a care that must have demanded an enormous amount of work from him. Above all the woman’s figure is very beautiful, in waxed wood, while the surrounding figures are in rough wood and coloured. It’s obviously bizarre and doesn’t express a very clear idea, but it’s beautiful like a piece of Japanese work, the significance of which is also hard to grasp, at least for a European, but in which one must admire the combinations of lines and the beautiful pieces. The whole has a very sonorous tone. I’d very much like you to be able to see it. You would certainly like it. I’ve been to Bernard’s this week, and he showed me what he has done lately. I think he’s made a lot of progress. His drawing is less determined, but it’s there all the same. There’s more flexibility in his touch. With him there’s a more direct influence from the primitives, thus he has done a kneeling figure surrounded by angels. The ground is in large squares, and the figures are posed as if on a chessboard, but there’s one angel figure which really has nobility. He’s also done a Christ in the Garden of Olives. A red-headed, violet Christ with a yellow angel. It’s very difficult to understand, and the search for style often lends something ridiculous to his figures, but perhaps something good will come of it. When one sees a lot of paintings, so many that sometimes one would like not to see any for a while, what then satisfies one the most are the healthy, real things, without preoccupations about schools or abstract ideas. You’ll perhaps tell me that any work of art must be the result of a quantity of complicated combinations, that’s right, but with the painter also there must be moments when he’s so inspired by his motif or his subject that he renders it as one might grasp it, or at least feel it like a thing one finds oneself in front of. I feel that in front of several of your canvases. There’s one at Tanguy’s at the moment, in the shop window, a view over the countryside in springtime with grey poplars crossing the canvas in such a way that you can’t see either the bottom or the top of the tree. I like it enormously. That truly is nature. This morning there was a letter for you from Les Vingt in Brussels, I put your address on it. A line from Maus that I received at the same time tells me that they’d be happy if you would exhibit, paintings and drawings. When he came, he very much liked the apple trees in blossom, but Van Rijsselberghe grasps better what you’re seeking in the more recent things. The portrait of Roulin, The sunflowers etc. You must tell me what you think of the exhibition and what you want to send there. I believe there’s 5 to 7 metres of wall space. This year they’ve invited Puvis de Chavannes, Bartholomé, Cézanne, Dubois-Pillet, Forain, Sisley and De Lautrec and you. However bad the Independents’ exhibition was, The Irises were seen by a lot of people who talk to me about them. If we could have a regular exhibition in Paris of artists little known by the public, that would be a good thing, but it would have to be almost a permanent exhibition. The premises are so expensive here, that will always be a drawback.

Pissarro wrote to me that his wife and he have already had a little look round the country for a place for you to lodge, but he says that he thinks you’ll be better off with this Dr at Auvers; he says he’s to see him shortly. I’m pleased that you feel better; the more physical strength you have, the better. Write to me sometime about how your clothes are, don’t you need something warm? Fortunately Jo is well and sends her warm regards. Winter’s already starting here. Does the mistral blow in St-Rémy as it does in Arles?
Good handshake and
Ever yours, Theo