Van Gogh made twenty-one paintings in Saint-Rémy that were "translations" of the work of Jean-François Millet. Van Gogh did not intend for his works to be literal copies of the originals. Speaking specifically of the works after Millet, he explained, "it's not copying pure and simple that one would be doing. It is rather translating into another language, the one of colors, the impressions of chiaroscuro and white and black."
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Friday, 4 January 1889.
My dear brother
I hope that Gauguin will also completely reassure you a little regarding painting matters.
I expect to start work again soon.
The charwoman and my friend Roulin had taken care of the house, put everything in good order.
When I come out I’ll be able to continue on my way here again, and soon the fine days will come and I’ll start on the orchards in blossom again.
I am, my dear brother, so heartbroken by your journey, I would have wished that you’d been spared that, for all in all no harm has come to me, and it wasn’t worth troubling you. I can’t tell you how much it delights me that you’ve made peace and even more than that with the Bongers. Say so on my behalf to André, and give him a very cordial handshake from me. What wouldn’t I have given for you to see Arles in fine weather, now you have seen it when it’s dark.
However, be of good heart, send the letters directly to me, 2, place Lamartine. I’ll send Gauguin the paintings of his that are still at the house as soon as he wishes. We owe him the money he spent on the furniture.
Handshake, I must go back to the hospital again, but shortly I’ll leave for good.
Also write a line to Mother on my behalf, so that no one will be worried.
To Paul Gauguin. Arles, Friday, 4 January 1889.
My dear friend Gauguin
I’m taking advantage of my first trip out of the hospital to write you a few most sincere and profound words of friendship.
I have thought of you a great deal in the hospital, and even in the midst of fever and relative weakness.
Tell me. Was my brother Theo’s journey really necessary – my friend? Now at least reassure him completely, and yourself, please. Trust that in fact no evil exists in this best of worlds, where everything is always for the best. So I want you to give my warm regards to good Schuffenecker – to refrain from saying bad things about our poor little yellow house until more mature reflection on either side – to give my regards to the painters I saw in Paris.
I wish you prosperity in Paris. With a good handshake
Roulin has been really kind to me, it was he who had the presence of mind to get me out of there before the others were convinced.