From Museum Folkwang, Essen:
Through the window of his room in the Saint-Remy mental hospital, van Gogh looked out on a field. He painted and drew this motif, which lay just beyond the garden wall, several times. In a letter to his friend, Émile Bernard, he wrote that he had taken up the »devil of a question of yellow« in the study. He intended to paint it in pure sulfur yellow. Van Gogh explained the metaphor, obviously chosen with care, to his brother Theo; "I see in this reaper – an undefined figure, struggling in the intense heat like the devil to finish his work – I see him as an image of death in the sense that the humans are the corn that is being cut down. So it is, if you will, the opposite of the sowing that I tried earlier. But this death is not sad, it takes place in bright light with a sun that covers everything with a light like pure gold"
Paul Gauguin to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, Thursday, 17 January 1889.
My dear Vincent
Don’t bother yourself with the studies that I deliberately left in Arles as not being worth the trouble of transporting them. On the other hand the sketchbooks contain notes which are useful to me, and I accept your offer to send them to me. As well as the 2 masks and gloves —
c/o Mr Schuffenecker
29 rue Boulard
Milliet’s address is
2nd lieutenant 3rd Zouaves
Guelma — Place de Constantine
I regret that I inadvertently took it with me (all my apologies). I’ve seen Bernard twice since I arrived in Paris. He has a very good chance of not being a soldier because of his narrow chest, and he won’t know his fate until the end of February. It appears that his father is bothering him more and more on account of the painting and the unfortunate letter I wrote to his family.
No, I haven’t done any portraits yet, having spent my time on errands. Now that I have a studio in which I sleep, I’m going to put myself to work. I’ve begun a series of lithographs to be published in order to get myself known. Moreover, it’s on your brother’s advice and under his auspices.
I’m going to buckle down to the portraits of the whole Schuffenecker family, he, his wife and his 2 children in vermilion aprons. It’s darned cold in Paris at the moment — in addition I’ve amused myself doing croquis at the market, and I’m going to get some porters from the market to pose with their big hats, carrying sacks and sides of meat. I’m carried away at top speed by it.
I don’t know if I’ll go to Brussels, everything will depend on the money situation, and that’s as clear as mud. In any case, if I go there I’ll remember the advice you gave me about it — I don’t know, for example, if my weak voice will be heard. In any case the common good interests me enormously, and I’ll try to do the right thing.