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, on or about Wednesday, 24 April 1889.
My dear Theo,
I saw Mr Salles again and he told me what he’d written to you. I think it will be for the best like this, and I don’t see any other way. Thought is coming back gradually, but I can still act much much less practically than before.
I’m absent-minded, and for the moment wouldn’t be able to control my life.
But let’s leave that aside as much as possible. How are you, are you back?
Must tell you that I think it possible that you’ll find Mr Salles’ letter still addressed to rue Lepic.
How are things at home? I imagine Mother must have been pleased.
I assure you that I’m much calmer now that I can tell myself that you have a companion for good. Above all, don’t imagine that I’m unhappy.
I feel deeply that this has already worked away at me for a very long time, and that others, noticing the symptoms of mental derangement, naturally had apprehensions that were better founded than the confidence I thought I had in thinking normally. Which wasn’t the case, because for me that crisis.
Anyway, it softens me a great deal in many judgements that, with more or less presumption, I’ve too often made about people who nevertheless wished me well.
Anyway, it’s no doubt a pity that these reflections come to me a little late in the form of feelings. And that naturally I can’t change anything of the past. But I ask you to consider this closely, and to consider the course of action we’re taking today as I’ve talked about it with Mr Salles, to go into an asylum, as a simple formality, and in any case the repeated crises appear to me to have been serious enough not to hesitate.
Besides, as to my future, it isn’t as if I were 20, since I’ve passed 36.
There you are, it seems to me that it would be a torture as much for others as for myself if I left the hospital, for I feel and am as it were paralyzed when it comes to acting and getting by. Later on, my word, time will tell.
Thus I’d like to ask you a heap of things about Holland and about recent days. Poor egotist that I’ve always been and still am now, I can’t shake off this idea, which, however, I’ve already explained to you two or three times, that it’s thus for the best that I go into an asylum right now. It will perhaps turn out all right in the end. Anyway, my very meagre excuse is that painting narrows ideas for the rest perhaps. One can’t be in one’s profession and think of the rest at the same time. It’s a little inevitable – the profession is quite thankless and its usefulness is certainly contestable. And the thing I regret is not having gone into an asylum sooner, it would have been simpler. Remains, however, the fact that the idea of association of painters, of housing them together, some of them, although we haven’t succeeded, although it’s a deplorable and painful failure – this idea remains true and reasonable – like so many others.
But no beginning again.
Be well aware that we must take absolutely the simplest board and lodging.
80 francs must and can suffice, says Mr Salles. Rey warns me that at St-Rémy it wouldn’t go amiss to consider that many people are committed who are more or less well off, some of whom spend a lot of money. Which is often more harmful than useful to them. I can well believe that. And I think that for me, nature alone will do more good than remedies. Here I’m taking nothing. I’ll have to pay perhaps another 11.87 francs in movable property tax, I’ve been sent a bill for it at least, in addition to the rest of the rent that I still owe the landlord. And before going to St-Rémy I must send you my consignment of paintings, I’ve packed one crate already.
I’d like to write to you about other things, but it preoccupies me now that this matter should be sorted out, I can’t find the ideas I seek to write to you about on several things at once.
More soon, I hope that you and your wife had a good journey.