2. The article referred to is Albert Aurier, ‘Les isolés: Vincent van Gogh’, Mercure de France (January 1890), pp. 24-29. For the text, with commentary and an English translation, see exhib. cat. New York 1986, pp. 310-315.
In his article Aurier praises Van Gogh’s ‘strange, intense and feverish work’ (oeuvres étranges, intensives et fiévreuses) and calls him a worthy successor to the seventeenth-century Dutch masters. In his eyes, Van Gogh is not only a realist with a great love for nature and for truth, but also a symbolist who uses his idiom to express ‘an Idea’ (une Idée). He dreams of artistic innovation in the form of an ‘art of the tropical regions’ (art des régions tropicales), striving to produce naïve, primitive art that appeals to simple souls. With regard to Van Gogh’s technique, he writes that it matches his artistic temperament: ‘vigorous, exalted, brutal, intense’ (vigoureuse, exaltée, brutale, intensive). His palette is ‘incredibly dazzling’ (invraisemblablement éblouissante) and his brushstrokes ‘fiery, very powerful and full of tension’ (fougueux, très puissants et très nerveux). Aurier closes his article by lamenting that Van Gogh will never be completely understood, for he is ‘too simple and at the same time too subtle for the contemporary bourgeois mind’ (à la fois trop simple et trop subtil pour l’esprit-bourgeois contemporain).
Aurier published a shortened version of his article under the title ‘Vincent van Gogh’ in L’Art Moderne. Revue Critique des Arts et de la Littérature 10 (19 January 1890), no. 3, pp. 20-22, as is apparent from the first paragraph: ‘One of the artists who will be most widely discussed at the Salon of Les Vingt, around whom a great mass of ignorant nonsense will accumulate, Vincent van Gogh, has recently been studied very closely by Mr G. Albert Aurier, in a subtle and very interesting article published in the Mercure de France (the former Pléiade), January 1890 number. As we are unable to print the whole article, because of its length, we believe it useful to provide extracts from it’ (L’un des artistes qui seront les plus discutés au Salon des XX, celui devant lequel s’accumuleront en tas les ignorances et les inepties, Vincent Van Gogh, vient d’être étudie de très près par M. G. Albert Aurier, dans un subtil et très intéressant article publié par le Mercure de France (ancienne Pléiade), numéro de janvier 1890. Ne pouvant reproduire l’étude complète, en raison de son étendue, nous croyons utile d’en donner des extraits) (pp. 20-21).
Theo sent both articles to Vincent (see letter 849, n. 3), possibly with the present letter from Jo (since she writes that he had brought the article home that morning) or a day earlier, along with the papers sent to Peyron, the receipt of which he confirms in a letter dated 29 January (FR b1061). Theo also sent the article to Mrs van Gogh (see letter 850, n. 2), his sister Lies and the art critic Jan Veth. Mrs van Gogh wrote to Theo on 1 February 1890: ‘I was so happy to receive the article about Vincent. Wonderful that appreciation expressed publicly, so fortunate also for you, you did after all receive my postcard, I wrote it after reading the article’ (FR b3247). Lies wrote to Theo: ‘How appreciative and beautiful that article is! I thank you for sending it. It is certainly someone who knows Vincent well, I don’t mean outwardly, but inwardly’ (FR b3235). For Veth’s reaction, see letter 620, n. 5.