My dear sister,
I’m adding a few words for you to Mother’s letter. Last Sunday I had a visit from Theo and his family,1 I find it most agreeable to be less far away from them. Lately I’ve been working a lot and quickly; by doing so I’m trying to express the desperately swift passage of things in modern life.
Yesterday in the rain I painted a large landscape viewed from a height in which there are fields as far as the eye can see, different types of greenery, a dark green field of potatoes, between the regular plants the lush, violet earth, a field of peas in flower whitening to the side, a field of pink-flowered lucerne with a small figure of a reaper, a field of long, ripe grass, fawn in hue, then wheatfields, poplars, a last line of blue hills on the horizon, at the bottom of which a train is passing, leaving behind it an immense trail of white smoke in the greenery. A white road crosses the canvas. On the road a little carriage and white houses with stark red roofs beside this road. Fine rain streaks the whole with blue or grey lines.2
There’s another landscape with vineyards and meadows in the foreground, the roofs of the village coming behind.3
And another one with nothing but a green field of wheat which extends up to a white villa surrounded by a white wall with a single tree.4
I’ve done the portrait of Mr Gachet with an expression of melancholy which might often appear to be a grimace to those looking at the canvas.5 And yet that’s what should be painted, because then one can realize, compared to the calm ancient portraits, how much expression there is in our present-day heads, and passion and something like waiting and a shout. Sad but gentle but clear and intelligent, that’s how many portraits should be done, that would still have a certain effect on people at times.
There are modern heads that one will go on looking at for a long time, that one will perhaps regret a hundred years afterwards. If I were ten years younger, with what I know now, how much ambition I would have for working on that. In the given conditions I can’t do very much, I neither frequent nor would know how to frequent sufficiently the sort of people I would like to influence.
I do hope to do your portrait one day. I’m very curious to have another letter from you, more soon, I hope, I kiss you affectionately in thought.