My dear old Bernard.
Perhaps you’ll be inclined to forgive me for not having replied to your letter straightaway, seeing that I’m attaching a small batch of croquis to this one.1
In the croquis, The garden, there’s perhaps something like ‘the shaggy carpets of flowers and woven greenery’2 of Crivelli or Virelli,3 doesn’t much matter. Ah, well — in any case I wanted to reply to your quotations with my pen, but not by writing words. Today, too, I don’t have much of a head for discussion; I’m up to my ears in work.
Have made large pen drawings — 2 — an immense flat expanse of country — seen in bird’s-eye view from the top of a hill — vineyards, harvested fields of wheat, all of it multiplied endlessly, streaming away like the surface of a sea towards the horizon bounded by the hillocks of La Crau.4
It does not look Japanese, and it’s actually the most Japanese thing that I’ve done.  1v:2
A microscopic figure of a ploughman, a little train passing through the wheatfields; that’s the only life there is in it. Listen, I passed – a few days after my arrival — that place with a painter friend.5
There’s something that would be boring to do, he said. I said nothing myself, but I found that so astonishing that I didn’t even have the strength to give that idiot a piece of my mind. I go back there, go back, go back again — well, I’ve done two drawings of it — of that flat landscape in which there was nothing but.......... the infinite... eternity.
Well — while I’m drawing along comes a chap who isn’t a painter but a soldier.6 I say, ‘Does it astonish you that I find that as beautiful as the sea?’ Now he knew the sea — that one. ‘No — it doesn’t astonish me’ — he says – ‘that you find that as beautiful as the sea — but I find it  1v:3 even more beautiful than the ocean because it’s inhabited.’ Which of the spectators was more the artist, the first or the second, the painter or the soldier — I myself prefer that soldier’s eye. Isn’t that true?
Now it’s my turn to say to you, reply to me quickly this time by return of post — to let me know if you agree to make me some croquis of your Breton studies. I have a consignment that’s about to go off,7 and before it clears off I want to do at least another half a dozen subjects in pen croquis for you. Having few doubts that you will do it for yours, I’m getting down to work on my side, anyway, without even knowing if you want to do that. Now, I’ll send these croquis to my brother, to urge him to take something from them for our collection.  1r:4
I’ve already written to him about that, anyway. But we’re working on something that leaves us absolutely without a sou.
The fact is that Gauguin — who has been very ill — is probably going to spend the coming winter with me here in the south. And there’s the fare, which is worrying us. Once here, well, two together spend less than one alone. All the more reason why I’d like to have some things by you here. Once Gauguin’s here, we’ll try to do something together in Marseille, and will probably exhibit there. Now I’d like to have some things by you too, although without making you lose opportunities for selling in Paris. In any case, I don’t believe I’m making you lose them by encouraging you to exchange croquis of painted studies between us. And as soon as I can, we’ll do another piece of business as well, but am quite hard up now. What I’m convinced of is that if we exhibit in Marseille, sooner or later Gauguin and I will encourage you to join us.
Thomas bought Anquetin’s study in the end — the peasant.8
I shake your hand firmly, more soon, and

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 645 | CL: B10
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Emile Bernard
Date: Arles, Sunday, 15 July 1888

1. Vincent sent six drawings, going by what he wrote to Theo later that day (letter 642) and what Bernard wrote to his parents in July. He told them he had received a packet containing ‘six truly remarkable pen drawings. There’s a head of a Zouave that amazes me. Vincent’s becoming very good. At the same time that he’s an excellent artist, he’s a thinker, because every one of his works contains an idea that flashes on the eye of the man who looks for it. And his literature keeps me excited, too, it’s so vivid’ (six dessins à la plume vraiment remarquables. Il y a une tête de zouave qui m’a étonné. Vincent devient très fort. En même temps que c’est un excellent artiste, c’est un penseur car chacune de ses oeuvres contient une idée qui éclate à l’oeil de celui qui la cherche. De plus sa littérature me tient en émoi tant elle est vibrante). He then quoted ll. 27-48 from Vincent’s letter, with asides like ‘ah! Just like him! I understand him’ (ah! comme c’est lui, je l’entends). He ended with the words: ‘This passage of the letter is absolutely remarkable, it would make Hugo go wild with excitement.’ (Ce passage de la lettre est absolument remarquable, il ferait délirer Hugo). See Harscoët-Maire 1997, pp. 177-178.
It is not entirely certain which six sketches made up the batch. We know from Bernard’s letter that there was a head of a Zouave: Zouave (F 1482 / JH 1487 [2656]), with the dedication ‘A mon cher copain Bernard; Vincent’. Later in the present letter Van Gogh says that there was one of a garden, which must have been Newly mown lawn with a weeping tree (F 1450 / JH 1509 [2667]). This is confirmed in letter 696.
A few days later Van Gogh sent Bernard nine more sketches. For the identification of the drawings in both batches, see letter 643, n. 1.
[2656] [2667]
2. This is derived from the first two verses of the 30th rondeau, ‘Les fourriers d’Esté sont venus’ van Charles d’Orléans:

The harbingers of Summer have arrived
To dress his dwelling-place,
And have had his carpets spread,
Of flowers and verdure wove.
Spreading shaggy carpets out
Of green grass o’er the land,
The harbingers [of Summer have arrived.]

Hearts weary and dejected once
Thanks be to God, are healthy now and blithe,
Away with you, be gone,
Winter, you’ll stay no more;
The harbingers [of Summer have arrived!]

(Les fourriers d’Esté sont venusPour appareiller son logis,Et ont fait tendre ses tappis,De fleurs et verdure tissus.En estendant tappis velus,De vert herbe par le païs,Les fourriers [d’Esté sont venus.]Cueurs d’ennuy pieça morfondus,Dieu mercy, sont sains et jolis;Alez vous ent, prenez païs,Yver, vous ne demourrés plus;Les fourriers [d’Esté sont venus!])

See D’Orléans 1923-1927, vol. 2, p. 307.
3. Since Bernard often mentions Crivelli in his correspondence, it is likely that Van Gogh is responding here to something Bernard had written. Bernard may also have cited the preceding quotation. Carlo Crivelli mainly painted biblical scenes, often with detailed flower still lifes in the foreground. However, this might also be a reference to Vittore Crivelli, a maker of religious paintings and very probably Carlo’s brother. Cf. Anna Bovero, Tutta la pittura del Crivelli. Milano 1961, and Sandra di Provvido, La pittura di Vittore Crivelli. L’Aquila 1972.
4. La Crau seen from Montmajour (F 1420 / JH 1501 [2147]) and Landscape near Montmajour with a train (F 1424 / JH 1502 [2148]). The drawings measure roughly 48.5 x 60.5 cm.
[2147] [2148]
5. This was probably Mourier-Petersen; Vincent tells Theo the same story in letter 639.
6. He is referring to the Zouave lieutenant Paul Eugène Milliet; see letter 639, n. 10. He had spent a day with him on Montmajour shortly before.
7. These must be the paintings that Milliet was to take to Paris in mid-August; see letter 660.
8. Probably Louis Anquetin, Old peasant (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). Ill. 2192 [2192].