exaggerated in the work. That parents who are ignorant from the point of view of painting should stop loving a child who’s a little different from the rest – that’s certainly a terrible misunderstanding – but even if they understood painting, how could one reproach them for it too much in this society of money and military men? That’s why, if he did his military service,1 it wouldn’t be more unfortunate for him, it would be to admit in good time that one has been vanquished by fate. What became of Vignon?2
Anyway, this is certain, it’s not a matter of putting on a proud front or having great hopes for what comes next. Let’s take the terrible realities as they are, and if I have to abandon painting I think I shall. In any case, I really want to see, one more time and with better health than two years ago, if I can’t find some sort of position. I’ve often told myself that if, two years ago, I’d had a calmer temperament like Seurat, for example, I could have resisted.

Who is the maid my spirit seeks3
Through cold reproof and slanders blight
Has she loves roses on her cheeks
Is hers an eye of calm delight?
No, wan and sunk with midnight prayer
As the worn looks of her I love
And if by chance a light be there
As fire was kindled from above
I choose not her mine hearts elect
Amongst those who seek their makers’ shrine
In gems and garlands proudly decked
As if themselves were things divine
And they who come in glittering dress
To mourn their frailty yet are frail
No heaven but faintly warm the breast
That beats beneath a broidered veil.
Not so the form of her I love
And... because her bloom is gone
But ne’er was beauty’s bloom so bright
So touching as that forms decay
That like the altars wavering light
In holy lustre fades away.


Br. 1990: - | CL: 623
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, about November-December 1889

1. Emile Bernard’s military service.
2. It is not known what Vincent is enquiring about here. Theo was in touch with Victor Vignon, one of the less successful Impressionists. The estate includes three of his works. See Monneret 1978-1981, vol. 3, p. 53, and cat. Amsterdam 1987, p. 363. Cf. also FR b4302 and b1179.