My dear Theo,
Enclosed you’ll find an order for colours to replace the one in my previous letter.1 We’ve had some fine hot days and I’ve got some more canvases on the go, so that there are 12 no. 30 canvases on the stocks.2 Two studies of cypresses of that difficult shade of bottle green.3 I’ve worked their foregrounds with thick impastos of white lead which gives firmness to the ground. I believe that Monticellis were very often prepared in this way. One then places other colours on top. But I don’t know if the canvases are strong enough for this work.
Speaking of Gauguin, Bernard and the fact that they might well do more consolatory painting,4 I must, however, add what I’ve anyway often said to Gauguin himself, that one must then not forget that others have already done so. But whatever the case, outside Paris one quickly forgets Paris, by throwing oneself into the heart of the country one changes one’s ideas. But I for one couldn’t forget all those beautiful Barbizon canvases then, and it seems unlikely and anyway unnecessary to do better than that.
What’s Andries Bonger doing, you don’t mention him in your last two or three letters.
As for me, my health is still very good. And work is distracting me.
I have received, from one of our sisters probably, a book by Rod which is not bad but whose title, Le sens de la vie, is really a little pretentious for the contents, it would appear to me.
Above all it’s not very cheering. The author, it seems to me, must have a lot of trouble with his lungs. And consequently a little with everything.  1v:2
Anyway, he admits that he finds solace in the company of his wife, which is very well observed, but anyway, for my own use he teaches me absolutely nothing whatsoever about the meaning of life. For my part I could find him a little trite and be surprised that in these days he has had a book like that printed and that he’s selling it for 3 francs 50.5
Anyway, I prefer Alphonse Karr, Souvestre, Droz, because it’s a bit more alive than this. It’s true that I’m perhaps ungrateful, not even appreciating Abbé Constantin and other literary productions that illuminate the sweet reign of the naїve Carnot.6
It appears that this book has made a great impression on our good sisters. Wil had moreover spoken to me of it, but the little women and books are two different things.
I’ve re-read Voltaire’s Zadig ou la destinée with much pleasure. It’s like Candide. There, at least, the powerful author makes one glimpse that it’s still possible that life has a meaning, ‘although one agreed in conversation that the things of this world did not always go according to the wisest people’s liking’.7
As for me, I don’t know what to wish for, first of all working here or elsewhere appears to me more or less the same thing, and since I’m here, staying here the most simple. Only there’s a lack of news to write to you, for the days are all the same, as for ideas I have no others except to think that a wheatfield or a cypress are well worth the effort of looking at them from close at hand, and so on.  1v:3
I have a wheatfield, very yellow and very bright, perhaps the brightest canvas I’ve done.8 The cypresses still preoccupy me, I’d like to do something with them like the canvases of the sunflowers9 because it astonishes me that no one has yet done them as I see them.
It’s beautiful as regards lines and proportions, like an Egyptian obelisk.
And the green has such a distinguished quality.
It’s the dark patch10 in a sun-drenched landscape, but it’s one of the most interesting dark notes, the most difficult to hit off exactly that I can imagine.
Now they must be seen here against the blue, in the blue, rather.
To do nature here, as everywhere, one must really be here for a long time.
Thus a Montenard doesn’t give me the true and intimate note,11 for the light is mysterious, and Monticelli and Delacroix felt that. Then Pissarro used to talk about it very well in the old days, and I’m still a long way from being able to do as he said one should.12
Naturally it will please me if you send me the colours, soon if that’s possible, but above all do what you can without it exhausting you too much.
So if you prefer to send me it in two batches, that’s also all right.

I think that of the two canvases of cypresses, the one I’m making the croquis of will be the best.13 The trees in it are very tall and massive. The foreground very low, brambles and undergrowth. Behind, violet hills, a green and pink sky with a crescent moon. The foreground, above all, is thickly impasted, tufts of bramble with yellow, violet, green highlights. I’ll send you drawings of them with two other drawings that I’ve also done.14  1r:4
That will keep me busy for the next few days. Finding something to do all day is the big thing here.
What a pity that one can’t move the building here. It would be magnificent to hold an exhibition there, all the empty rooms, the big corridors.
I’d very much have liked to see that Rembrandt painting you spoke about in your last letter.15
In the old days I saw in Braun’s window a photo after a painting which must be from the fine late period (probably in the Hermitage series), in it there were large figures of angels, it was Abraham’s meal. 5 figures I think.16 That too was extraordinary. As touching as The pilgrims at Emmaus, for example.17
If ever there were a question of giving something to Mr Salles for the trouble he has gone to – later one should give him Rembrandt’s Pilgrims.
Is your health good? Handshake to you and your wife, I hope to send you new drawings next week.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 785 | CL: 596
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Tuesday, 25 June 1889

1. Vincent had included in letter 779 a new order for paints for the month of June. The replacement list sent with this letter is not known.
2. Among these twelve no. 30 canvases were the eleven paintings of which Vincent would send drawings to Theo a week later (see letter 784): Trees with ivy in the garden of the asylum (F 609 / JH 1693 [2789]), Cypresses (F 613 / JH 1746 [2807]), Cypresses (F 620 / JH 1748 [2809]), Fields with poppies (F 581 / JH 1751 [2811]), Wheatfield and cypresses (F 717 / JH 1756 [2816]), Starry night (F 612 / JH 1731 [2801]), Olive trees with the Alpilles in the background (F 712 / JH 1740 [2803]), Wheatfield (F 719 / JH 1725 [2798]), Wheatfield after a storm (F 611 / JH 1723 [2796]), Reaper (F 617 / JH 1753 [2813]), and the underlying depiction of Ravine (F 662 / JH 1804 [2853]); see letter 779, n. 5.
If indeed there was a twelfth canvas, the possibilities include Olive grove (F 585 / JH 1758 [2818]), Olive grove (F 715 / JH 1759 [2819]) and Green wheatfield with rising sun (F 720 / JH 1728).
[2789] [2807] [2809] [2811] [2816] [2801] [2803] [2798] [2796] [2813] [2853] [2818] [2819] [849]
3. Cypresses (F 613 / JH 1746 [2807]) and Cypresses (F 620 / JH 1748 [2809]).
[2807] [2809]
4. Van Gogh wrote this in letter 782.
5. The novel Le sens de la vie by Edouard Rod (1889) consists of four parts: ‘Mariage’, ‘Paternité’, ‘Altruisme’ and ‘Religion’. It is a sequel to the novel La course à la mort, in which the protagonist is interested only in selfish pleasures. In Le sens de la vie he assumes social responsibility and becomes bound up in married life and fatherhood, albeit after a good deal of scepticism and inner struggle. The first and second editions, which were published in Paris in 1889 in the series ‘Librairie Académique Didier’ at Perrin et Cie, ‘Libraires-Éditeurs’, state the price on the cover: 3.50 francs.
6. In 1887 Sadi Carnot was elected President of France by an overwhelming majority. He was known for his respectful attitude towards the church and encouraged the Ralliement (‘Rallying’; the acceptance of the Third Republic by the French monarchists). In May 1889 Carnot had spoken four times at the opening of the World Exhibition, where he called for peace and solidarity. See Patrick Harismendy, Sadi Carnot. L’ingénieur de la République. Paris 1995, esp. pp. 318-383. The connection between Carnot and Halévy’s L’abbé Constantin probably has to do with Van Gogh’s criticism of this peaceful novel, in which all conflict is avoided, as ‘terribly sweet and heavenly’ (see letter 626).
7. With regard to Voltaire’s Candide, see letter 568, n. 3. Here Van Gogh quotes from Voltaire’s Zadig, ou la destinée, ‘L’Ermite’ (The hermit) (chapter 18). See ed. Loïc Marcou. Paris 1996, p. 141. The protagonist, Zadig, has an experience similar to that of Candide: he, too, is forced to flee and subsequently experiences the outside world. While Candide comments on optimism, however, Zadig treats the connection between fate and chance. Voltaire’s view is moderately optimistic: evil and the absurdity of chance only seem to prevail.
8. Reaper (F 617 / JH 1753 [2813]).
9. The third consignment of paintings from Arles (letter 767) contained the following paintings of sunflowers: F 453 / JH 1559 [2701], F 459 / JH 1560 [2702], F 454 / JH 1562 [2704], F 456 / JH 1561 [2703], F 458 / JH 1667 [2771], F 455 / JH 1668 [2772] and F 457 / JH 1666 [2770].
[2701] [2702] [2704] [2703] [2771] [2772] [2770]
10. As is often the case, Van Gogh’s use of the word ‘noir’ (black) must be interpreted as ‘dark’ (in this case dark green).
11. Montenard was known for his depiction of the warm Mediterranean sunlight in his Provençal landscapes and seascapes.
12. Van Gogh is probably referring to Pissarro’s statements about painting effects of colour and light, which he referred to in letters 620 and 707.
13. The letter sketch Cypresses (F - / JH 1750) was made after the painting of the same name F 613 / JH 1746 [2807].
14. The two drawings after the paintings of cypresses (n. 2 above) are Cypresses (F 1525 / JH 1747 [2808]) and Cypresses (F 1524 / JH 1749 [2810]). The other two drawings Van Gogh refers to here cannot be identified; they were probably in the batch he sent to Theo a week later (see n. 2 above).
[2808] [2810]
16. Rembrandt, Abraham’s meal (Abraham receives the three angels), 1646 (present whereabouts unknown; Bredius 515). Ill. 353 [353]. Four figures are depicted in this work.