My dear Vincent
I received your letter the very moment I was about to write to you.1 Excuse me if I write so infrequently and so briefly. I’m terribly bored and I’m suffering from stomach trouble; we have rain constantly. I work and I do nothing, in the sense that I draw with hand, head and heart, with a view to what I wish to do later. Yes, you’re right to wish for painting with a coloration suggesting poetic ideas, and in that sense I’m in agreement with you, with one difference. I don’t know any poetic ideas, it’s probably a sense that I lack. I find EVERYTHING poetic, and it’s in the corners of my heart which are sometimes mysterious that I catch a glimpse of poetry. Forms and colours brought into harmonies create a form of poetry in themselves. Without allowing myself to be surprised by the subject, when looking at a painting by someone else, I feel a sensation that leads me into a poetic state depending on whether the painter’s intellectual powers emanate from it.2 There’s no point quibbling about it; we’ll talk about it at length. In that respect, I’m very despondent at being detained at Pont-Aven; my debt is increasing every day, and making my journey more and more unlikely. The artist’s life is one long Calvary to go through! And that’s perhaps what makes us live. Passion enlivens us, and we die when it has nothing more to feed on. Let’s leave  1v:2 these paths full of thorny bushes, but they have their wild poetry all the same.
I’m studying young Bernard,3 whom I don’t know as well as you do; I believe you’ll do him good, and he needs it. He has suffered, of course, and he’s starting out in life full of bile, ready to see man’s bad side. I hope that with his intelligence and his love of art he’ll see one day that goodness is a force against others, and a consolation for our own ills. He likes you and respects you, so you can have a good influence on him. We need to be very united in heart and in intellect if we wish the future to put us in our true place.
Is your brother travelling? I have no more news from him.

Cordially yours,


Br. 1990: 682 | CL: GAC 31
From: Paul Gauguin
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Pont-Aven, on or about Saturday, 8 September 1888

1. Gauguin must be replying here to the letter Van Gogh said he had written in letter 676 of 8 September.
2. See Van Uitert 1983, pp. 13-16, for Gauguin’s symbolist art theory of emotion, based on Swedenborg and Balzac
3. Emile Bernard had been in Pont-Aven for a month, see letter 664.