1. Bernard’s last letter had evidently contained a small sketch of two Breton women. It is not known today and was probably not on a separate sheet but was an integral part of the letter, which has not survived. By ‘the other 6’ Van Gogh meant the previous batch of drawings from Bernard; see letter 687, n. 14.
2. Vincent mentioned ten no. 30 canvases to Theo. Seven of them are referred to later in the letter (see nn. 16 and 19-23 below); the other three are Path in the public garden (F 470 / JH 1582 [2716]), Café terrace at night (F 467 / JH 1580 [2714]) and possibly Path in the public garden (F 471 / JH 1613 [2737]). See letter 694, n. 14.
[2716] [2714] [2737]
3. Van Gogh wrote this in his previous letter to Bernard: see letter 690.
4. A louis was a coin worth 20 francs.
5. This simile had a particular appeal for Van Gogh. He also used it in letters 651 and 691.
6. Van Gogh had written about the cost of living in Arles in his two previous letters to Bernard (see letters 684 and 690).
7. This idea of a freemasonry of painters must have been suggested by Bernard in his latest letter.
8. See letter 698, n. 1, for this exchange with Bernard, Laval, Moret and Chamaillard.
9. The young man in question was Ernest Ponthier de Chamaillard. Cf. letter 694, n. 2.
10. These were Self-portrait (F 476 / JH 1581 [2715]) and an unknown landscape with a sunset (see letter 698, n. 15).
11. Garden with flowers (F 578 / JH 1538 [2686]).
12. Thistles (F 447 / JH 1550 [2696]). This work once belonged to Henry Moret, so it must have been in the batch. See Bernard 1994, vol. 1, p. 307.
13. Shoes (F 461 / JH 1569 [2707]).
14. The cursory description makes it impossible to identify this work. According to Roskill it could have been either Field with farmhouses (F 576 / JH 1423) or Landscape with the edge of a road (F 567 / JH 1419 [2604]), but their provenance (Jo van Gogh-Bonger) rules out their having been sent to Bernard. See Roskill 1971, p. 161 (n. 105) and Account book 2002, pp. 178-179.
15. Quay with sand barges (F 449 / JH 1558 [2700]). Van Gogh dedicated this painting to Bernard (see letter 698, n. 11).
16. The night café (F 463 / JH 1575 [2711]). This paragraph seems to imply that Bernard had asked for a repetition of this work, which Van Gogh had written about in letter 684. No repetition was ever made.
17. Bernard added the following note at this point in the Vollard edition: ‘Allusion to a caricature by Gauguin that showed Vincent sitting on the tip of a rock, drawing the sun.’ (Allusion à une caricature de Gauguin qui représentait Vincent assis sur la pointe d’un rocher, en train de dessiner le soleil) (Lettres à Bernard 1911, p. 126).
18. It is not clear which three paintings by Bernard he means. There may be a connection with the sketches for the decoration that Bernard had sent Van Gogh (see letter 596, n. 1), or with the landscape studies he had worked on in the spring of 1888. On 16 May he wrote telling his mother about a ‘very big’ study ‘showing Saint-Briac in bloom’ (très grande [étude] qui représente Saint-Briac en fleurs). See Harscoët-Maire 1997, p. 168. Bernard said later that he had given Van Gogh the idea of making decorative ensembles: ‘I explained to him my idea for executing studies in series: the sea, the flowers, the trees, the fields. He agreed with me, and got down to doing just that.’ (Je lui exposai mon idée d’exécuter des études par séries: la mer, les fleurs, les arbres, les champs. Il m’approuva et se mit à en faire autant.) See Lettres de Paul Gauguin à Emile Bernard 1888-1891. Ed. Pierre Cailler. Geneva 1954, pp. 16-17.
19. The two canvases of ‘the poet’s garden’ are The public garden (‘The poet’s garden’) (F 468 / JH 1578 [2713]) and a now unknown painting of the park (cf. the drawing The public garden (‘The poet’s garden’) (F 1465 / JH 1583) and the letter sketch in letter 693 for the composition). Van Gogh regarded these two paintings as companion pieces.
Bernard owned the drawing Newly mown lawn with a weeping tree (F 1450 / JH 1509 [2667]), which shows the same corner of the park; see letter 641, n. 1. The painting on which the drawing is based, Newly mown lawn with a weeping tree (F 428 / JH 1499 [0]), had been with Theo since mid-August (see letter 673); it measures 60 x 73.5 cm.
[2713] [2667] [0]
20. Starry night over the Rhône (F 474 / JH 1592 [2723]).
21. The green vineyard (F 475 / JH 1595 [2726]).
22. Ploughed fields (‘The furrows’) (F 574 / JH 1586 [2719]).
23. The Yellow House (‘The street’) (F 464 / JH 1589 [2721]).
24. See letter 695, n. 16, for exchanges between Japanese artists.
25. Kōdera says that here Van Gogh was projecting his own ideal on to Japanese artists, who generally did not live harmoniously together and were not simple labourers either. See cat. Amsterdam 1991, p. 38.
26. See letter 686, n. 11, for this Study of grass [2251] in Le Japon Artistique.