1. Remarkably, Van Gogh now occasionally addresses his ‘pal’ Bernard with ‘vous’, since in his previous letters he always used the familiar ‘tu’. See also letter 822, Additional details.
2. On 4 October Theo had reported that Bernard was coming to look at Vincent’s paintings (letter 807). Van Gogh’s mention, later in the letter, of ‘the ones from this summer’ must refer to the second consignment of paintings from Saint-Rémy, which contained eight works that he had painted in the summer.
Bernard had contacted Theo not only to see Vincent’s paintings, but also to ask for work. He wrote to Theo that he was urgently in need of money, and asked whether he could perhaps work at Boussod, Valadon & Cie at ‘retouching photo-engraving or some other procedure taking place’ (FR b827, October 1889).
3. Bernard had spent some time in Saint-Briac in the summer of 1889. In contrast to what Van Gogh evidently thought (l. 19), he had not been in Pont-Aven, where Gauguin was staying at the time. Bernard’s father thought that Gauguin had a bad influence on his son, and had forbidden all contact between them. See Gauguin lettres 1946, p. 162.
4. In addition to the three canvases that Van Gogh describes in this letter (see nn. 5, 6 and 12 below), the dozen recent studies included Mulberry tree (F 637 / JH 1796 [2847]), Poplars in the mountains (F 638 / JH 1797 [2848]), Trees in the garden of the asylum (F 642 / JH 1798 [2849]), Pine trees in the garden of the asylum (F 643 / JH 1799 [2850]) and The husband is at sea (after Demont-Breton) (F 644 / JH 1805 [2854]). See letters 809 and 810. Trees in the garden of the asylum (F 640 / JH 1800 [2851]) and Trees in the garden of the asylum (F 730 / JH 1841) were probably also included.
[2847] [2848] [2849] [2850] [2854] [2851]
5. Entrance to a quarry (F 635 / JH 1767 [2824]).
6. Ploughed field with a man carrying a bundle of straw (F 641 / JH 1795 [2846]).
7. For the dwellings in the section ‘Histoire de l’habitation’ at the World Exhibition, see letter 779, n. 9. The architect was Charles Garnier.
8. The illustrated magazines devoted a lot of space to the ‘Histoire de l’habitation’, so it is impossible to identify the article from which Van Gogh got his information about the Egyptian house.
9. This sketch of Mexican houses has not been traced; in any case, it did not appear in L’Illustration.
10. Regarding Bernard’s military service, see letter 575, n. 8.
11. Bernard’s Yellow tree fits this description and is accordingly often dated to 1888. However, it is dated to around 1892 on stylistic grounds in exhib. cat. Mannheim 1990, p. 136. If that is correct, the work referred to here is not known.
12. Ravine (F 662 / JH 1804 [2853]). The canvas measures 73 x 92 cm.