VINCENT VAN GOGH:
Excerpts from the Letters
COLOR OF THE SOUTH
To Theo, Arles, ml. [ca. September 1888]
But for my part I foresee that other artists will want to see color under a stronger
sun, and in a more Japanese clarity of light.
Now if I set up a studio and refuge at the gates of the South, it’s not such
a crazy scheme. And it means that we can work on serenely. And if other people
say that it is too far from Paris, etc., let them, so much the worse for them. Why
did the greatest colorist of all, Eugene Delacroix, think it essential to go South and
right to Africa? Obviously, because not only in Africa but from Arles onward
you are bound to End beautiful contrasts of red and green, of blue and orange, of
sulphur and lilac.
And all true colorists must come to this, must admit that there is another
kind of color than that of the North. I am sure if Gauguin came, he would love
this country; if he doesn't it's because he has- already experienced more brightly
colored countries, and he will always be a friend, and one with us in principle.
And someone else will come in his place.
If what one is doing looks out upon the infinite, and if one sees that one's
work has its raison al d'etre and continuance in the future, then one works with more
To Theo, Arles, n.cl. (ca. September 1888] (539, p. 42)
Because I have never had such a chance, nature here being so extraordinarily
beautiful. Everywhere and all over the vault of heaven is a marvelous blue, and the
sun sheds a radiance of pale sulphur, and it is soft and as lovely as the combination
of heavenly blues and yellows in a Van der Meer of Delft. I cannot paint it as
beautifully as that, but it absorbs me so much that I let myself go, never thinking
of a single rule.
That makes three pictures of the gardens opposite the house. Then the two
cafes, and then the sunflowers. Then the portrait of Bock and of myself. Then the
red sun over the factory, and the men unloading sand, and the old mill. Not to
mention the other studies, you see that I have got some work behind me. But my
paints, my canvas and my purse are all completely exhausted today. The last
picture, done with the last tubes of paint on the last canvas, of a garden, green of
course, is painted with pure green, nothing but Prussian blue and chrome yellow.