VINCENT VAN GOGH:
Excerpts from the Letters
ON MONTICELLI, GAUGUIN
To G.- Albert Aurier, Saint-Remy, I2 February 1890
Many thanks for your article in the Mercure de France,1 which greatly surprised me.
I like it very much as a work of art in itself; in my opinion your words produce
color; i11 short, I rediscover my canvases in your article, but better than they are,
richer, more full of meaning. However, I feel uneasy in my mind when I reflect
that what you say is due to others rather than to myself For example, Monticelliz
in particular. Saying as you do: "As far as I know, he is the only painter to
perceive the chromatism of things with such intensity, with such a metallic,
gem-like luster," be so kind as to go and see a certain bouquet by Monticelli at my
brother's-a bouquet in white, forget-me-not blue and orange-then you will
feel what I want to say. But the best, the most amazing Monticellis have long
been in Scotland and England. In a museum in the North-the one in Lisle, I
believe-there is said to be a very marvel, rich in another way and certainly no
less French than Watteau's Depart pour Cythere. At the moment Mr. Lauzet is
engaged in reproducing some thirty works of Monticelli's.
Here you are; as far as I know, there is no colorist who is descended so
straightly and directly from Delacroix, and yet I am of the opinion that Monticelli
probably had Delacroix's color theories only at second hand; that is to say, that he
got them more particularly from Diaz and Ziem. It seems to me that Monticelli's
personalartistic temperament is exactly the same as that of the author of the
Decameron-Boccaccio-a melancholic, somewhat resigned, unhappy man, who
saw the wedding party of the world pass by, painting and analyzing the lovers of
his time-he, the one who had been left out of things. '0h! he no more imitated
Boccaccio than Henri Leys imitated the primitives. You see, what I mean to say
is that it seems there are things which have found their way to my name, which
you could better say of Monticelli, to whom I owe so much. And further, I owe
much to Paul Gauguin, with whom I worked in Arles for some months, and whom
I already knew in Paris, for that matter.
Gauguin, that curious artist, that alien whose mien and the look in whose
eyes vaguely remind one of Rembrandt's "Portrait of a Man" in the Galerie
Lacaze-this friend of mine likes to make one feel that a good picture is equivalent
to a good deed; not that he says so, but it is difficult to be on intimate terms with
him without being aware of a certain moral responsibility. A few days before
parting company, when my disease forced me to go into a lunatic asylum, I tried
to paint his empty seat.
It is a study of his armchair of somber reddish-brown Wood, the seat of
greenish straw, and in the absent one's place a lighted torch and modern novels.
If an opportunity presents itself, be so kind as to have a look at this study,
by Way ofa memento of him; it is done entirely in broken tones of green and red.
Then you will perceive that your article would have been fairer, and consequently
more powerful, I think, if, when discussing the question of the future of "tropical
painting," and of colors, you had ,done justice to Gauguin and Monticelli before
speaking of me. For the part which is allotted to me, or will be allotted to me, will remain,