Meadow in the Mountains: Le Mas de Saint-Paul (The Fields)

Meadow in the Mountains: Le Mas de Saint-Paul (The Fields)

"Above all, don’t imagine that it’s less cold here than in Holland, the winter has only just begun and we’ll have it until the end of March. Only less rain than in Holland, very cold, unbearably irritating wind, and cold spells that are dry and bright but severe all the same, although the sun has more strength and the sky is very blue. You will receive soon, I think, the canvases I promised you." To Willemien van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Monday, 9 or Tuesday, 10 December 1889
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Painting Date
10th of December 1889
Painting Type
Oil on Canvas Paintings
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“My dear sister,

Thanks very much for writing to me. Myself, I’d be very pleased if you went to Theo’s in January – as it isn’t impossible that I too may go to Paris, we may meet. The description of your and Mother’s new dwelling interests me a great deal,1 and this move is indeed a wise and well-considered arrangement. It would certainly charm me if I saw it, this quay where people come to wash green and red wool with the small barges and vessels moored,2 and the factory with its windows lit up in the evening. Those are effects that I would paint.
And the garden too, with its espalier mulberry tree. As regards mulberry trees, there are a lot here. I painted one not long ago when its bushy foliage was a magnificent yellow against a very blue sky and a white, stony, sunlit field behind.3
I’m planning to send to Brussels4 sunflowers,5 a completely red vineyard in the autumn,6 an orchard in blossom,7 tree-trunks covered with ivy,8 and finally a field of young wheat in the rising sun.9 I’m working on this last canvas at the moment, it is (with the orchard in blossom, which Theo liked, from what he was saying)10 the gentlest thing I’ve painted. The fleeing lines of the furrows rise high into the canvas towards a background of purplish hills. The earth is pink and violet marbled with the yellow-green of the wheat. The sky in the background with a sun is pale lemon yellow and pink.
Above all, don’t imagine that it’s less cold here than in Holland, the winter has only just begun and we’ll have it until the end of March. Only less rain than in Holland, very cold, unbearably irritating wind, and cold spells that are dry and bright but severe all the same, although the sun has more strength and the sky is very blue.  1v:2
You will receive soon, I think, the canvases I promised you.11 What I find very unfortunate is that you write that Jo says that Theo’s still coughing the whole time – blast – that doesn’t please me – however, I still hope that when he’s a father it’ll get better. I’d like him to have my health, in this sense that I myself always have lots of life in the fresh air, and he’s always always at his desk with so many troubles on his mind.
And they’re wicked at Boussods’, too full of pride and tyrannical.
I have 12 large canvases on the go,12 above all olive groves, one with an entirely pink sky,13 another with a green and orange sky,14 a third with a big yellow sun.15
Then tall, ravaged pines against a red sunset sky.16 I’ve just received a very kind letter from Theo,17 he says that Joand he are well, and he also says that you’ll perhaps come to them. Let’s keep hoping that in a while his health will completely recover – with him, the state of his mind greatly influences the rest. At the moment many painters who spent the winter in the countryside are returning to Paris. You ask who Bernard is – he’s a young painter – he’s twenty at most.18 Very original. He seeks to do modern figures as elegant as ancient Greeks or Egyptians. A grace in the expressive movements, a charm through daring colours. I saw a Sunday afternoon in Brittany by him  1v:3 , Breton peasant women, peasants, dogs strolling in a very green meadow, the costumes are black and red, and big white caps.
But in this crowd there are also two ladies, one in red, the other in bottle green, who make it into a really modern thing.19
Ask Theo to show you the watercolour I did after the painting, it was so original that I wanted to have a copy of it.20
Now you think you remember having seen some rocks by him, he’s done a lot of them, and cliffs and beaches in Brittany.
He’s also done landscapes and figures of the Paris suburbs. Theo has an excellent thing of his which I exchanged with Bernard for a canvas of mine. It’s the portrait of his very old grandmother, one-eyed, the background is a bedroom wall covered with chocolate-coloured wallpaper, and a completely white bed.21
He’s just sent me 6 photographs of paintings he’s done this year, and by contrast they are bizarre biblical subjects and very open to criticism.22 But you can see from this that he’s a curious fellow, a seeker who tries everything. It’s like tapestries from the Middle Ages: stiff, brightly coloured figures. But I have only a mediocre admiration for this, because the English Pre-Raphaelites23 did those things with more seriousness and conscientiousness and knowledge and logic. Thus you may know Millais who did The Huguenot24 and an engraving, The light of the world.25If you wanted I could tell Bernard to do your portrait when you’re in Paris, he’d certainly do it, and very well I can assure you, I wouldn’t speak to him about it if it would displease you, but I myself would very much like him to do it. And I would exchange it for a painting of mine he wants me to exchange.26  1r:4
While writing this letter I got to my feet to go and give a few brushstrokes to a canvas in progress – specifically, it’s the one with the ravaged pines against a red, orange, yellow sky – yesterday it was very fresh – pure, dazzling tones – well while writing to you I don’t know what thoughts came to me, and upon looking at my canvas I told myself, that’s not it. So I took a colour that appears as matt, dirty white on the palette, which one obtains by mixing white, green and a little carmine, I slashed this green tone all over the sky, and there you are, from a distance it softens the tones by breaking them up. And yet it would seem that one spoils and dirties the canvas. Do misfortune and sickness not do this with us and our health, and are we not worth more just as we are, in fate, the great destiny that carries us away, than serene and well according to our own vague ideas and desires of possible happiness? I don’t know.
Some of my paintings, when I compare them to others, certainly do bear the trace that it’s a sick man who paints them, and I can assure you that I don’t do it deliberately. But despite myself, my calculations end up at broken tones. Bernard has parents who grudgingly house and feed him, often reproaching him for still not earning money. So the house there is sometimes a hell, but no one works so much with so few expenses to my knowledge. Anyway he’s a fine, really Parisian boy, very elegant. He was to go off to be a soldier this year, but for health reasons it has been postponed to next year.
I must go and work some more, more soon, I kiss you affectionately in thought.

 

Ever yours,
Vincent

To Willemien van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Monday, 9 or Tuesday, 10 December 1889

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My dear Theo,
Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from Mr Salleswho, I believe, had had a letter from you. I was completely well when he came so we were able to talk calmly. But I’m most confused that he should have put himself out for me, the more so because I hope that I’ve regained my presence of mind for a while. For the moment it seems to me that the best thing will be to carry on here. I’ll see what Mr Peyron says when I have a chance to speak to him; he’ll probably say that he absolutely cannot guarantee anything in advance, which seems quite right to me.
Today I’m dispatching a few canvases,1 the following:

 

Ploughed field with background of mountains2 ­ it´s
the same field of the reaper from this summer3 and can be a pendant to it; I think that one will set off the other.
The ravine. This is the study done on a day when the
mistral was blowing ­ I had wedged my easel in place with large stones4 ­ the painting of this isn´t dry, it´s in a tauter drawing style,  1v:2 and there´s more suppressed passion and it has more colour.5
This can go with another study of mountains, summer effect, with a road in the foreground and a black hovel.6
Women picking olives – I´d intended this painting for
our mother and sister so that they might have something a little studied.7 I also have a repetition of it8 for you, and the study (more coloured with more solemn tones) from nature.9
The fields. Fields of young wheat with background
of lilac mountains and yellowish sky.10
Olive trees. Orange and green sunset sky11 (there´s
also a variant of it here with figures).12
ditto, neutral effect.
ditto       ,,          ,,.13
The tall plane trees, the main street or boulevard
of St-Rémy, study from nature14 ­ I have a repetition of it here which is perhaps more finished.15
Copy  after Millet , The diggers.16
ditto The evening.17
I was forgetting the rain.18

 1v:3

Please don’t look at them without putting them on stretching frames and framing them in white.
That’s to say, you’ll remove the nails from other canvases and mount these on the stretching frames, one by one if you like, to appreciate the effect. For the colourings absolutely need to be set off by the white frame to judge the ensemble. Thus the rain, the grey olive trees, one can scarcely see them without the frame.
This will somewhat fill the hole left by the canvases that have gone off to the Vingtistes – you must ask Tanguy to remove the nails from other canvases and to mount these on stretching frames so that they dry all the way through.
In your previous letter19 you talk of Hugo’s drawings – I’ve just seen a volume of Michelet’s (illustrated) Histoire de France. I saw admirable drawings in it by Vierge which were completely like something by Victor Hugo, astonishing things.20 Do you know that? When you see Mr Lauzet ask him if he knows them, there’s also a resemblance with Hervier’s talent,21 but more complete, with  1r:4 more dramatic figures and effects – it also resembles the illustrations for The life of Frederick the Great by Menzel.22 Most curious.
I think that Vierge has also gone to Charenton,23 but how that fellow has worked. At one time Boggs had a magnificent wood engraving of his, probably published by L’Illustration, Sea-bathing – a crowd of men and women24– drawing in the manner of Doré, who one day did precisely the same subject very well on a page also published by L’Illustration25 – but then with Vierge there’s Daumier’s rich execution in full.
I hope that Jo’s health and yours are good, and that you no longer have any anxiety on my account.
Write to me if you can soon after receiving the canvases. Good handshake in thought to you and your wife.

 

Ever yours,
Vincent

To Theo. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Friday, 3 January 1890

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My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter.1 Although I just wrote to you yesterday I’m replying immediately.
The fact is that I’ve never worked more calmly than in my latest canvases – you’re going to receive a few at the same time as this letter, I hope. For the moment I’ve been caught unawares by a great discouragement. But since this attack ended in a week, what’s the good of telling oneself that it can in fact recur? First we don’t know, nor can we foresee how and in what form.
So let’s continue the work as much as possible as if nothing were amiss. I’ll soon have the opportunity to go outside when the weather isn’t too cold, and then I’d rather like to try to finish the work undertaken here.
To give an idea of Provence it’s vital to do a few more canvases of cypresses and mountains.
The ravine2 and another canvas of mountains with a path in the foreground3 are types of this. And especially the Ravine that I still have here because it isn’t dry.4 As well as the view of the park too, with the pines.5 It took me all the time to observe the character of the pines, cypresses &c. in the pure air here, the lines that don’t change and which one finds again at every step.
It’s perfectly true that last year the crisis recurred at various times – but then, too, it was precisely by working that the normal state returned little by little. It will probably be the same on this occasion too. So act as if nothing were amiss, for we can do absolutely nothing about it.  1v:2 And what would be infinitely worse is to let myself slide into the state of my companions in misfortune who do nothing all day, week, month, year, as I’ve told you many times and repeated again to Mr Salles, making him promise never to recommend this asylum. The work makes me retain a little presence of mind still, and makes it possible that I can get out one day.
At the moment I have the paintings ripe in my mind, I see in advance the places that I still want to do in the coming months. Why would I change means of expression.6
Once I’m back from here, let’s suppose, we’ll have to see a little if there’s really nothing to be done with my canvases, I would have a certain number of mine, a certain number of other people’s, and perhaps I’d try to do a little dealing. I don’t know in advance, but I see no reason not to do more of the canvases here that I’ll need were I to get out of here. Once again, I can foresee absolutely nothing, I see no way out, but I also see that my stay here cannot be prolonged indefinitely. Then, in order not to hurry anything  1v:3 or break it off suddenly, I’d wish to continue as usual as long as I’m here.
Yesterday I sent 2 canvases to Marseille, i.e. I made a present of them to my friend Roulin, a white farmhouse among the olive trees7 and a wheatfield with a background of lilac mountains and a dark tree,8 as in the large canvas I sent you.9 And I’ve given Mr Salles a little canvas with pink and red geraniums on a completely black background,10like I used to do in Paris.11
As regards the money you sent, 10 francs of it were owing to Mr Peyron, which he’d advanced me last month, I gave 20 francs in New Year’s gifts, and I took 10 for the postage on the canvases and other expenses, so 10 francs still remain in the cash-box.
At the moment I’ve just done a little portrait of one of the lads from here which he wanted to send to his mother,12that’s to say I’ve already started work again, and Mr Peyronwould probably not have allowed me to if he saw any obstacles there. What he said to me was ‘let’s hope that this doesn’t happen again’ – so absolutely the same thing as always. He talked to me with great kindness and these things scarcely surprise him, but since there’s no ready remedy  1r:4 it’s time and circumstances alone that can perhaps have influence.
I’d very much like to go to Arles one more time, not immediately, but towards the end of February for example, first to see friends, which always cheers me up, and then to test whether I’m capable of risking the journey to Paris.
Am very pleased that our sister has come. Warm regards to her and to Jo, and as for you and me, let’s not worry ourselves. In any event, it didn’t last as long as the other year, and so we can still hope that little by little time will make all of this pass. Well, be of good heart, and good handshake
Ever yours,
Vincent

To Theo. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Saturday, 4 January 1890

 

 

Painting, Oil on Canvas – 73 x 91.5 cm Size 30 Figure
Saint-Rémy: December, 1889
Kröller-Müller Museum
Otterlo, The Netherlands, Europe
F: 721, JH: 1864

Where Vincent Was:
Saint Remy

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