“My dear Theo,
You’ll shortly make the acquaintance of Mr Patience Escalier— a sort of man with a hoe, an old Camargue oxherd, who’s now a gardener at a farmstead in the Crau. Today without fail I’ll send you the drawing I made after this painting, as well as the drawing of the portrait of Roulin the postman. The colour of this portrait of a peasant isn’t as dark as the Nuenen potato eaters — but the very civilized Parisian, Portier, probably so-called because he kicks paintings out of the door — will find himself up against the same question again. You’ve now changed since then, but you’ll see that he hasn’t changed, and really it’s a pity that there aren’t more paintings in clogs in Paris. I don’t believe that my peasant will do any harm, for example, to the Lautrec that you have, and I dare even believe that the Lautrec will, by simultaneous contrast, become even more distinguished, and mine will gain from the strange juxtaposition, because the sunlit and burnt, weather-beaten quality of the strong sun and strong air will show up more clearly beside the face powder and stylish outfit. What a mistake that Parisians haven’t acquired sufficient taste for rough things, for Monticellis, for barbotine. Well, I know that one shouldn’t be discouraged because utopia isn’t coming about. It’s just that I find that what I learned in Paris is fading, and that I’m returning to my ideas that came to me in the country before I knew the Impressionists. And I wouldn’t be very surprised if the Impressionists were soon to find fault with my way of doing things, which was fertilized more by the ideas of Delacroix than by theirs. Because instead of trying to render exactly what I have before my eyes, I use colour more arbitrarily in order to express myself forcefully.”
To Theo. Arles, Saturday, 18 August 1888
“I have two models this week, an Arlésienne and the old peasant, whom I’m doing this time against a bright orange background, which, although it doesn’t pretend to represent a red sunset in trompe l’oeil, is perhaps a suggestion of it, all the same.”Painting, Oil on Canvas Arles: August 30, 1888 Tate Gallery London, United Kingdom, Europe F: 444, JH: 1563
To Theo. Arles, Wednesday, 29 or Thursday, 30 August 1888“And in a painting I’d like to say something consoling, like a piece of music. I’d like to paint men or women with that je ne sais quoi of the eternal, of which the halo used to be the symbol, and which we try to achieve through the radiance itself, through the vibrancy of our colorations.
The portrait conceived in this way doesn’t become an Ary Scheffer, because there’s a blue sky behind it, as in the Saint Augustine.17 Because Ary Scheffer is so little of a colourist.
But this would be more in tune with what Eugène Delacroix was looking for and found in his Tasso in prison18 and so many other paintings depicting a true man. Ah, the portrait — the portrait with the model’s thoughts, his soul — it so much seems to me that it must come.”