- ca. June 20, 1888
- Reed pen and brown ink, wax crayon and watercolor, over graphite; wove paper
- 12 3/8 x 9 5/16 in. (31.5 x 23.6 cm)
- Credit Line:
- Gift of Emanie Philips, 1962
- Accession Number:
Not on view
During a spell of torrential rain that interrupted his harvest series (June 20–24), Van Gogh made his first real effort at portraiture in Arles. Two days into his campaign, he announced to Theo: “I have a model at last—a Zouave—a boy with a small face, a bull neck, and the eye of the tiger.” The present work served as a color study for his bust-length portrait of the dashing young soldier. In the oil painting, Van Gogh heightened the “savage combination of incongruous tones,” fleshed out the character’s likeness, and placed him in a convincing setting. That July he sent the watercolor, with dedicatory inscription, to his “comrade Émile Bernard.”
Signature: pen and brown ink, upper right: à mon cher copain / Emile Bernard / vincent Inscription: Inscribed in pen and brown ink at upper right corner: à mon cher copain / Emile Bernard / vincent
Émile Bernard (French, Lille 1868–1941 Paris), until at least 1892Sent to Bernard by Van Gogh; sold Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 8, 1907, lot 49; Emile Druet (French),Paris, by 1913 (Druet photo no. 42159); Raoul de Gunzbourg (Geneva); Galerie d’art C. Moos (Geneva); Paul A. Adamidé Bey (Geneva); Walter E. Sachs (New York)by 1929; to his former wife; Emanie Nahm Arling Philips, New York, 1939; Donor: Emanie Nahm Arling Philips
My dear Theo
I see that I didn’t add the sample of canvas to the order for Tasset.1 So I’m sending you it herewith. I’d hoped to have some news from you today, thinking you would surely have received the crate. I remember writing on the declarationthat the crate was to be delivered to your home address.
However, as goods train freight often stays at the station, if you haven’t received the consignment yet it would be a good idea to go by there and see.
I’ve got them to agree to repaint the house, the front, the doors and the windows outside and inside. Only I have to pay 10 francs for that myself. But I think it will be well worth the bother.
I enjoy working there. 1v:2
The reason I asked for some watercolour paints is because I’d like to do some pen drawings, but coloured in flat tints like Japanese prints.2
I hope you’ll have as fine a Sunday in Paris as here — there’s splendid sunshine and no wind.
Write to me at once, I’ve no money left at all.
Handshake to you and to Koning.
To Theo. Arles, Sunday, 27 May 1888
What happened in the end to the exchange Koning was going to make with me? He asked me for two of my drawings for one of his studies; I accepted, saying that he should give you the study — but I’ve had no reply to that.3 If it’s the case that friend Koning has changed his mind and would prefer not to exchange anything — it goes without saying that I would in no way insist on it.
My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your letter and the 50-franc note it contained. I didn’t know that the article on Claude Monetwas by the same hand as the one on Bismarck.1 It does you good to read things like that, more than the majority of articles by the Decadents, with their fondness for saying the most banal things in strangely convoluted ways.2
I’m really unhappy with what I’ve done these past few days, because it’s very ugly. And yet the figure interests me much more than landscape.
I’ll send you a drawing of the Zouave today all the same.3
To do studies of figures, to attempt them and to learn would still after all be the shortest route for me to do something of value.
Bernard’s in the same position. Today he sends me a croquis of a brothel4 that I’m sending you enclosed herewith to pin up next to the acrobats by him that you have.5
On the back of the drawing there’s a poem with very much the same tone as the drawing,6 it’s likely that he has a more finished painted study of it.7 1v:2
I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted to make an exchange with me for the head of a Zouave, although that one’s very ugly.8 But as I wouldn’t wish to deprive him of saleable studies I wouldn’t suggest an exchange unless at the same time we could buy something from him for a small sum.
It’s still raining a lot here, which does a lot of damage to the wheat, which is still standing.
But luckily I had a model these past few days.
I’ll need a book, A B C D du dessin by A. Cassagne.9 I requested it at the bookshop here, and after waiting a fortnight they tell me they need the name of the publisher, which I don’t know. If you could send me it I’d be very pleased. The negligence, the lazy carelessness of people here is indescribable and one is really put out by the least things. That’s the reason I’ll have to go to Marseille one of these days, to be able to get what I need from over there.
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Saturday, 23 June 1888
My dear old Bernard.
Perhaps you’ll be inclined to forgive me for not having replied to your letter straightaway, seeing that I’m attaching a small batch of croquis to this one.1
In the croquis, The garden, there’s perhaps something like ‘the shaggy carpets of flowers and woven greenery’2 of Crivelli or Virelli,3 doesn’t much matter. Ah, well — in any case I wanted to reply to your quotations with my pen, but not by writing words. Today, too, I don’t have much of a head for discussion; I’m up to my ears in work.
Have made large pen drawings — 2 — an immense flat expanse of country — seen in bird’s-eye view from the top of a hill — vineyards, harvested fields of wheat, all of it multiplied endlessly, streaming away like the surface of a sea towards the horizon bounded by the hillocks of La Crau.4
It does not look Japanese, and it’s actually the most Japanese thing that I’ve done. 1v:2
A microscopic figure of a ploughman, a little train passing through the wheatfields; that’s the only life there is in it. Listen, I passed – a few days after my arrival — that place with a painter friend.5
There’s something that would be boring to do, he said. I said nothing myself, but I found that so astonishing that I didn’t even have the strength to give that idiot a piece of my mind. I go back there, go back, go back again — well, I’ve done two drawings of it — of that flat landscape in which there was nothing but………. the infinite… eternity.
Well — while I’m drawing along comes a chap who isn’t a painter but a soldier.6 I say, ‘Does it astonish you that I find that as beautiful as the sea?’ Now he knew the sea — that one. ‘No — it doesn’t astonish me’ — he says – ‘that you find that as beautiful as the sea — but I find it 1v:3 even more beautiful than the ocean because it’s inhabited.’ Which of the spectators was more the artist, the first or the second, the painter or the soldier — I myself prefer that soldier’s eye. Isn’t that true?
Now it’s my turn to say to you, reply to me quickly this time by return of post — to let me know if you agree to make me some croquis of your Breton studies. I have a consignment that’s about to go off,7 and before it clears off I want to do at least another half a dozen subjects in pen croquis for you. Having few doubts that you will do it for yours, I’m getting down to work on my side, anyway, without even knowing if you want to do that. Now, I’ll send these croquis to my brother, to urge him to take something from them for our collection. 1r:4
I’ve already written to him about that, anyway. But we’re working on something that leaves us absolutely without a sou.
The fact is that Gauguin — who has been very ill — is probably going to spend the coming winter with me here in the south. And there’s the fare, which is worrying us. Once here, well, two together spend less than one alone. All the more reason why I’d like to have some things by you here. Once Gauguin’s here, we’ll try to do something together in Marseille, and will probably exhibit there. Now I’d like to have some things by you too, although without making you lose opportunities for selling in Paris. In any case, I don’t believe I’m making you lose them by encouraging you to exchange croquis of painted studies between us. And as soon as I can, we’ll do another piece of business as well, but am quite hard up now. What I’m convinced of is that if we exhibit in Marseille, sooner or later Gauguin and I will encourage you to join us.
I shake your hand firmly, more soon, and