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van Gogh at Saint Remy

My dear Theo, it’s been a week since I committed myself. I feel quite at home here and have no regrets that I did so. This is not to say, of course, that given my state of mind I will not swing to a more extreme opinion. For the present, all is more than I could have imagined or expected. I am not alone here, other men suffer as I do. A few are quite beyond reach while others are holding on with courage. By observing them daily, little by little, I see that madness is a disease like any other, except for the cries and howls, especially at night, then the asylum becomes a managerie of strange animals. My health has improved since my last attack. So, please, do not worry about my health. I assure youI will manage, come what may. Perhaps for a few weeks or even months, a routine of daily habits should, in the long run, bring more order to my life and lessen my anxieties. As proof of my new optimism, I have completed two paintings – “Blue Irises” and “Lilacs.” A room has even been set aside as a makeshift studio for me. It does me so much good, Theo, and it drives away dark thoughts that disturb me when I least expect them and frighten me like a child. I first noticed the irises in the little garden the very day I arrived, and put them to oil and canvas the next day. You will marvel at how fresh and vibrant they are when you see it. I think it will sell, but I will leave that judgment to you. What caught my eye more forcefully is the deep violet-blue – like those that stain the cathedral windows of Chartres. I hope you will find a buyer for it. Then I would not be so dependent on your generosity, especially now that your wife is expecting – congratulations, my dear brother! If a boy, what name do you plan to give him, or is it too early to ask? Write and tell me. I am eager to know the name of the newest van Gogh to enter the world! What matters now is that I keep working, for despite my setbacks I am more than ever convinced I can make something of myself, my art, my life. I burn for some modest recognition, some honest and official praise. It would give my spirit a much needed boost. And, if I may indulge my vanity a little, the day may not be far future when I can reap a measure of success to off-set my miserable life to date. If only what afflicts me, this malady, would leave me long enough to achieve my dreams. But if not, I won’t be bitter; for even if my work goes unrecognized in my lifetime, can I not at least hope future generations will not ignore it, understand what I was trying to do? Theo, my dear brother, I am persuaded that it will be so. Was not the Nazarene denied his due and honor by his own? Doctor Peyron has given me permission to work outside near the small flower garden and to scout the landscape not far from the asylum. And what magnificant landscape it is! To paint nature here you must walk amidst its many beauties. To that end, I take long walks starting early in the morning, returning late in the evening. There is so much to see that lifts my dampened spirits: Waving yellow fields of wheat clear to distant hills, row after row of olive trees, brilliant flowers everywhere, huge open skies with massive slow-moving, swirling clouds, and tall cypresses that rise and twist into the sky like cathedral spires. I already see them on my canvases! But nothing, I tell you, my dear brother, nothing compares to the night skies here at St. Rémy – these starry nights, so vast, so visionary! Already I foresee several paintings of these starry skies, like the one I did on the Rhône in Arles last September. But these of Saint-Rémy will demand my very best execution. How they fire me to paint and charge my brushes! In truth, dear brother, it is as close to God as I have ever come. Everywhere I turn, it’s an ecstasy of color, a banquet for the senses! I am glutted by a flood of sensations that leave me staggering under the heat of the Midi sun. If only you could visit me, even for just a day, to see it all, to walk together as we did along the Rijswijk road where we stopped to drink milk near the mill after the rain – do you remember that, my dear Theo? I will always cherish those memories. There is so much here, so much that awaits my brushes and canvases. And I am so eager to begin. When I return after a long day in the field, I am too exhausted to paint, too overwhelmed by all the work I foresee, my nerves too taut. And then I am always filled with remorse when I think of my work, that it is so little in harmony with the way I envision it in my head. But I can’t stop; I must paint. And yet I hardly know where to begin. My hand, head and heart shake with delight and despair. I want the world to see Saint-Rémy as I painted it, as I saw it. I want the world to know and acknowledge that I, Vincent, the mad Dutchman, was here, painted here! My dearest brother, life is glorious!

Copyright © | Year Posted 2021

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Date: 4/8/2021 11:43:00 AM
I do believe Vincent had many demons, and was possibly a Bi-polar. "As proof of my new optimism, I have completed two paintings – “Blue Irises” and “Lilacs.”" Wow! Great empathy
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Maurice Rigoler
Date: 4/8/2021 12:20:00 PM
Bravo! I used to paint and draw when much younger. In high school I was nominated by my art teacher for a scholarship to RISD (R. I. School of Design), but my friend won over me. Just as well. Painting wasn't in my blood, art appreciation was and has ever been. Writing came to me much later and I took it seriously after I retired. To my ctedit I have self-published 7 books of poems. Not bad for a high school student who flunked english in his senior, hey? Thanks again for stopping by. / Maurice