Letters to Emile Bernard

Letters to Emile Bernard

Letters to Emile Bernard

Letters to Emile Bernard

Excerpt

The present volume is, so far as we know, the only collection of van Gogh Letters not previously translated into English. It is also a most important collection: for not only does it show us an intensely human side of van Gogh, but, being letters to another artist, they give us a deeper insight into the technical problems with which he was concerned.

There can be little doubt that Vincent was a picturesque, even eccentric, personality, and this has cost him dear. Much that has been published about him is both inaccurate and fictitious. That is why his own letters are such a valuable source of information. However Emile Bernard is an outstanding exception, and of his early writings about his friend I can only speak with the greatest admiration; as a more or less contemporary estimate of Vincent, man, artist, and friend, they are, apart from being almost unique, possibly still among the most sensitive and understanding studies ever published. Admittedly Bernard is not always strictly accurate: in the first French edition of this Correspondence, for example, many of the letters were wrongly dated and arranged. But at that time much of the detail of van Gogh's life was scarcely known; in fact Bernard himself has admitted that it was not until long after Vincent's death that he first heard of his work in the Borinage. As early as 1893 Bernard was assisting in the publication of selected letters to Theo, as well as of parts of the present volume; it was Bernard who, after Theo's death, attempted to preserve and collect all the papers in the latter's possession, amongst which were his own letters to Vincent; again it was to Bernard that, in 1890, Theo turned for help with the arrangement of Vincent's pictures in his studio; it was Bernard too who was responsible for the organisation of the first van Gogh exhibition in Paris. Such was the enthusiasm of the young man to whom the following letters were addressed, and to whom more than anyone else van Gogh's early recognition was due.

But, unfortunately, not all Vincent's commentators have had the same spirit of sympathetic honesty, so that the growth of the van Gogh . . .

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