As I mentioned in a previous post about my neighbors' bed of sunflowers, I have been thinking often of Vincent van Gogh's famous paintings of the sunflowers he knew -- and of his letters about them. After re-reading some of his letters (to his brother Theo and fellow artists) in a Penguin edition of "The Letters of Vincent van Gogh," my admiration for Vincent as a writer has been renewed. His sensitivity made him observant, which seems to me to be a valuable quality for either a writer or a painter.
(The following quotes are from "The Letters of Vincent van Gogh," selected and edited by Ronald de Leeuw, translated by Arnold Pomerans; Penguin Classics, Penguin Books 1997.)
"In a letter to (Emile) Bernard, who had meanwhile joined (Paul) Gauguin at Pont-Aven, we read for the first time how Vincent intended to set off the place before Gauguin's arrival: 'some six paintings of sunflowers, a décor in which the vivid or broken chrome yellows will stand out sharply against various blue backgrounds, from the palest Veronese green to royal blue, in a frame of thin slats painted in red lead.' "(p. 388)
In a letter to Theo dated 9 September 1888, he wrote about the decoration of the Yellow House, the studio he planned to share with Gauguin and hoped Theo would visit. He wrote of the décor:
"The room you'll stay in then, or which will be Gauguin's if Gauguin comes, will have white walls hung with large yellow sunflowers.
"In the morning, when you open the windows, you'll see the green of the gardens and the rising sun and the road into town.
"And you'll see these big pictures of bunches of 12 or 14 sunflowers crammed into this tiny boudoir with its pretty bed and everything else elegantly done. It will be something special." (p. 397)
And so it still is in our minds' eyes, thanks to the letters.
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