The cliffs of Roussillon - red ochre in Provence, France.


My dear sister,

If I didn’t write to you quickly this Sunday morning while the canvases I’ve begun are drying a little in the sun, I would wait even longer to answer your kind letter.

I’ve just finished a landscape of an olive grove with grey foliage more or less like that of the willows, their cast shadows violet on the sun-drenched sand. Then yet another that depicts a field of yellowing wheat surrounded by brambles and green bushes. At the end of the field a little pink house with a tall and dark cypress tree that stands out against the distant purplish and bluish hills, and against a forget-me-not blue sky streaked with pink whose pure tones contrast with the already heavy, scorched ears, whose tones are as warm as the crust of a loaf of bread.

I have yet another in which a field of wheat on the slope of the hills is completely ravaged and knocked to the ground by a downpour, and which is drenched by the torrential shower.

From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Willemien van Gogh
Date: 16 June 1889

From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Willemien van Gogh
Date: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Tuesday, 2 July 1889

My dear sister,

In recent days I already began another letter in reply to yours, but I became aware that I didn’t have sufficient mastery of my mind to write.

I’m quite absorbed in reading the Shakespeare that Theo sent me here, where at last I’ll have the calm necessary to do a little more difficult reading. I’ve first taken the kings series, of which I’ve already read Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V and a part of Henry VI – as these dramas were the most unfamiliar to me. Have you ever read King Lear? But anyway, I think I shan’t urge you too much to read such dramatic books when I myself, returning from this reading, am always obliged to go and gaze at a blade of grass, a pine-tree branch, an ear of wheat, to calm myself.

So if you want to do as artists do, gaze upon the white and red poppies with the bluish leaves, with those buds raising themselves up on stems with gracious curves. The hours of trouble and battle will assuredly come and find us without our going to look for them.

Dear Mother,

If you say that you’re a mother approaching 70 then it must be true, but one would certainly not tell it from your writing, for it struck me that it’s exceptionally firm

It occurs to me that in the summer here it’s not much hotter than at home as regards being bothered by it, since the air here is clearer and purer. What’s more, we very often have a strong wind, the mistral. I’ve painted in the wheatfields during the hottest part of the day without it bothering me much. But one can sometimes see that the sun can be quite strong from the way the wheat turns yellow quickly.

There are very beautiful fields of olive trees here, which are grey and silvery in leaf like pollard willows. 

Then I never tire of the blue sky. One never sees buckwheat or rapeseed here, and generally speaking there’s rather less variety than at home. And I’d so much like to paint a field of buckwheat in flower or rapeseed in flower, or flax. But I’ll probably find the opportunity to do it later in Normandy or Brittany. Then here one also never sees the mossy peasant roofs on the barns or cottages like at home, and no oak coppices and no spurry and no beech hedges with their red-brown leaves and whitish tangled old stems.

Also no proper heathland and no birches, which were so beautiful in Nuenen.

But what are beautiful in the south are the vineyards, where they’re on the flat land or the hillsides. I’ve seen it, and come to that sent Theo a painting of it, where a vineyard is all purple, crimson and yellow and green and violet like the Virginia creeper in Holland. I like to see a vineyard as much as a wheatfield. Then the hills here, full of thyme and other aromatic plants, are very beautiful, and because of the clarity of the air one can see from the heights so much further than at home.

From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Anna van Gogh-Carbentus
Date: approx. 8 - 12 July 1889

Purple irises in Saint Remy, Provence.
Tree boughs and stone houses, Provence gardens.
Cherry blossom in orchards of Provence underneath the hilltop town of 
A mint shuttered window with flowerpots in Provence, in the sun.
The beautiful asylum and abbey of St Remy.
Abbey gardens in the cloister of St Remy, Provence in Spring.
Window flower boxes and mint shutters, Provence.
Vincent Van Gogh's room at the asylum of Saint Remy, Provence.
White cherry blossom like a Van Gogh painting.
A wooden door in a pink stone wall.
Cat in the window - sleeping in the sunset.
White and purple flowers in a pink stone wall hanging.
The ochre cliffs of Roussillon, France, at sunset.
A water fountain in the village of Roussillon.
Sunset over the olive trees of Provence.