Letter 07/23/1890 - by Vincent van Gogh

Letter 07/23/1890 - by Vincent van Gogh
Courtesy of www.VincentVanGogh.org

I have a large picture of the village church. The building has an effect of violet hues against a sky of simple deep blue, pure cobalt. The stained glass windows appear as ultramarine blots, the roof violet and partly orange. In the foreground some green plants are in bloom, and sand with the pink glow of sun on it. Again, it is almost the same as the studies from Nuenen of the old tower and cemetery, but probably the color is now more expressive and sumptuous.

What excites me most - far, far more than any other part of my craft - is portraiture, modern portraiture.

I pursue it through color and am certainly not alone in pursuing it this way. I should like - as you can see I'm a long way from claiming that I shall be able do all this, but that is my aim - I should like to paint portraits that, a century later to the people living then, will seem like apparitions. So I'm not seeking to achieve this through photograph likeness but through the expression of emotions, using our modern knowledge and taste for color as a means of expression and elevation of character. Hence, the portrait of Dr. Gachet shows a face the color of overheated brick, scorched by the sun, with red hair, a white cap surrounded by a background landscape of blue hills; and his clothes are ultramarine blue - this brings out the face and makes it paler despite its brick color. His hands, the hands of an obstetrician, are paler than the face.

In front of him on a red garden table are some yellow novels and a dark purple foxglove. M y self-portrait is very similar: the blue is the fine blue of the South and the clothing bright lilac. The portrait of the woman from Aries has a neutral, matte flesh tone, the eyes calm and very simple, the clothes black, the background pink, and she is leaning with her elbows on a green table with green books. But in the version Theo has the clothes are pink, the background white-yellow, and the front of her open bodice is muslin of a white turning to green. Amid all these light colors, the hair, eyelashes, and eyes are the only spots of black.