365 Days of Art: June 23 – Van Gogh Writes a Self-Critical Letter About Zouave Painting

Vincent Van Gogh, Seated Zouave, 1888

June 23, 1888

Vincent Van Gogh writes a letter to Emile Bernard, and references the painting above.

What I’ve been doing looks very ugly – a drawing of a seated Zouave [pronounced zoo-AHV, a soldier in the French Army, based in North Africa, with a distinct uniform], a painted sketch of the Zouave against a completely white wall, and finally his portrait against a green door and some orange bricks in a wall. It is harsh, and taking it all in all, ugly and unsuccessful. Yet, because I was tackling a real difficulty with it, it may pave the way for the future.

Nearly all the figures I do look abominable in my own eyes, let alone the eyes of others.

Bonus: Van Gogh also refers to Louis XIV as a “killjoy”. Tee hee.