My Friend Van Gogh

By Émile Bernard. Letters by Vincent van Gogh. Introduction by Martin Bailey

An intimate testament to the power of friendship between two creative forces

“I exaggerate, I sometimes make changes to the subject, but I still don’t invent the whole of painting; on the contrary, I find it ready-made—but to be untangled—in the real world.” —Vincent van Gogh to Émile Bernard

The painter and poet Émile Bernard’s firsthand account of the beloved painter Vincent van Gogh’s life offers deep perspective into the Dutch artist’s process, artistic preoccupations, and difficulties. In the 1890s, Bernard penned prefaces for collections of letters from Van Gogh, some of which were published while others were not. In 1911, Bernard gathered together these prefaces for a new publication, to which he also contributed a new introductory text, of the artist’s letters and sketches which he enclosed in his correspondence. This volume comprises these prefaces, published in English for the first time, as well as a selection of letters from Van Gogh to Bernard. In addition to including biographical details and reflections on art and friendship, Bernard chronicles his attempts to have Van Gogh’s work recognized after his death. Shedding light on the artistic community they inhabited, he also discusses notable figures such as Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin. 

Letters written by Van Gogh to a young Bernard further highlight the significance of the friendship between the two men. Van Gogh’s words of advice to Bernard as well as ruminations on his own practice, inspirations, and creative struggles are revealed in these pages. 

Introduced by Van Gogh specialist Martin Bailey, these texts present a sensitive and discerning portrait of the artist that goes beyond his reputation as a troubled genius.  



Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: ekphrasis

Contributors: Martin Bailey, Émile Bernard, Vincent Van Gogh

Designer: Michael Dyer / Remake Design

Publication Date: 2024

Binding: Softcover

Dimensions: 4.25 × 7 in | 10.8 × 17.8 cm

Pages: 112

Reproductions: 3 illustrations

ISBN: 9781644231197

Retail: $15 | $20 CAN | £10.95

Status: Available


Dedicated to publishing rare, out-of-print, and newly commissioned texts as accessible paperback volumes the ekphrasis series is part of David Zwirner Books’s ongoing effort to publish new and surprising pieces of writing on visual culture.

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Martin Bailey

Martin Bailey is a London-based Van Gogh specialist. His recent books include The Sunflowers Are Mine: The Story of van Gogh’s Masterpiece, Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence, Living with Vincent van Gogh: The Homes and Landscapes that Shaped the Artist, Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum, and Van Gogh’s Finale: Auvers and the Artist’s Rise to Fame. He has curated a number of Van Gogh exhibitions, most recently Van Gogh and Britain at London’s Tate Britain. Bailey is a correspondent for The Art Newspaper and writes a weekly blog on Van Gogh.

Émile Bernard

Émile Bernard (1868–1941) was a French painter and writer known for his contributions to cloisonnism—a post-impressionist style defined by flat plains of bold color and distinct outlines—and his friendships with Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, and Paul Cezanne. He was also a prolific writer of art criticism and poetry: he published his correspondence with Van Gogh and other artists and founded and edited the review La Rénovation esthétique. His works are held in museums worldwide.

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) produced nearly nine hundred paintings and more than eleven hundred works on paper during his ten-year career and posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in Western art. He painted some of his most well-known works, including Starry Night, during the year he voluntarily spent in the asylum at Saint-Rémy. He died in July 1890 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. By the time of his death, his work was beginning to gain critical acclaim, and by the start of World War I, his reputation as a pioneer of modern art was growing.