Look here, this will not do.
I am involved - not exactly with an “amour
traînant” - but with an “amitié
Don't you think we might apply the same system to it?
One of the things of which I say “this will not
do” is that you send me a third of the money, and write,
“I could send you the rest, but it suits me better to do
so toward the end of the month, if it doesn't inconvenience
you.” Now must you ask me if it suits me or not? You know
yourself how last month I used three-quarters of the money to
pay things off. But I did not complain, not even when the money
arrived as late as March 10.
But now, when I promised to pay various other things in
March which I owed when I came here, to have to wait now till
the end of the month again, whether that is exactly a piece of
good fortune for me, I leave you to decide.
Allons, Brother - I suppose you will not think it
“brotherly” of me if I class our friendship, such
as it is at present, very decidedly among the things without
pith and marrow - but in the past I should have been greatly
worried by that question of being brotherly or not brotherly.
And now - I shall not be worried by it. And I shall feel pretty
indifferent to what you think of my doings. I know that for
myself, just because we began as friends and with a feeling of
mutual respect - I know that for myself I will not suffer its
degenerating into protection - I decline to be your
protégé, Theo. Why? Because! And more and more it
threatens to degenerate into this.
What you say about my work is silly - I call it silly when
you tell me how the Salon's jury would judge my work when I
never said a syllable about sending it to the Salon - I think
it silly and insipid…oh, there are more things I think
silly and insipid, and then the other part is the concluding
nice little compliment of this type - if I did this or that, I
should be the person to make you feel more at peace with this,
that and the other thing.
If you do not care so much for Lhermitte any more, I tell
you that the fault lies with you. I agree with you that I rate
Millet perhaps even higher, but damn! To see so many things of
Lhermitte's as you do, and not to be sufficiently impressed, to
forget all comparisons - I call that narrow-minded. Something
which, for that matter, you are going to be subject to more and
more, I fear.
I never mentioned sending my work to the Salon, did I? But I
did speak to you at the time about the people at the
illustrated papers, especially about Buhot. And I don't take it
back that I urged you to do so.
If you meant it seriously that, after another period of hard
work on my part, you would try to show my drawings, I should be
perfectly willing not to bring them before the public before we
had some thoroughly good drawings.
On one condition, however - that in the meantime my life
would not be too lonesome and miserable, my position not too
false, but that I could accept the present with a sense of
freedom. But how is it at present? You do absolutely
nothing to procure me some distraction, which I sometimes
need so badly, by meeting people, or seeing things.
In short, I feel that nothing would please you more than my
not bringing myself to your personal notice.
It has already been this way for more than a year, and now
the reaction is that I say, None of it's of any use this way -
neither for you nor for me, and it would be stupid to go
on in this way, stupid!
This is such a dear little Van Goghish trick, such a nice
bit of self-righteousness; for my part I shall not grudge you
it if it means something to you. Father would do the same. I
know for myself what I have felt during the past year, and what
my thoughts are about our friendship - as it is now -
Whatever may be thought about whether I do right or wrong in
speaking as I do, at any rate I'm the one who's taking a
chance. Theo, it is more convenient for you to be
completely rid of me - personally, if I break with you,
especially in financial matters, I have absolutely nothing
else, and such a way of doing things is the opposite of the
usual tactics of Messrs. Van Gogh & Co.
Take this in whatever way you like
Conclusion: You indicate that if my drawings were so
beautiful that you could put them next to Millet's and
Daumier's, you would occupy yourself with them.
Of course I on my part am willing to believe this, but at
the same time I know something else - that in that case there
are other fellows whom I could apply to. And if you try to make
it appear that the house of Goupil & Co. deals principally
in the Millet and Daumier type of art, I tell you that Messrs.
G. & Co. most certainly did not occupy
themselves with Millet at the time, before the big
Millet sales - and they did about as little for Daumier. Then,
in Daumier's and Millet's younger days, Messrs. G. & Co.
were busily occupied with Julien Brochard and Monsieur
Paul Delaroche - in my eyes not such a very fine
Monsieur Delaroche, you know. So much for the house of
G. & Co.
Yours sincerely, Vincent
I know beforehand that I shall be sorry, and at times even
very sorry if we part.
And perhaps - although in your case no inconvenience and
cares are involved - you on your part might think it more or
But having called the thing by its true name, amitié
traînante, half-hearted friendship, what is left except
separation? And to tell you the truth, I have repeatedly
thought that things would become impossible between you and me
unless I could renew some relation, however slight, with Goupil
& Co. - Goupil & Co., toward whom after all I have
never misbehaved myself, except that during six long years I
worked for them to the best of my ability. Which was most
certainly a serious misdemeanour on my part, and surely a
sufficient reason for hating each other, hein? - such is
commerce after all.
But you were too high and mighty to take the slightest
notice not only of my work but also of what I told you about
what happened to me during these last years in The Hague, which
might and should have been redressed.
Speaking of “brotherly,” do such things belong
among the brotherlinesses? And can I think otherwise than that
it's more and more insufferable of you to write something like,
Therefore have a little patience?
Look here, I need my patience for my work, my friend, and if
I am a little short with you and others, the reason is that I
think it mean to put a fellow off with fair words, such fair
words as, Therefore have a little patience.
So now I am quarreling with you - and high time too.
In the beginning you used to show my drawings to Heyerdahl -
to Buhot - why not later?
Really and truly I am furious that you have been so terribly
lax since then - I am furious for this reason - it is not
because of anything else - it is because of that damned way you
have of saying over and over again, “Keep on
working,” “have a little patience,” whereas
in the meantime you do not lift a finger to see that I get
satisfaction out of my work.
At this time, Vincent was 30 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 21 March 1884 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 362.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.