My dear Theo,
Here is a short note for Bernard and for Lautrec, to whom I expressly
promised to write. I send them to you so you can hand
them over when you have a chance, but there is absolutely no hurry
whatever, and it will be an excuse for you to see what they are
doing and hear what they have to say, if you want to.
But what is Tersteeg doing? Nothing? If you have had no
reply, if I were you I should write him a very short and
very cool note, but conveying that you are amazed at not getting a
reply from him. (+)
I do not think that we should press him in a fresh letter,
explaining the business all over again. One must be careful
when dealing with him, but what must be avoided is letting
oneself be treated as if one were dead or outlawed. That's
Let's hope that meanwhile you have had an answer from
I had a note from Gauguin, who complains about the bad
weather, is still ailing, and says that of all the various
miseries that afflict humanity, nothing maddens him more than
the lack of money, and yet he feels doomed to perpetual
Wind and rain these last few days. I've worked at home on
the study which I made a sketch of in Bernard's letter [B2]. I wanted
to manage to get colours into it like stained glass windows,
and a good, firm drawing.
I am in the middle of Pierre et Jean by Guy de Maupassant.
It's good. Have you read the preface, where he explains the
artist's liberty to exaggerate, to create in his novel a world
more beautiful, more simple, more consoling than ours, and goes
on to explain what Flaubert may have meant when he said that
“Talent is long patience, and originality an effort of
will and of intense observation”?
There is a Gothic portico here, which I am beginning to
think admirable, the porch of St. Trophime.
But it is so cruel, so monstrous, like a Chinese nightmare,
that even this beautiful monument of so grand a style seems to
me of another world, and I am as glad not to belong
to it as to that glorious world of the
Must I tell the truth and add that the Zouaves, the
brothels, the adorable little Arlésiennes going to their
first Communion, the priest in his surplice, who looks like a
dangerous rhinoceros, the absinthe drinkers, all seem to
me to be beings of another world? That doesn't mean that
I'd feel at home in an artistic world, but that I would rather
fool myself than feel alone. And I think I should feel
depressed if I did not fool myself about everything.
You have already had heavy snow in Paris according to our
friend L'Intransigeant. It wasn't a bad idea, that journalist
advising General Boulanger to wear rose-coloured spectacles, so
as to put the secret police on the wrong scent: according to
him they'd match his beard better. It might have a favourable
influence on the picture trade - it's been wanted for long
But we really must get some idea of what our excellent Mr.
Tersteeg is up to. He must declare himself! In the
interest of our comrades it seems to me it's almost our business not to
allow them to think of us as dead. It is not about us, but the
whole question of the impressionists is at stake, and having
been challenged by us, he must give us an answer.
If we consider it desirable to hold a permanent exhibition
of the impressionists in London and Marseilles, it goes without
saying that we'll try to set them up.
And if not, what are his intentions with regard to the
offensive, do they exist or not?
The question remains, will Tersteeg be in it? Yes or no?
And has he taken into account, as we have, the resulting
depreciation of the value of pictures now highly priced, a
depreciation that will, I think, probably set in as soon as the
impressionist's stock rises. You observe that the dealers in
expensive pictures ruin themselves by opposing for policy
reasons the advent of a school which for years has shown an
energy and perseverance worthy of Millet, Daubigny and
But let me know if Tersteeg has written you, and what he may
have said. I will do nothing in this without you. Good luck and
Ever yours, Vincent
I enclose Gauguin's letter with the others so that you can
read all of them.
[Footnote added to the bottom of page 1:]
(+) I say to write yourself, because even though he
doesn't answer me, he must answer you, and you must
insist on a reply or else you will lose you assurance with him, and on
the contrary this is an excellent opportunity for improving
At this time, Vincent was 34 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 18 March 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 470.
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