My dear Theo,
Yesterday I went to the furniture dealer's to see if I could
hire a bed etc. Unfortunately they would not hire, and
even refused to sell on a monthly installment plan. This is
I thought perhaps if Koning leaves after seeing the Salon
which I believe was his original intention, that you might send
me the bed that he now occupies after his departure. One must
take into account that if I sleep at the studio it will make a
difference of 300 Frs. a year which would otherwise have to be
paid to the hotel. I know that it is impossible to say in
advance that I shall stay here so long but all the same I have
many reasons for thinking that a long stay here is
I was in Fontvieille yesterday at McKnight's; he had a good
pastel - a pink tree - and two watercolours just started, and I
found him working on the head of an old woman in charcoal. He
has reached the stage where he is plagued by new colour
theories, and while they prevent him from working on the old
system, he is not sufficiently master of his new palette to
succeed in this one. He seemed very shy about showing me the
things, I had to go there for that express purpose, and tell
him that I was absolutely set on seeing his work.
It is not impossible that he may come to stay for some time
with me here. I think we should both benefit by it.
I think very often of Renoir and that pure clean line of
his. That's just how things and people look in this clear
We are having a tremendous lot of wind and mistral here,
just now three days out of four, though the sun shines anyway:
but it makes it difficult to work out-of-doors.
I think there would be something to do here in portraits.
Although the people are blankly ignorant of painting in
general, they are much more artistic than in the North in their
own persons and their manner of life. I have seen figures here
quite as beautiful as those of Goya or Velásquez. They
will put a touch of pink on a black frock, or devise a garment
of white, yellow and pink, or else green and pink, or else
blue and yellow, in which there is nothing to be altered
from the artistic point of view. Seurat would find some very
picturesque men's figures here in spite of their modern
Now, as for portraits, I am pretty sure they'd take the
But first before I dare start along that line, I want my
nerves steadier, and also to be settled in so that I could have
people in my studio. And if I must tell you roughly what I
figure it would take to get me quite well and acclimatized for
good, it will mean a year, and to set me up completely, a cool
thousand francs. If during the first year - the present year -
I spend 100 francs on food and 100 francs on this house per
month, you see there won't be a cent left in the budget for
But at the end of that year I should have a decent
establishment and my own health to show for it - of that I am
sure. And in the meantime I should spend my time drawing every
day, with two or three pictures a month besides.
In figuring what it would cost to set me up, I am also
counting in a complete new set of linen and clothes and
And at the end of the year I should be a different man.
I should have a home of my own and the peace to get back my
(Needless to say, if you have got canvases that take up too
much room, you can send them here by goods service, and I will
keep them in the studio here. If this is not yet the case, it
will be later on, and I am keeping a good many studies which
don't seem good enough to send to you.)
And then I can hope not to get exhausted before my time.
Monticelli was physically stronger than I, I think, and if I
had the strength for it, I'd live from hand to mouth as he did.
But if even he was paralyzed, and that without being such a
tremendous drinker, there'd be precious little hope for me.
I paid for it nicely afterward! And that was why,
when I wrote you the other day, I said that if you left the
Goupils, you would feel healthier in mind, but the cure would
be very painful. Whereas one does not feel the disease
I think Gruby is right about such cases - to eat well, to
live well, to see little of women, in short to arrange one's
life in advance exactly as if one were already suffering from a
disease of the brain and spine, without counting the neurosis
which is actually there. Certainly that is taking the bull by
the horns, which is never a bad policy. And Degas did it, and
succeeded. All the same, don't you feel, as I do, that it is
frightfully hard? And after all, doesn't it do one all the good
in the world to listen to the wise advice of Rivet and
Pangloss, those excellent optimists of the pure and jovial
Gallic race, who leave you your self-respect?
However, if we want to live and work, we must be very
sensible and look after ourselves. Cold water, fresh air,
simple good food, decent clothes, a decent bed, and no women.
And not to let oneself go with women, or with life that
is life, as much as one would like to.
I am not set on sleeping at the studio, but if
I went to sleep there, it would be because I saw the
possibility of settling down pretty definitely for a long
Now that I need take up no more room in the hotel, seeing
that I have the studio, I shall beat these people down to 3
francs a day, whether they like it or not. Consequently there
is nothing urgent.
I have got ten canvases that I'm looking for a case for, and
I'll send them one of these days.
A handshake for you, and Koning too. I got a postcard from
Koning saying that he had had a letter telling him to take back
the pictures from the Independents' show. Naturally it was the
only thing to do, and what could I do about it?
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 3 May 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 481.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.