My dear Theo,
I read a notice in L'Intransigeant that there is to be an
exhibition of impressionists at Durand Ruel's - there will be
some of Caillebotte's pictures - I have never seen any of his
stuff, and I want to ask you to write me what it is like, there
are sure to be other remarkable things.
Today I sent you some more drawings, and I am putting in
another two. These are views taken from a rocky hill, from
which you see the country towards Crau (very good wine comes
from there), the town of Arles and the country towards
Fontvieilles. The contrast between the wild and romantic foreground, and the distant
perspective, wide and still, with horizontal lines sloping into
the chain of the Alpines, so famous for the great climbing
feats of Tartarin P. C. A., and of the Alpine Club - this
contrast is very striking. The two belated drawings that I am
adding now will give you an idea of the ruin that crowns the
rocks. But is it worth the trouble to make frames for this Dordrecht exhibition?
It seems idiotic to me, and I would rather not be in it.
I should like to think that Bernard or Gauguin will exchange
drawings with us, so that the Dutch will see nothing.
Have you met the Dane, Mourier Petersen? He will have brought you two more drawings.
He has studied medicine, but I suppose he was discouraged by
the student's life, and by the other fellows and the professors
as well. He never said anything to me about it though, except
once when he stated, “It's the doctors that kill
When he came here, he was suffering from a nervous disorder,
which had been brought on by the strain of the examinations. I
do not know how long he has been painting - he certainly hasn't
gone very far as a painter - but he's a good fellow to knock
around with, and he observes people and often sums them up very
Do you think it would work if he were to come and stay with
you? I think that in intelligence he would be very much
preferable to that L., of whom - I don't know why - I have a
very poor opinion. You certainly don't want sixth-grade Dutch
and worse about you, the sort that will say and do idiotic
things when they go home. Unfortunately, a picture dealer is
more or less a public character. Not that it matters much.
The Swede [This is referring to Mourier, who was Danish.
Vincent makes the same odd mistake in letter 498] comes from a
good family, he has a sort of decency and orderliness in his
way of life and as a man; he reminds me of the kind of
character you find in Pierre Loti's books. With all his
stolidity, he has some heart.
I expect to be drawing a lot more. It's good and hot
already, I can tell you.
I must add an order for colours to this, though in case
you'd rather not get them at once, I can do a few more drawings
and it will not be time wasted. Also, I divided the order in
two, according to what is more or less urgent.
What is always urgent is the drawing, and whether you do it
straight off with the brush or with something else, say a pen,
you never get enough done.
I am trying now to exaggerate the essential, and purposely
leave the obvious things vague.
I am very glad that you have bought the book on Daumier, but
if you could make a complete job of it by buying some more of
his lithographs, it would be all to the good, for in the future
the Daumiers will not be as easy to get hold of.
But in the end he will come to see it in proportion as you
follow his treatment; with Gruby you will survive, but
unfortunately for us, it is more than the old boy will do
himself, for he is aging, and when the time comes when we shall
need him most, he won't be there.
I feel more and more that we must not judge of God from this
world, it's just a study that didn't come off. What can you do
with a study that has gone wrong? - if you are fond of the
artist, you do not find much to criticize - you hold your
tongue. But you have the right to ask for something better. We
should have to see other works by the same hand though; this
world was evidently slapped together in a hurry on one of his
bad days, when the artist didn't know what he was doing or
didn't have his wits about him. All the same, according to what
the legend says, this good old God took a terrible lot of
trouble over this world-study of his.
I am inclined to think that the legend is right, but then
the study is ruined in so many ways. It is only a master who
can make such a blunder, and perhaps that is the best
consolation we can have out of it, since in that case we have a
right to hope that we'll see the same creative hand get even
with itself. And this life of ours, so much criticized, and for
good and even exalted reasons, we must not take it for anything
but what it is, and go on hoping that in some other life we'll
see something better than this.
With a handshake for you and Koning.
I am hoping to hear from you tomorrow; if not, I'll be in
rather a bad way, since I have only enough money for tomorrow,
Sunday. Have you at long last received the case? I am not much
surprised in a way at its going slowly, seeing that it had to
be taken from one station to another, but all the same!
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 26 May 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 490.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.