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My dear Theo,
Your letter of this morning gave me great pleasure. Thank
you very much for the 100-franc note enclosed.
And I am glad that the case has arrived.
If you think the Souvenir de Mauve tolerable, you should put
it in the next lot for The Hague, in a plain white frame.
If you find among them a study that seems to you more
suitable for Tersteeg, you can put it in without any dedication
and keep the one with his dedication, which you can then scrape
off. Because it is better to give him one without any
dedication. Then he can pretend that he hadn't realized it was
a present and can send it back without saying anything if he
would rather not have anything from me.
I certainly must offer him one to show that I have some zeal
for the cause and that I appreciate his taking it up - but
anyway, however it goes, whether you send one with or without a
dedication, or send another one, it is all the same to me. Only
as Mauve and he were such close friends, it seemed to come
naturally to me, in the emotion of the moment, to do something
for Tersteeg while I was doing a souvenir of Mauve. And that's
the only thing I had in mind. That's all.
The study of the orchard you speak of - where there is a lot
of stippling - is half of the principal subject for the scheme
of decoration. The other half is the study of the same size,
And between them they should give some idea of the
arrangement of the orchards here. Only I myself thought one
study too soft and the other too harsh, both of them failures.
It was partly due to the changeable weather, and then I was
like the Russian who tried to gobble too much of the country in
one day's march.
I am very curious to see the results of Gruby's system - in
the long run - say, after a year's trial. It would be wise to
go and show yourself to him sometimes, and chat with him, and
really to catch his attention, a really serious
effort on his part, just as B. at last managed to get his
sympathy and a more serious interest. Then I'd be happier about
you. Now I cannot be.
But taking the chestnuts out of the fire for these people in
your present condition means utterly exhausting yourself within
a year. And that's no good to anyone.
Would you like me to go to America with you? It would be
only fair for these people to pay my passage.
I am indifferent to most things, but not to this - that you
should first of all really regain your health.
But I think that once again you must steep yourself more and
more in nature and in the world of artists.
And I would rather see you independent of the Goupils, and
dealing with the impressionists on your own account, than this
other life of travelling around with expensive pictures
belonging to these people. When our uncle was their partner, he
got plenty out of it for some years - but look what it cost
As for you, your lungs are all right - but, but, but…
a year of Gruby first, and then you will see the danger you are
now running. At present you have had ten years of Paris, which
is more than enough.
Perhaps you will tell me that Détaille, for instance,
has had thirty years of Paris, and that he is as fit as a
fiddle. Very well, do the same if you have similar powers, I
won't object, and our family is tough.
All that I want to say comes to this - if these people want
you to pull their chestnuts out of the fire at such a distance,
either make them pay you well, or refuse, and go over to the
impressionists, doing less business as far as your financial
turnover goes, but living more with nature.
As for me, I am feeling decidedly better, and my digestion
has improved tremendously during the past month. Some days I
still suffer from unaccountable, involuntary fits of excitement
or else utter sluggishness, but that will pass as I get calmer.
I expect to make an excursion to Saintes-Maries, and see the
Mediterranean at last.
I am sure our sister will be delighted to come to Paris, and
it will do her no harm, no doubt of that.
I wish everybody would come South like me. I am always
reproaching myself that my painting is not worth what it
But I must work, only remember that if ever circumstances
make it desirable for me to go into trade instead, provided it
will relieve you, I will do so without regret. Mourier will
give you two more drawings.
You know what you must do with these drawings - make
sketchbooks with 6 or 10 or 12 like those books of original
Japanese drawings. I very much want to make such a book
for Gauguin, and one for Bernard. For the drawings are going to
be better than these.
Odd, but one evening recently at Mont Majour I saw a red
sunset, its rays falling on the trunks and foliage of pines
growing among a jumble of rocks, colouring the trunks and
foliage with orange fire, while the other pines in the distance
stood out in Prussian blue against a sky of tender blue-green,
cerulean. It was just the effect of that Claude Monet; it was
superb. The white sand and the layers of white rocks under the
trees took on tints of blue. What I would like to do is the
panorama of which you have the first drawings. It has such
breadth and then it doesn't change into grey, it remains green
to the last line - and then the range of hills, blue.
Today we have had a gale and rain, but it will only do good.
If Koning prefers a painted study, do just as things turn
Think well before you agree to everything that the Goupils
are asking, and if it entails a change for me, really, now that
my health is improving, I can work anywhere, and have no fixed
prejudice on the subject.
A handshake for you and Koning.
Ever yours, Vincent
I think that white orchard needs a white frame, cold
white and rough. Remember that I would far rather give up
painting than see you killing yourself to make money. One must
have it, to be sure - but has it come to the point where we
must go so far to find it?
You understand so well that “to prepare oneself for
death,” the Christian idea (happily for him, Christ
himself, it seems to me, had no trace of it, loving as he did
people and things here below to an unreasonable extent, at
least according to the folk who can only see him as a little
cracked) - if you understand so well that to prepare oneself
for death is idle - let it go for what it's worth - can't you
see that similarly self-sacrifice, living for other people, is
a mistake if it involves suicide, for in that case you actually
turn your friends into murderers.
So if it has come to this, that you have to travel around
like this, with never any peace, it honestly kills any desire
in me to get back my own ease of mind.
If you agree to these proposals, all right - but then ask
these Goupils to take me on again, at my old wages, and take me
with you on these journeys. People matter more than things, and
the more trouble I take over pictures, the more pictures in
themselves leave me cold. The reason why I try to make them is
to be among the artists. You understand, it would make me
wretched to be forcing you to make money. Rather, let's be
together whatever happens. Where there's a will there`s a way,
and I think if you can get well now, you will be well for quite
a number of years. But don't kill yourself now, either for me
or for anybody else. You know the portrait of the elder Six,
the man going away, his glove in his hand. Well, live
until you go away like that; I can see you do so, married. You
would carry it off well. Think it over, and consult Gruby
before you accept such a proposal.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 28 May 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 492.
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