My dear Theo,
If we painted like M. Gérôme and the other
delusive photographers, we should doubtless ask for very finely
brayed colours. But we on the contrary do not object to the
canvas having a rough look. If then, instead of braying the
colour on a stone for God knows how many hours, it was brayed
just long enough to make it manageable, without worrying too
much about the fineness of the powder, you would get fresher
colours which would perhaps darken less. If he wants to make a
trial of it with the three chromes, the malachite, the
vermilion, the orange lead, the cobalt, and the ultramarine, I
am almost certain that at much less cost I should get colours
which would be fresher and more lasting. Then what would the
price be? I'm sure this could be done. Probably also with the
reds and the emerald, which are transparent.
I enclose an order which is urgent.
I am now on the fourth picture of sunflowers. This fourth
one is a bunch of 14 flowers, against a yellow
background, like a still life of quinces and lemons that I did
some time ago.
Only as it is much bigger, it gives a rather singular
effect, and I think that this one is painted with more
simplicity than the quinces and lemons.
Do you remember that one day we saw a very extraordinary
Manet at the Hotel Drouot, some huge pink peonies with their
green leaves against a light background? As free in the open
air and as much a flower as anything could be, and yet painted
in a perfectly solid impasto, and not the way Jeannin does
But someday you'll see.
What a pity painting costs so much! This week I had fewer
worries than other weeks, so I let myself go. I shall have
spent the 100-fr. note in a single week, but at the end of this
week I'll have my four pictures, and even if I add the cost of
all the paint I have used, the week will not have been sheer
waste. But there, we live in days
when there is no demand for what we are making, not only does
it not sell, but as you see in Gauguin's case, when you want to
borrow on the pictures, you can't get anything, even if it is a
trifling sum and the work, important. And that is why we are
the prey of every happening. And I am afraid that it will
hardly change in our lifetime. But if we are preparing richer
lives for the painters who will follow in our footsteps, it
will be something.
But life is short, and shorter still, the number of years
you feel bold enough to face everything.
And in the end it is to be feared that as soon as the new
painting is appreciated, the painters will go soft.
But anyway, this much is positive, it is not we of the
present time who are decadent. Gauguin and Bernard talk now of
“painting like children” - I would rather have that
than “painting like decadents.” How is it that
people see something decadent in impressionism? It is very much
I enclose a line for Tasset. The difference in price ought
to be considerable, and needless to say, I hope to make less
and less use of the finely brayed colours.
With a handshake.
One of the decorations of sunflowers on royal blue ground
has “a halo,” that is to say each
object is surrounded by a glow of the complementary colour of
the background against which it stands out. Goodbye for
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 27 August 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 527.
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