My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your letter and for the 50-fr. note it
Painting as it is now promises to become more subtle - more
like music and less like sculpture - and above all it promises
colour. If only it keeps this promise.
The sunflowers are getting on, there is a new bunch of 14
flowers on a greenish-yellow ground, so it is
exactly the same effect - but in a larger size, a 30 canvas -
as the still life with the quinces and lemons,
which you already have - but in the sunflowers the painting is
much more simple. Do you remember that we saw a bunch of
peonies by Manet at the Hotel Drouot one day? The flowers were
pink, the leaves bright green painted in thick impasto, not
glazed like Jeannin's, standing out against a plain white
background, I think.
That was a very sound piece of work.
But I consulted that postman I painted, who had often
furnished and refurnished his little home moving from place to
place, as to the approximate price of the necessary furniture,
and he said that you could not get a good bed here which would
last for less than 150 francs - if you want to get something
substantial, of course.
However, that hardly upsets the calculation that by saving
the money spent on lodging, at the end of a year we should find
ourselves in possession of some furniture, without having spent
any more during the year. And as soon as I can, I shall not
hesitate to do it.
If Gauguin and I do not take the opportunity to fix
ourselves up like this, we may drag on year after year in small
lodgings where we cannot fail to go to seed. I have pretty well
done that already, for it has been going on for a very long
time. And now it has even ceased to be unpleasant, and perhaps
at first I shall not feel at home when I am home. Never mind.
However, we must not forget Bouvard and Pecuchet, we must not
forget “à Veau l'eau,” for it is all
true, most profoundly true.
Au Bonheur des Dames and Bel Ami are no less true, however.
They are different ways of looking at things - with the first
there is less risk of behaving like Don Quixote perhaps, with
the second you go the whole hog.
This week I have had the old peasant once again.
Oh - McKnight has left at last - I am not sorry. His friend
the Belgian did not seem very upset either when he came here
yesterday to tell me, and we spent the evening together. He has
very sensible ideas, and at least he knows what he wants.
At present he is painting a kind of timid impressionism, but
very orderly and very exact. And I told him that it was the
best thing he could do, because although he would lose two
years perhaps suppressing his individuality, yet it is as
necessary to have a regular course in impressionism now as it
was formerly to have a course in a Parisian studio. He agreed
with this entirely, just because in this way you offend no one,
and cannot be accused afterward of knowing nothing about the
problem. He is seriously thinking of going to paint the miners
of the Borinage, and if he is still here when Gauguin comes, it
is not impossible that we will ask him to do for us in the
North what we would do for him in the South, that is, do our
utmost to enable him to live more cheaply than he would do
Goodbye for the present.
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 528.
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