My dear Theo,
I am writing you as I wait for Bock, the Belgian, who is
leaving early this morning. He is already thirty-three; he has
spent ten years in Paris and in travelling; his sister is older
than he is. Although so far he hasn't been up to much as a
painter, if on his return to his own country he can at last
shake off his slackness, brought about by the enervating
influence of Paris and hanging about with slackers, he will be
fairly on the threshold of a real painter's career.
He is very much a Belgian, for in his conversation and his
manners I can easily recognize the accent of his country, the
timidity of those miners, whom I still think of often. You will
probably see the two pictures he is taking along with him; the
drawing is feeble, but the colour is already beginning to
His sister may be travelling in Holland, and I have thought
vaguely that I would like her and our sister to meet. I always
hope that through us W. will manage to marry an artist. To
bring that about, she ought to be a little in the movement. If
Bock's sister really does go to Holland, we have only to say to
Bock that of she wishes to make some studies at Breda, she can
stay with our mother and sister. It wouldn't cause them a great
deal of expense at home, they put up plenty of useless people,
but altogether it would be an opportunity for them to become
acquainted. But we must not press it too hard.
But the thing is that the Bock's home is a painter's house,
both children being in that line, and besides, they aren't
While I am without them I must draw, because I am cleaned
out as far as colours are concerned.
So let's be prudent. If it does not suit him here, he may be
forever reproaching me with, “Why did you bring me to
this rotten country?” And I don't want any of that.
Naturally we can still remain friends with Gauguin but I see
only too clearly that his mind is elsewhere. So I say, let's
behave as if he were not there; then if he comes, so much the
better - if he doesn't, so much the worse.
How I'd like to settle down and have a home! I keep thinking
that even it we had spent 500 francs on furniture at the start,
we should already have recovered all of it and I should have
the furniture and should already have been delivered from
innkeepers. I do not insist on it, but there is no sense in
what we are doing now.
Here there will always be artists coming and going, anxious
to escape from the severity of the North. And I think myself
that I shall always be one of them. It's true that it would
probably be better to go a little lower down where we'd be more
sheltered. It's true that it wouldn't exactly be easy to find,
but that's another reason for settling here, for the cost of
moving from here to Bordighera, for instance, or else somewhere
near Nice, could not be enormous. Once settled, we would stay
there all our lives. It's a poor way of doing things to wait
till one is very rich, and that is what I do not like about the
de Goncourts, that whatever the truth of it may be, they ended
by buying their home and their tranquillity for 100,000 francs.
But we'd have it at less than a thousand, so far as having a
studio in the South where we could give someone a bed goes.
But if we must make a fortune first…we shall be
complete nervous wrecks when we enter upon our rest, that is,
worse than our present condition, in which we are still able to
stand the racket. But let's be sensible enough to realize that
we are going to seed all the same.
It is better to put other people up than to have nowhere to
put oneself up, especially here where lodging with a landlord
doesn't get you the sort of place where you can feel at home,
even when you pay for it.
As for Gauguin, perhaps he is letting himself drift with the
current, not thinking of the future. And perhaps he thinks that
I shall always be here and that he has our word. But it is not
too late to withdraw, and really I am strongly tempted to do
so, because failing him, I should naturally think of another
partnership, whereas at present we are bound. All the same, if
Gauguin can find enough to live on, have we the right to bother
him? I avoid writing Gauguin for fear of saying too bluntly -
“Look how many months we have managed to get the
wherewithal to keep us in lodgings, and yet all the time
pretended we couldn't afford to join hands, and meantime
wearing ourselves out for the time to come.
“If you wanted me to, why didn't you tell me to come
North, I should have done so by now.
“It would have cost a one-way ticket at 100 francs,
whereas now, during the months this has been hanging fire, I
have already paid the price of the ticket to my landlord, and
you have had to do the same to yours, or else you are in his
debt up to 100 francs. That means a dead loss of at least 100
francs for nothing at all.”
That is what I have on my mind and that is what makes me
feel that he and I both are really behaving like fools. Is it
true or not? Certainly the truth is still more serious. If it
is not necessary for him to alter his way of life, he has
either a lot more money than I or considerably better luck.
Being ruined costs more than being successful, and certainly it
is our own fault if we do not have more peace.
With a handshake and good-by for now. I hope very much that
you will find time later on to tell me more about our sister's
stay with you. Bock will be with you in a week or ten days
probably. Counting the sunflowers, I have at the moment another
fifteen new studies here.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 4 September 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 532.
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