My dear Theo,
I have just mailed the sketch of the new
picture, the “Night Café,” as well as
another that I did some time ago. I shall end perhaps by making
Well now, yesterday I was busy furnishing the house. Just as
the postman and his wife told me, the two beds, to be really
substantial, will come to 150 fr. apiece. I found everything
that they told me about prices was true. So I had to change my
tack, and this is what I have done. I have bought one walnut
bed and another in white deal which will be mine and which I'll
Then I got bedclothes for one of the beds, and two
If Gauguin comes, or someone else, there is his bed ready in
a minute. I wanted to arrange the house from the start not for
myself only, but so as to be able to put someone else up too.
Naturally this has swallowed up the greater part of the money.
With the rest I have bought 12 chairs, a mirror and some small
necessities. Altogether it means that next week already I shall
be able to go and live there.
For a visitor there will be the prettier room upstairs,
which I shall try to make as much as possible like the boudoir
of a really artistic woman.
Then there will be my own bedroom, which I want extremely
simple, but with large, solid furniture, the bed, chairs and
table all in white deal.
Downstairs will be the studio, and another room, a studio
too, but at the same time a kitchen.
Someday or other you shall have a picture of the little
house itself in bright sunshine, or else with the window lit
up, and a starry sky.
Henceforth you can feel that you have your country house in
Arles. For I am very anxious to arrange it so that you will be
pleased with it, and so that it will be a studio in an
absolutely individual style; that way, if say a year from now
you come here and to Marseilles for your vacation, it will be
ready then, and the house, as I intend it, will be full of
pictures from top to bottom.
The room you will have then, or Gauguin if he comes, will
have white walls with a decoration of great yellow
In the morning, when you open the window, you see the green
of the gardens and the rising sun, and the road into the
But you will see these great pictures of the sunflowers, 12
or 14 to the bunch, crammed into this tiny boudoir with its
pretty bed and everything else dainty. It will not be
And in the studio, the red tiles of the floor, the walls and
ceiling white, rustic chairs, white deal table, and I hope a
decoration of portraits. It will have a feeling of Daumier
about it, and I dare predict it will not be commonplace.
And now do look for some lithographs of Daumier's for the
studio, and some Japanese things, but there is no hurry at all
for that; it's only when you find duplicates of them. And some
things of Delacroix's, and ordinary lithographs by modern
There is not the slightest hurry, but I have my own plan. I
want to make it really an artists' house - not precious,
on the contrary nothing precious, but everything from
the chairs to the pictures having character.
About the beds, I have bought country beds, big double ones
instead of iron ones. That gives an appearance of solidity,
durability and quiet, and if it takes a little more bedding, so
much the worse, but it must have character.
I am very lucky to have a faithful charwoman; except for
that I should not have dared to begin living at home; she is
quite old and has many and varied offspring, and she keeps my
tiles clean and red.
I cannot tell you how much pleasure it gives me to find a
big serious job like this. For it's going to be, I hope, a real
scheme of decoration that I'm starting on now.
As I already told you, I am going to paint my own bed; there
will be three subjects on it. Perhaps a nude woman, I haven't
yet decided, or perhaps a child in a cradle, I don't know, but
I shall take my time over it.
I don't feel any hesitation now about staying here, because
ideas for my work are coming to me in abundance. I intend to
buy something for the house every month. And with some patience
the house will be worth something because of the furniture and
I must warn you that soon I shall have to send a big order
for paints for the autumn, which I think is going to be
absolutely amazing. On second thought I am sending you the
In my picture of the “Night Café” I have
tried to express the idea that the café is a place where
one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime. So I have tried
to express, as it were, the powers of darkness in a low public
house, by soft Louis XV green and malachite, contrasting with
yellow-green and harsh blue-greens, and all this in an
atmosphere like a devil's furnace, of pale sulphur.
And all with an appearance of Japanese gaiety, and the good
nature of Tartarin.
But what would Monsieur Tersteeg say about this picture when
he said before a Sisley - Sisley, the most discreet and gentle
of the impressionists - “I can't help thinking that the
artist who painted that was a little tipsy.” If he saw my
picture, he would say that it was delirium tremens in full
I see absolutely nothing to object to in your suggestion of
exhibiting once at the Revue Indépendente, provided,
however, that I am no obstacle to the others who usually
Only then we ought to tell them that I should like to
reserve for myself a second exhibition after this first one, of
studies proper. Then next year I will give them the decorations
of the house to exhibit when they are complete. Not that I am
so keen on it, but in order that the studies should not be
confused with finished compositions, and so as to announce in
advance that the second exhibition will be one of
studies. For so far hardly any of them except the
“Sower” and the “Night Café” are
attempts at finished pictures.
Just as I'm writing to you, the poor peasant who is like a
caricature of Father happens to have come into the café.
The resemblance is terrible, all the same. Especially the
uncertainty and the weariness and the vagueness of the mouth. I
still feel it is a pity that I have not been able to do it.
I add to this letter an order for paints which is not
exactly urgent. But I have so many plans in my head, and the
autumn promises to give so many magnificent subjects, that I
simply do not know if I am going to start five canvases or ten.
It will be just as it was in the spring with the orchards in
bloom, there will be no end of subjects.
If you gave old Tanguy the coarser colour, he would probably
do it well.
The other fine colours are really inferior, especially the
I hope to have improved a little in quality when I prepare
the next batch. I am doing comparatively less, and going back
over them longer.
I have kept 50 francs for the week, so there have been 250
for the furnishing already. But all the same I shall recover
them, carrying on like this. And now you can tell yourself that
you have a sort of country house, though unfortunately rather
With a handshake,
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 9 September 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 534.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.