My dear Theo,
If Gauguin were working with me and if for his part he were
fairly generous with pictures, doesn't it mean that you would
be giving work to two artists who could do nothing without you?
And while admitting that I think you are perfectly justified in
saying that as far as money is concerned, you see no advantage
in it, yet on the other hand you would be doing the same sort
of thing as Durand Ruel, who bought pictures from Claude Monet
in the days before anybody else had recognized his
individuality. And Durand Ruel made nothing on it; at one time
he was overloaded with the pictures and could not pass them on,
but still, what he did remains well done, and now he can always
say that he carried the day. If, however, I saw it would mean
losing money, I wouldn't suggest it. But Gauguin must be loyal,
and now that I see that his friend Laval's arrival has
temporarily opened a new resource to him, I think that he is
hesitating between Laval and us.
I don't blame him; but if Gauguin does not lose sight of his
own interest, it is only fair that you should not lose sight of
yours, from the point of view of repayment in pictures. Already
we can see that Gauguin would already have left us completely
in the lurch if Laval had had ever so little money. I am very
curious to know what he will say to you in his next letter,
which you will certainly get soon.
Well, I am sure that our friendship with him will endure
whether he comes or not, but also that we on our part must show
some firmness. He will not find anything better, unless indeed
it were by taking advantage of what you have tried to do for
him. But that he will not dare do. Only you must understand
that if I see that he isn't coming, I shall not be the least
upset, and I shall not work the less for it; if he comes, he
will be very welcome, but I see clearly that counting on him
would be just the thing to do us in. Faithful he will be if it
is to his advantage; if he does not come, he will find
something else, but he will find nothing better, and he would
lose nothing by not letting us down.
I think now is a good opportunity for you to ask Gauguin
bluntly when he writes to you, “Are you coming or not? If
you have not made up your mind one way or the other, we shall
not feel bound to carry out the scheme.”
If the plan of a more serious combination cannot be carried
out, all right, but then each should regain his freedom of
action. I have sent off my letter to Gauguin; I asked them for
an exchange. If they are willing, I would very much like to
have here the portrait of Bernard by Gauguin and that of
Gauguin by Bernard.
I enclose an article which will interest you. You would be
very wise to go and see this.
Ideas for my work are coming to me in swarms, so that though
I'm alone, I have no time to think or to feel, I go on painting
like a steam engine. I think there will hardly ever be a
standstill again. And my view is that you will never find a
live studio ready-made, but that it is created from day to day
by patient work and going on and on in one place.
I have a study of an old mill painted in
broken tones like the oak tree on the rock,
that study you were saying you had had framed along with the
The idea of the “Sower" continues to haunt me all the
time. Exaggerated studies like the “Sower” and like
this “Night Café” usually seem to me
atrociously ugly and bad, but when I am moved by something, as
now by this little article on Dostoievsky, then these are the
only ones which appear to have any deep meaning. I have a third
study now, of a landscape with a factory, and a huge sun in a
red sky above red roofs, a day with a wicked mistral when
nature seems to be in a fury.[Painting lost]
As for the house, the thought that it's going to be
habitable continues to soothe me. Will my work really be worse
because, by staying in the same place, I shall see the seasons
pass and re-pass over the same subjects, seeing again the same
orchards in the spring, the same fields of wheat in summer?
Involuntarily I shall see my work cut out for me beforehand,
and I shall be better able to make plans. Then if I keep some
studies here to make a coherent whole, it will mean work of a
deeper calm at the end of a certain time.
I feel that as far as that goes, we have done pretty much
the right thing. Only I wish you were living nearer. Seeing
that I cannot bring the North nearer the South, what's to be
done? Then I tell myself that by myself I am not able to do
sufficiently important painting to justify your coming South
two or three times a year. But if Gauguin came and if it was
fairly well known that we were staying here and helping artists
live and work, I still do not see at all why the South should
not become another native land to you as well as to me.
I am very glad to have finished my letter to Gauguin without
having said that his wavering between staying with Laval or
with me has left me rather at sea. It would be unfair not to
leave him perfectly free to choose and to do the best he can.
But I did write that I was convinced that even if he did not
come here because of the journey's being impossible, he should
not stay in a hotel any longer. And that this would then mean
two fixed studios instead of one.
I always come back to this, that once settled, one works
more tranquilly, and in that position one can always on
occasion be more of a help to other people. Bernard says it
grieves him to see how Gauguin is often prevented from doing
what he could otherwise do for purely material reasons, paints,
canvas, etc. Well, in any case, that can't go on. The worst
that can happen to him is that he will be obliged to leave his
pictures in pledge for what he owes his landlord, and to take
refuge either with you or with me by making the one-way
journey. But in this case, if he does not want to lose his
pictures, he must definitely tackle his landlord. A case like
that, in which the goods are at all events worth more than the
debt, might be tried expressly by the president of
the civil tribunal of the arrondissement, assuming the
landlord should want to keep the whole, which he has no right
[The end of the letter is missing.]
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 12 September 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 535.
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