My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your letter and the 50-franc note which it
I also received Maurin's drawing, which is magnificent. That
man is a great artist. Last night I slept in the house, and
though there are some things still to be done, I feel very
happy in it. Besides, I feel that I can make something lasting
out of it, from which others can profit as well. Now money
spent will not be money lost, and I think that you will soon
see the difference. At present it reminds me of Bosboom's
interiors, with the red tiles, the white walls, the furniture
of white deal and walnut and the glimpses of an intense blue
sky and greenery through the windows. Its surroundings, the
public garden, the night cafés and the grocer's, are not
Millet, but instead they are Daumier, absolute Zola.
And that is quite enough to supply one with ideas, isn't
Yesterday I had already written to you, saying that if I
figure the two beds at 300 francs, the price will not allow of
any further reduction. If I have already bought more than that
anyway, it is because I put half of last week's money into it.
Yesterday again I had to pay 10 francs to the innkeeper and 30
francs for a mattress.
At the moment I have 5 francs left, so I must beg you to
send me what you can, or else - but do let it be by return mail
- a louis to last me the week, or indeed 50 francs if it's
In one way or another I'd like to be able to count on
getting this month, meaning the whole month, another 100
instead of the 50, as I asked you in yesterday's letter.
If I myself save 50 francs during the month, and add the
other 50 to that, I should have spent altogether 400 francs on
furniture. My dear Theo, here we are on the right road at last.
Certainly it does not matter being without hearth or home and
living in cafés like a traveler so long as one is young,
but it was becoming unbearable to me, and more than that, it
did not fit in with thoughtful work. So my plan is all
complete, I will try to paint up to the value of what you send
me every month, and after that I want to paint to pay for the
house. What I paint for the house will be to repay you for
I am still a bit commercial, in the sense that I long to
prove that I pay my debts, and that I know how much I want for
the goods which this blasted poor painter's profession keeps me
Altogether I think I can be almost sure of bringing off a
set of decorations which will be worth 10.000 francs in
Listen to me. If we set up a studio and refuge here for some
comrade who is hard up, no one will ever be able to reproach
either you or me with living and spending for ourselves alone.
Now to establish such a studio requires a floating capital, and
I have eaten that up during my unproductive years, but now that
I am beginning to produce something, I shall pay it back.
I assure you that I think it is essential for you as well as
me, and no more than our right, too, to always have a louis or
two in our pockets, and some stock of goods to do business
with. But my idea is that in the end we shall have founded and
left to posterity a studio where one's successor could live. I
do not know if I explain myself clearly enough, but in other
words we are working for an art and for a business method that
will not only last our lifetime, but can still be carried on by
others after us.
For your part you do this in your business, and it is
certain that you will make good in the end, even though you
have plenty to harry you at the moment. But for my part I
foresee that other artists will want to see colour under a
stronger sun, and in a more Japanese clarity of light.
Now if I set up a studio and refuge right at the gates of
the South, it's not such a crazy scheme. And it means that we
can work on serenely. And if other people say that it is too
far from Paris, etc., let them, so much the worse for them. Why
did the greatest colourist of all, Eugene Delacroix, think it
essential to go south and right to Africa? Obviously, because
not only in Africa but from Arles onward you are bound to find
beautiful contrasts of red and green, of blue and orange, of
sulphur and lilac.
And all true colourists must come to this, must admit that
there is another kind of colour than that of the North. I am
sure if Gauguin came, he would love this country; if he doesn't
it's because he has already experienced more brightly coloured
countries and he will always be a friend, and one with us in
And someone else will come in his place.
If what one is doing looks out upon the infinite, and if one
sees that one's work has its raison d'être and
continuance in the future, then one works with more
Now you have a double right to that.
You are kind to painters, and I tell you, the more I think
it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly
artistic than to love people. You will say that then it would
be a good thing to do without art and artists. That is true in
the first instance, but then the Greeks and the French and the
old Dutchmen accepted art, and we see how art always comes to
life again after inevitable periods of decadence, and I do not
think that anyone is the better for abhorring artists and their
art. At present I do not think my pictures worthy of the
advantages I have received from you. But once they are worthy,
I swear that you will have created them as much as I, and that
we are making them together.
But I will not say more about that, because it will be as
clear as daylight to you when I begin to do things more
seriously. At the moment I am working on another square size 30
canvas, another garden or rather a walk under plane trees, with
the green turf, and black clumps of pines.
You did well to order the paints and the canvas, because the
weather is magnificent. We still have the mistral, but there
are calm intervals and then it is wonderful.
If there were less mistral, this place would really be as
lovely as Japan, and would lend itself as well to art.
As I was writing, a very kind letter arrived from Bernard;
he is thinking of coming to Arles this winter, just a whim, but
it is possible that Gauguin is sending him as a substitute, and
would rather stay in the North himself. We shall soon know,
because I am convinced that he will write you one way or the
In his letter Bernard speaks of Gauguin with great respect
and sympathy, and I am sure that they understand one
And I really think that Gauguin has done Bernard good.
Whether Gauguin comes or not, he will remain friends with
us, and if he does not come now, he will come another time.
I feel instinctively that Gauguin is a schemer who, seeing
himself at the bottom of the social ladder, wants to regain a
position by means which will certainly be honest, but at the
same time, very politic.
Gauguin little knows that I am able to take all this into
account. And perhaps he does not know that it is absolutely
necessary for him to gain time, and that with us he will gain
that, if he gains nothing else.
If someday he decamps from Pont-Aven with Laval or Maurin
without paying his debts, I think in his case he would still be
justified, exactly like any other creature at bay. I do not
think it would be wise to offer Bernard straight off 150 francs
for a picture every month, as you did Gauguin. And Bernard, who
has evidently been over and over the whole business with
Gauguin - isn't he rather counting on taking Gauguin's
I think it will be necessary to be very firm and very
explicit about the whole thing.
And without giving any reasons, to speak very plainly.
I cannot blame Gauguin - speculator though he may be as soon
as he wants to risk something in business, only I will have
nothing to do with it. I would a thousand times rather go on
with you, whether you are with the Goupils or not.
And in my opinion, you know, the new dealers are exactly and
in every way the same as the old.
With a handshake, and I hope that what I have been obliged
to ask you will not be too terribly inconvenient. But I did not
want to postpone sleeping at home. And in case you are short
yourself, 20 francs more will get me through the week, but it
Ever yours, Vincent
I am keeping all Bernard's letters, they are sometimes
really interesting. You shall read them someday, there is quite
a bundle already.
When I said that we must be firm with Gauguin, it is only
because you had already given your opinion when he told you his
plan of action in Paris. You made him a good answer then
without committing yourself, but also without wounding his
And the same thing may become necessary again.
I think I shall see Milliet today. Thank you in advance for
the Japanese things.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 17 September 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 538.
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