I have to thank you most kindly for the consignment of
canvas and colours from Tasset's, which arrived in good
condition and this time by parcel post. In my last letter I
already told you that autumn has manifested itself in rain and
bad weather. This has hampered me a little, but all the same I
have just finished a size 30 canvas representing a ploughed
field, done in the sunny intervals.
[A sketch of "Ploughed Fields (The Furrows)" appeared here.]
A blue sky with white clouds. An immense expanse of ground
of an ashy lilac. Innumerable furrows and clods. A horizon of
blue hills and green bushes with - [illegible].
This is another one that will take a long time to dry;
pictures that are thickly painted must be treated like the
stronger types of wine; one must let them mature. I have
ordered a white deal frame for this one.
As long s autumn lasts, I shall not have hands, canvas and
colours enough to paint the beautiful things I see.
I am also working on a portrait of Milliet,
but he poses badly, or I may be at fault myself, which,
however, I do not believe, as I am sorely in want of some
studies of him, for he is a good-looking boy, very unconcerned
and easy-going in his behaviour, and he would suit me damned
well for the picture of a lover.
I have already promised him a study for his trouble, but,
you know, he cannot keep still.
Besides, he hardly has any time to spare, seeing that he
must take a tender leave of all the grues et grenouilles de la
grenouillère 1 of Arles, now that he has to
return to his f— garrison, as he says.
I do not object to it, but I regret that he has a nervous
motion of the legs when posing.
He is a good fellow, but he is only twenty-five, God damn
it, ten years younger than I am - and within ten years -
according to Ziem - I am afraid that, if he goes on like this,
and not being able to caper about any longer, he may join the
I should not be surprised if in his heart he were annoyed at
having to leave, and perhaps he is living beyond his means,
which obliges him to go back to Africa. I only know one serious
fault in his character, which is that he likes L'abbé
Constantin by Georges Ohnet, and I have told him that he had a
thousand times better read Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant.
What does Father Tanguy say of the gross-grained paints now?
3 large tubes as the silver white and the zinc white and the
6 large tubes id. id. chrome I citron
6 “ “ id. id. chrome II
2 “ “ id. id. chrome III
6 “ “ id. id. malachite green
and 6 medium tubes geranium lake
12 zinc white, large tubes
12 silver white
This is approximately in proportion to the canvas.
As I have just received the consignment of canvas and
colours, you will understand that there is no hurry; however,
it is the minimum that I shall need during autumn and the
falling of the leaves, which will be marvellous and which lasts
only one week.
I am sure that I shall be able to do a good job of work, and
during that period I should not like to run short of yellow and
Now it fades a little, but when I use zinc white in its
crude state, I shall be able to do without the rest if
Delacroix swore by that vulgar blue and used it often.
So I warn you of the state of affairs in advance, though the
famous falling of the leaves is still a considerable distance
I must work like a team of mules as long as autumn lasts if
I want to recover what our furniture has cost.
I wanted to do some sunflowers again but they were already
finished. Yes, during autumn I would like to be able to make a
dozen 30 square canvases and I can very well accomplish it as
far as I can see. I have a terrifying lucidity at times when
nature is so beautiful these days, and then I am not conscious
of myself any more, and the painting comes to me as in a dream.
I am rather afraid that it will have a reaction of depression
when we have rotten weather but then I will seek for a
distraction in the study of these questions of drawing figures
I am always frustrated in my best powers by the lack of
models, but I don't let it worry me - I do a landscape and
colour without worrying about where it will take me. I know
this, that if I were to beg the models “Now pose for me I
beg you,” I would be behaving like Zola's good painter in
his book. And certainly Manet, for example, didn't behave like
that. And in his book Zola doesn't say how those that didn't
see anything supernatural in painting acted.
But don't criticise Zola's book. I will send five of
Bernard's drawings in the style of the others.
But that in any case I didn't urge him to come. That as I
counted on wintering here, certainly his company would be very
welcome, but that above all he must do his calculations
If one of these days Gauguin writes to you definitely,
either to you or to me, we will be able to see again about
Bernard. I think myself that Bernard would certainly find his
business here but his father should be a little bit more
magnanimous in his regard. Because Bernard is painstaking. - I
don't like these drawings, however, as much that the previous
At the beginning of next month there will again be a heap of
things that will fall on my back at the same time. In the
frames and stretchers that I am having made here for the
decoration of the house at the same time as the month's rent
and the cleaning woman.
But I can delay taking the frames and the stretchers, and
therefore I hope I will get by in any case.
The only hope that I have that is that by working very hard,
at the end of one year I will have enough paintings to be able
to exhibit - if I want or if you want to - at the time of the
exhibition. I am not set on it, but what I am certainly set on
is showing something not at all bad.
I would not exhibit, but we would have in my house
work of mine that would prove that I am not slothful, nor an
idler. I would be at peace, but the main thing seems to me to
be that I must not give myself less trouble that the painters
who work expressly for it.
Whether one exhibits or one doesn't exhibit it is necessary
to be productive, and from then on one has the right to smoke
his pipe in peace.
But this year we will be productive and I'm endeavouring to
make this new series better than the first two
And among the studies there will be some, I hope, that are
paintings, so to speak, there.
As for the starry sky, I keep hoping very much to paint it,
and perhaps I will one of these days, in the same ploughed
field if the sky is glittering properly.
Tolstoy's book My Religion has already been published in
French in 1885 but I have never seen it in any catalogue.
He does not appear to believe much in a resurrection of the
body or the soul. Above all he barely appears to believe in
heaven - he argues these things like a nihilist - but - in
opposition to most of these people - he attaches great
importance of doing the things that one does well, since that
is probably all one has.
And if he doesn't believe in resurrection, he appears to
believe in the equivalent - the continuance of life - the march
of humanity, of man and his work continued almost infallibly by
the humanity of the generation to come. After all, they must
not be empty consolations that he gives. Himself a nobleman, he
made himself a worker, he knows how to make boots, knows how to
repair stoves, knows how to guide a plough and to dig the
I know nothing at all of all that, but I respect an
energetic human soul, noted for his reforms too. My god, all
the same we don't have to pity ourselves for living at a time
where there are nothing but loafers, when we are contemporaries
of similar specimens of poor mortals who don't even believe
very strongly in heaven. He believes - maybe I already wrote of
it to you, in a non-violent revolution caused by the need for
love and religion that, as a reaction to the scepticism and
desperate and discouraging suffering, must appear in
Goodbye. Your last letter came on Friday; if I got the next
letter on Friday too it would be awfully good.
But it is not pressing, it will be alright whatever happens.
Editor's note: For many years the end of this letter was thought to be missing.
The recent emergence of the sketch of Vincent's house [F 1453] revealed that the final four
pages of 543 did not belong there but were in fact the end of this letter. They are now
restored to their rightful place for the first time.
A private pun, really untranslatable, literally
“... the cranes and frogs of the swamp...” A
free translation would be “hussies and tarts in the
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 26 September 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number .
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.