My dear Theo, thank you very much of your letter and the 50
francs note that it contained. - my god - it would be good it if it was
possible if you could live in the Midi too, because I always
think that we need each other, and the sun and good weather and
the blue air are the strongest remedy. The weather here remains
beautiful, and if it is always like this then it would be
better than the paradise of those painters who are in Japan
itself. I think about you and Gauguin and about Bernard all the
time and everywhere. It is so beautiful and I would so like to
see everybody here.
Included a small sketch of a 30 square
canvas - in short the starry sky painted by night, actually
under a gas jet. The sky is aquamarine, the water is royal
blue, the ground is mauve. The town is blue and purple. The gas
is yellow and the reflections are russet gold descending down
to green-bronze. On the aquamarine field of the sky the Great
Bear is a sparkling green and pink, whose discreet paleness
contrasts with the brutal gold of the gas. Two colourful
figurines of lovers in the foreground.
Also a sketch of a 30 square
canvas representing the house and its setting under a sulphur
sun under a pure cobalt sky. The theme is a hard one! But that is exactly why I want to
conquer it. Because it is fantastic, these yellow houses in the sun and
also the incomparable freshness of the blue. All the ground is
yellow too. I will soon send you a better drawing of it than
this sketch out of my head.
The house on the left is pink with green shutters. It's the
one that is shaded by a tree. This is the restaurant where I go
to dine every day. My friend the factor is at the end of
the street on the left, between the two bridges of the railroad.
The night café that I painted is not in the picture, it
is on the left of the restaurant.
Milliet finds this horrible, but I don't need to tell you
that when he says he doesn't understand that one can have fun
doing a common grocer's shop and the stiff and proper houses
without any grace, but I remember that Zola did a certain
boulevard in the beginning of L'assommoir, and Flaubert a
corner of the embankment of the Villette in the dog days in the
beginning of Bouvard and Pécuchet which are not to be
It does me good to do difficult things. It does not prevent
me from having a terrible need of, shall I say the word - of
religion - then I go outside in the night to paint the stars
and I dream ever of a picture like this with a group of lively
figures of our pals.
Now I have had a letter from Gauguin who seems very sad, and
says that certainly if he made a sale he will come, but he
doesn't say clearly that if he would simply have his journey
paid he would agree to come down here.
He says that the people where he lodges are, and have been,
great to him, and that to leave them like that would be a bad
thing to do. But that I turn a dagger in his heart if I would
believe that he would not immediately come if he was able to.
That besides, if you could sell his canvases at a low price he
would be happy. I will send you his letter with the
And I always tell myself
that what you are doing in private would in the end, with his
collaboration, be a more serious thing than just my work,
without an increase in the expenses and you would have more
satisfaction. Later on, if maybe one day you are on your own
with the impressionist paintings you will only have to continue
and to enlarge on those which actually exists. Finally Gauguin
says that Laval found someone who will give him 150 francs per
month for at least one year, and that Laval also would maybe
come in February. And I have written to Bernard that I think
that in the Midi he could not live for less than 3.50 or 4
francs per day just for lodging & food. He says that he
believes that for 200 francs per month he would have food and
lodging for all 3 which is not impossible, if we live & eat
in the studio.
The Benedictine father must have been very interesting. What
would, according to him, be the future religion? Probably he
would always say the same as the past.
Victor Hugo says God is an eclipsing lighthouse, and
certainly now we are passing through that eclipse.
I only wish that someone could prove to us something calming
which comforted us, so that we stopped feeling guilty or
unhappy and that we could go forward without losing ourselves
in the solitude or nothingness, and without having to fear
every step, or to nervously calculate the harm we may
unintentionally be doing to others.
In odd Giotto's biography it said that he was always
suffering and always full of ardour and ideas.
There, I would like to arrive at this assurance that makes
one happy, cheerful and alive all the time. That would be
easier to do in the country or a small town than in that
I would not be surprised if you will like the starry night
and the ploughed fields - they are more tranquil than the other
canvases. If the work always turned out like that I would have
less concerns about money, because people would take to them
more easily if the technique continued to be more harmonious.
But this blasted mistral is very bothersome to do brushstrokes
that hold and are well interwoven, with a feeling like music
played with emotion.
With this calm weather I let myself go and I don't have to
struggle against impossibilities
Tanguy's consignment arrived and I thank you very, very much
for it because I also hope to be able to make something during
autumn for the next exhibition. What is now the most pressing
is 5 or even 10 meters of canvas. I write again that I will
send Gauguin's letter with the reply.
Very interesting what you say of Maurin; at 40 francs his
drawings are certainly not expensive. More and more I come to
believe that the true and proper trade of painting is one has
to let oneself go with one's taste, one's learning before the
masters, in short one's faith. It is not any easier, I am
convinced, to make a good painting that to find a diamond or a
pearl; it requires pain and one must risk his life as a dealer
or as an artist. But once one has some good stones then self
doubt is not necessary, and one must boldly stick to a certain
price. In the meantime… but while this idea encourages
me to work, still naturally I suffer at having to spend money.
But in the midst of my suffering this idea of the pearl came to
me, and I would not be surprised if it didn't do you good too
in times of discouragement. There are as few good paintings as
there are diamonds.
And there is absolutely nothing dishonest about doing business with good stones.
One can believe in oneself when one sees that the thing one is selling is good.Now,
if people like paste, and it pleases them and since they ask for it, good, one can
have it in the store, but it isn't enough to make one feel good about oneself with
the good paintings, yet one can feel oneself and be firm, since it is a pure error
that there is as much as one wants. Perhaps I am expressing myself badly, but I have
thought about this a good deal these days, and calm has come to me about this Gauguin affair.
All these Gauguins are good stones, and so let us boldly be merchants of Gauguin.
Milliet says a good hello. I now have his portrait with a red kepi on emerald
background, and in the background the arms of his regiment, the crescent and a 5-pointed star.
A good handshake and until next time and many thanks and I hope that the pains
will not last long. Have you seen a doctor again[?] Look after yourself, because physical
pain is so agonising.
Editor's note: For many years this letter was considered as having a different ending.
The recent re-emergence of the sketch of Vincent's house from obscurity revealed that he
had finished his letter on the reverse side of it. The final four pages have been restored
to their rightful place as the end of letter 541a.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 28 September 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 543.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.