My dear Theo,
Enclosed a very, very remarkable letter from Gauguin. Do put
it on one side as a thing of extraordinary importance.
I mean his description of himself, which moves me to the
depths of my soul. I got it along with a letter from Bernard
which Gauguin probably read and perhaps approved of, in which
Bernard says once more that he wants to come here, and proposes
to me on behalf of Laval, Monet, another novice 1
and himself to make an exchange with the four of them.
As for me, I want two things, I want to
earn back the money which I have already spent, so as to give
it to you, and I want Gauguin to have peace and quiet in which
to produce, and to be able to breathe freely as an artist. If I
can get back the money already spent which you have been
lending me for several years, we shall enlarge our enterprise,
and try to found a studio for a renaissance and not for a
decadence. I am pretty sure that we can count on Gauguin
staying with us always, and that neither side will lose. Only
by associating thus, each of us will be more himself, and union
By the way, of course I shall not give anything to Gauguin
in exchange for his portrait, because I think that it is sure
to be too good, but I shall ask him to hand it over to us for
his first month, or as payment for his fare.
But you can see that if I had not written to them rather
strongly, this portrait would not exist, and now Bernard has
done one too.
Say that I was angry, say that I was unjust, but anyway
Gauguin has given birth to a picture, and Bernard too.
Oh! my study of vineyards, I have worked like a slave over
it, but I have got it, again on a square size 30 canvas, and again for the decoration of
the house. I haven't any more canvas left.
Do you realize that if we get Gauguin, we are at the
beginning of a very great thing, which will open a new era for
I still felt vaguely
that we had put our very heart into our discussions with so
many interesting people and artists that winter, but I hadn't
the courage to hope.
After continued efforts on your part and mine, now at last
something is beginning to show on the horizon: Hope.
It does not matter if you stay with the Goupils or not, you
have committed yourself to Gauguin body and soul.
So you will be one of the first, or the first
dealer-apostle. I can see my own painting coming to life, and
likewise a work among the artists. For if you try to get money
for us, I shall urge every man who comes within my reach to
produce, and I will set them an example myself.
And if we stick to it, all this will help to make something
more lasting than ourselves.
I have to answer Gauguin and Bernard this afternoon, and I
am going to say to them that in any case we shall begin by
feeling wholly united, and that I for one am confident that
this union will be our strength against the inevitable
deficiencies of money and health.
Do go and see Thomas in spite of everything, because before
Gauguin comes I want to buy some more things - the
Dressing table and chest of drawers 40 fr.
4 Sheets 40
3 Drawing boards 12
Kitchen range 60
Paints and canvas 200
Frames and stretchers 50
There, it's a lot, and nothing of it is absolutely
essential. We can do without any item. But all the same, the
broader and more lasting character which I want this business
to have demands it. For instance the four extra sheets - I have
four already - we shall even be able to put Bernard up for
nothing if we put a straw pallet or mattress on the floor
either for me or for him, just as we like. The kitchen range
will warm the studio for us at the same time.
But you will say - “And these paints?”
Well, yes, I am ashamed of it, but I am vain enough to want
to make a certain impression on Gauguin with my work, so I
cannot help wanting to do as much work as possible alone before
he comes. His coming will alter my manner of painting and I
shall gain by it, I believe, but all the same I am rather keen
on my decorations, which are almost like French painted
porcelain. And these days are magnificent.
I am working on ten size 30 canvases now.
Over and above all this we have to add Gauguin's fare, but
if Thomas isn't willing to be free-handed, Gauguin's fare
comes before everything else, to the detriment of your
pocket and mine. Before everything else. All the
expenses I have mentioned are only meant to make a good
impression on him at the moment he arrives. I would like him to
feel it all harmonious, and I wish that we could have managed -
you by your money and I with a general effect and the
arrangement of things - to have the studio complete, and a
setting worthy of the artist Gauguin who is to be its head.
It would be a good stroke, like the old days when Corot,
finding Daumier on the rocks, made life so secure for him that
he found everything easy, but it will do very well even as
The essential thing is the fare, and even my paints can
wait, though I venture to think that I shall someday earn more
with them than they cost. I shouldn't make light of Gauguin's
giving you the monopoly of his work, and straight off his
prices will go up. Nothing below 500 frs. He only needs
confidence, and now he will have it. I feel that we are working
in a great and good enterprise, which has nothing to do with
the old kind of commerce.
go on attacking things in the right way, I mean from the human,
not the material side, it seems to me not altogether out of the
question that the material difficulties may smooth themselves
out. Because one grows in the storm. I am going on framing
studies, because it all goes to make part of the furnishing,
and gives character to the place.
Now the more complete the studio, and the more solidly
established it is for the use of those who are passing through,
the more inspiration he will have, and ambition to make it a
living force. They are talking of nothing else at the moment at
Pont-Aven, which means that Paris will be talking too, and once
again, the more solidly established it is, so much the better
will the general impression be, and the greater the chance that
it will catch on.
Well, what will be, will be. Only I say now, to prevent
future discussions, if it catches on so that Laval and Bernard
will really come, Gauguin and not I will be the head of the
studio. As for the internal arrangements, I think that we shall
agree pretty well.
I hope I shall get your next letter on Wednesday. Bernard's
letter is once more full of his conviction that Gauguin is a
very great master, and a man absolutely superior in character
A good handshake, and good-by for now.
Ever yours, Vincent
The Vineyard that I have just painted is green, purple and
yellow, with violet bunches and branches in black and
On the horizon are some blue-grey willows, and the wine
press a long, long way off, with a red roof, and the lilac
silhouette of the distant town.
In the vineyard there are little figures of women with red
parasols, and other little figures of men working at gathering
grapes with their cart.
Over it is a blue sky, and the foreground is of grey sand.
This is a pendant to the garden with the clipped bush and the
I think you will prefer these ten canvases to the batch I
sent last, and I venture to hope to double the number in the
Day after day it grows richer and richer. And when the
leaves start to fall - I do not know if this happens in the
beginning of November here the way it does with us - when all
the foliage is yellow, it will be amazing against the blue.
Zeim has given us that splendour many a time already. Then a
short winter, and after that we shall have got to the orchards
in bloom again.
What Gauguin says about “Persian” painting is
true. I don't believe that it would shock anybody in the
Dieulafoi Museum, one might put it there without any
difficulties. But, but, but…I myself do not belong to
the world of the great, not even to any world at
all…and…I prefer the Greeks and Japanese to the
Persians and Egyptians. All the same, I do not mean to say that
Gauguin is wrong in working in the Persian style.
But I should have to get used to it.
Ernest Ponthier de Chamaillard.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 3 October 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 544.
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