My dear Theo,
Thinking and thinking these days how all these expenses of
painting are weighing on you, you cannot imagine how disquieted
I am. When things happen to us like what you told me in your
last letter about Bague, we must be getting very near to
Or rather we ought to be getting near to finding some
assistance, either from Thomas or some other of the half
dealer, half collector type.
I do not know if you have ever read Les Frères
Zemganno by the de Goncourt brothers, which perhaps roughly
sketches their life story. If you know it, you will know that I
am more afraid than I can say lest the effort to get money
exhaust you too much.
I see more and more that my work goes infinitely better when
I am properly fed, and the paints are there, and the studio and
And that is not all, I
should also like you to feel that you are making a profit on
the money you invest, and that by doing so, we shall achieve a
more complete independence than we should gain in the art trade
And what will be done later to reform trade may be just
this, that the dealer will join hands with the artist, the one
for what one may call the housekeeping side, to provide the
studio, food, paint, etc., the other to create. Alas! We have
not got to that with the old trade, which will always follow
the old routine, and is no good to anyone alive, nor any profit
to the dead either.
But there, we need not stew about it, because it is not our
duty to alter what exists, and to beat our heads against a
Anyway, we must get our place in the sun without upsetting
anyone. And I keep thinking that you haven't the place in the
sun that you ought to have, because the Paris work at Goupil's
is too exhausting. Then, when I think of that, I get into a
mercenary frenzy. Then I want to earn money so that you will be
freer to go where you like and do what you like. I feel that we
are getting near to selling or finding help, so that we shall
be given a chance to breathe.
There I go, perhaps, thinking that it is quite near, and it
may still be far off, and then I feel this dread of spending
too much coming over me. However, the pictures come off better
if one looks after oneself and keeps one's health.
But as for you and your work, and in the rest of your life
as well, you must not have too many anxieties.In any case, you will help
me more by staying well and living well than by being too
straitened on my account, even if the consignment of paints has
I think the time will come when my work will be in demand,
very good, but it still may be far off, and meanwhile do not
pinch yourself. Because business, as well as painting, will
come of itself and in a dream, as it were, quicker and better
if you are taking care of yourself than if you are stinting.
And at our age, surely, we ought to have a certain calm, a
certain wisdom in managing our affairs. I am afraid now of
poverty, bad health and all that, and hope that you share these
So I almost feel remorse at having bought that piece of
furniture today, although it is good, because I have had to ask
you to send me money sooner than I should have otherwise.
Get this quite clear, if you are ill or if you have too many
difficulties or worries, nothing will go well. And if you are
well, business will end by coming to you of itself, and ideas
about your business will come to you infinitely more abundantly
if you are eating well than if you are not eating enough.
So say stop if I am going too fast. If not, of course so
much the better, because I also can certainly work much better
when I am comfortable than when I am too hard up. But don't go
and think that I care more for my work than for our well-being,
or at least than for our peace of mind above all. Gauguin will
feel the same thing someday and he will get all right
Perhaps the time will really come for him when he will want
to be - and will be able to become again - what he really is -
the father of a family.
I am very, very curious to know what he has done in
Brittany. Bernard wrote praising it greatly. But it is so
difficult to paint richly in cold and poverty, and perhaps his
real home will prove to be the warmer, happier South after
If you saw the vines! There are bunches that actually weigh
a kilogram. The grapes are magnificent this year because
of the fine autumn days that came at the end of a summer that
had left a lot to be desired.
I am sorry I spent money on that chest of drawers, but
perhaps it will save us buying a more expensive one; the
cheapest would have been 35 francs. And when Gauguin comes, he
must have something to put his linen in, and altogether his
room will be more complete with it.
If ever for a moment we are rather flush, I shall take this
one for myself, and get him the one for 35 Frs. You can
always find a bargain at that price, but not
always at the price I paid for this one.
I have been thinking that if you've got some studies of mine
that are beginning to crowd your place a bit and get in your
way, you could take them off the stretchers and send them down
here where there's room enough to store them. I am thinking of
some of last year's stuff, or for that matter anything that is
Paris will be very beautiful in autumn all the same. The
town here is nothing, at night everything is
black. I think that plenty of gas, which is after all
yellow and orange, heightens the blue, because at night the sky
here looks to me - and it's very odd - blacker than in
Paris. And if I ever see Paris again, I shall try to paint some
of the effects of gaslight on the boulevard.
Ah, but in Marseilles it will be the opposite, I imagine
that it must be more beautiful than Paris, the
I so often think of Monticelli, and when my mind dwells on
the stories going around about his death, it seems to me that
not only must you exclude the idea of his dying a drunkard in
the sense of being besotted by drink, but you must also realise
that here as a matter of course one spends one's life in the
open air and in cafés far more than in the North. My
friend the postman, for instance, lives a great deal in
cafés, and is certainly more or less of a drinker, and
has been so all his life. But he is so much the reverse of a
sot, his exaltation is so natural, so intelligent, and he
argues with such sweep, in the style of Garibaldi, that I
gladly reduce the legend of Monticelli the drunkard on absinthe
to exactly the same proportions as my postman's.
My paper is full, write me as soon as you can. With a
handshake and good luck,
Ever yours, Vincent
Someday perhaps I shall know some details of those last days
I notice that this chest has panels exactly like those on
which Monticelli painted.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 10 October 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 550.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.