My dear Theo,
It's rather more than time for me to write you a collected
letter for once. First of all thank you for your kind letter,
also for the 100-fr. note it contained. Our days pass in
working, working all the time, in the evening we are dead beat
and go off to the cafe, and after that, early to bed! Such is
Of course it is winter here with us too, though it's still
very fine from time to time. But I do not dislike trying to
work from imagination, since that allows me to stay in. It does
not worry me to work in the heat of a stove, but cold does not
suit me, as you know. Only I have spoiled that thing that I did
of the garden in Nuenen, and I think that you also need
practice for work from the imagination.
But I have made portraits of a whole family, that of
the postman whose head I had done previously - the man,
his wife, the baby, the young boy,
and the son of sixteen, all of
them real characters and very French, though they look like
Russians. Size 15 canvases. You know how I feel about this, how
I feel in my element, and that it consoles me up to a certain
point for not being a doctor. I hope to get on with this and to
be able to get more careful posing, paid for by portraits. And
if I manage to do this whole family better still, at
least I shall have done something to my liking and something
individual. Just now I am completely swamped with studies,
studies, studies, and this will go on for quite a while - it
makes such a mess that it breaks my heart, and yet it will
provide me with some property when I'm forty.
From time to time there's a canvas which will make a
picture, such as the “Sower” in question, which I
myself think better than the first.
If we can stand the siege, victory will come to us one day,
in spite of our not being among the people who are talked
about. It is rather a case that makes you think of the proverb
- joy in public, sorrow at home.
What can you expect? Supposing that the fight is still
before us, we must just try to mature quietly.
You always told me to work more for quality than
Now nothing prevents us from having a good many studies
labelled as such, and consequently a whole lot of things not
for sale. And if we are obliged to sell sooner or later,
then let's sell, at a somewhat higher price, things which can
hold their own from the point of view of serious effort.
I think that, in spite of myself, I shall not be able to
refrain from sending you some canvases soon, say within a
month. I say in spite of myself, for I am convinced that
canvases gain by drying thoroughly here in the South until the
impasto is dry all the way through, and that takes a long time,
say a year. It would certainly be better if I can refrain from
sending them. For there is no need to show them at the moment,
I know that well enough.
Gauguin works a lot. I very much like a still life,
background and foreground yellow; he is working on a portrait
of me which I do not count among his useless undertakings; just
now he is doing some landscapes; and lastly, he has a good
canvas of women washing, even very good I think.
You were to get two drawings from Gauguin in return for the
50 francs you sent him in Brittany. But Mother Bernard has
simply appropriated them. Speaking of stories without a name,
this really is one. I think that she will give them up in the
end. Mind you, in my opinion, Bernard's things are very fine,
and he will have deserved success in Paris.
Very interesting, your meeting Chatrian.
Is he fair or dark? I want to know that, since I know the
Of their work, I like Mme. Thérèse and L'Ami
Fritz especially. I think there is more to find fault with in
the Histoire d'un sous-maître than I thought possible
I think that we shall end up spending our evenings drawing
and writing, there is more work than we can manage.
You know that Gauguin is invited to exhibit at the
“Vingtistes.” He is already imagining settling in
Brussels, and that certainly would be a means towards his being
able to see his Danish wife again.
Since in the meantime he is very successful with the
Arlésiennes, I should not consider this entirely
insignificant. He is married but he doesn't look it very much.
In short, I fear that there is an absolute incompatibility of
character between his wife and him, but he naturally cares more
for his children, who are very pretty according to the
We aren't so gifted in that respect. Good-by for now.
A handshake for you and the Dutchmen.
Gauguin will write you tomorrow, he is waiting for a reply
to his letter and sends you his good wishes.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 4 December 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 560.
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