My dear Theo,
Gauguin's canvas, “Breton Children,” has arrived
and he has altered it very well.
But though I quite like this canvas, it is all to the good
that it is sold, and the two he is about to send you from here
are thirty times better. I am speaking of the “Women
Gathering Grapes” and the “Woman with the
Pigs.” The reason for this is that Gauguin is beginning
to get over that disorder of the liver or the stomach which has
been tormenting him lately.
But I am now writing to reply to what you said about having
a little canvas of mine of a pink peach tree framed, I imagine
to send to ces messieurs. I don't want to leave any
doubt as to what I think of that.
First, if it is your wish to let them have something of
mine, good or bad, upon my honour if it can in any way give you
any pleasure now or later, you have absolute carte blanche.
But if it is either to please me, or for my own
advantage, then on the contrary I'm of the opinion that it
is absolutely unnecessary.
If you had asked me what would please me, it's just this one
thing: that you keep in the apartment for yourself whatever you
like out of my work, and sell none of it now.
As for the rest, send whatever is in your way back to me
here, for the good reason that all the things I have done from
nature are chestnuts pulled out of the fire.
Gauguin, in spite of himself and in spite of me, has more or
less proved to me that it is time I was varying my work a
little. I am beginning to compose from memory, and all my
studies will still be useful for that sort of work, recalling
to me things I have seen. What then does selling matter, unless
we are absolutely pressed for money?
And besides, I am convinced beforehand that you will end up
seeing it the way I do.
You are with the Goupils, but I most certainly am not; after
having worked with them for six years, both sides were
utterly dissatisfied, they with me, I with them. It's an old
story, but all the same, that's how things were.
So go your own way, but as a matter of business I think it
is incompatible with my previous conduct to come back to them
with a canvas as innocent as this little peach tree or
No. If in a year or two I have enough for an
exhibition of my own, say thirty size 30 canvases or so, and if
I said to them, “Will you do it for me?” Boussod
would certainly send me about my business. I know them, alas,
rather too well, and I think I shall not apply to them. Not
that I should ever try to do them any harm whatever - on the
contrary, you will have to admit that I urge all the others to
go there, with great zeal.
But as far as I'm concerned, I still carry that old
Understand quite clearly that I consider you a dealer in
impressionist pictures, completely independent of the Goupils,
so that it will always be a pleasure to me to push artists in
But I do not want Boussod to ever have a chance to say,
“That little canvas isn't too bad for a young
beginner.” On the contrary, I will not go back to them, I
would rather never sell anything than go to them otherwise than
as a purely business matter. Now they are not the people to
behave fairly, so it's no good beginning again.
Understand that the more clear-cut we are about this, the
sooner they will come to you to see them. You yourself do not
sell my work, so you are not doing business outside the firm of
Boussod V. & Co. by showing it. So you will be acting quite
correctly, which is always decent.
However, should someone or other want to buy, very good,
then they have only to apply directly to me. But be sure of
this, if we can stand the siege, my time will come. I cannot do
anything but work just now, nor should I.
A handshake - we need some more paints.
I must also tell you that this month with the two of us
together is going better on 150 francs than on 250 for myself
alone. At the end of a year you will see how things have
I cannot say any more.
I am rather sorry to have my room full of canvases, and to
have nothing to send when Gauguin sends his.
It is because Gauguin has told me how to get rid of the
grease in the things painted in impasto by washing from time to
And then when that is done, I must go over them to retouch
If I sent them to you now, the colours would be duller than
they will be later.
They all think what I have sent too hastily done. I do not
contradict it, and I will make some alterations.
It does me a tremendous amount of good to have such
intelligent company as Gauguin's, and to see him work.
You will see that some people will soon be reproaching
Gauguin with no longer being an impressionist.
His last two canvases, which you will soon be seeing, are
very firm in the impasto, there is even some work with the
palette knife. And they will throw his Breton canvases a little
in the shade - not all, but some.
I have hardly any time to write. But for that, I should
already have written to these Dutchmen. I have had another
letter from Bock, you know, the Belgian who has a sister among
the “Vingtistes”; he is enjoying his work up
I hope we shall always remain friends with Gauguin and doing
business with him, and if he could succeed in founding a studio
in the tropics, it would be magnificent. However, it requires
more money according to my calculations than it does according
Guillaumin has written to Gauguin. He seems to be very hard
up, but he must have done some fine things. He has a child now
but he was terrified by the confinement, and he says
that he has the red vision of it always before his eyes. But to
this Gauguin aptly replied that he himself has seen it six
Jet Mauve is much better as far as her health is concerned,
and as you perhaps know, she has been staying in The Hague
since last August, near the Jewish cemetery, and therefore
almost in the country.
You will lose nothing by waiting a little for my work, and
we will calmly leave our comrades to despise the present ones.
Fortunately for me, I know well enough what I want, and am
basically utterly indifferent to the criticism that I work too
hurriedly. In answer to that, I have done some things even
more hurriedly these last few days.
Gauguin was telling me the other day that he had seen a
picture by Claude Monet of sunflowers in a large Japanese vase,
very fine, but - he likes mine better. I don't agree - only
don't think that I am weakening.
I regret - as always, how well you know - the scarcity of
models and the thousand obstacles in overcoming that
difficulty. If I were a different sort of man, and if I were
better off, I could force the issue, but as it is I do not give
in, but plod on quietly.
If, by the time I am forty, I have done a picture of figures
like the flowers Gauguin was speaking of, I shall have a
position in art equal to that of anyone, no matter who. So,
Meanwhile I can at all events tell you that the last two
studies are odd enough.
Size 30 canvases, a wooden rush-bottomed chair all yellow on
red tiles against a wall (daytime).
Then Gauguin's armchair, red and green night effect, wall
and floor red and green again, on the seat two novels and a
candle, on thin canvas with a thick impasto.
What I say about sending back the studies is not in the
least urgent, and I mean the bad ones, which will still be
useful to me as documents, or the ones which are cluttering up
And as for what I said in general about the studies, there
is just one thing I am set on: let the position be quite clear,
don't make any deal for me outside your own house. As far as I
am concerned, I shall either never darken the Goupil's door
again, which is probable, or else I shall go in boldly, which
is hardly likely.
Good-by again, and thank you for all you do for me.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 23 November 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 563.
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