Arles, 30 March 1888
In order not to leave your letter unanswered, I will write
at once after receiving your letter and Mother's, and the good
wishes of you both.
I want to tell you that I should be happy to write to you
more often if it were not that a pretty considerable number of
things contribute to my not being master of my own time, and
you should not imagine that I am doing exactly what I like, and
not doing what I should prefer to leave undone. Work has got me
in its grip now, and I think forever, and though this is not
something to be unhappy about, yet the mental picture I have of
happiness is different.
In the first place, it pleased me enormously that Theo and
Mr. Tersteeg have entered into business relations in order to
make the work of the painters here who are called
impressionists known in Holland too.
Further, I don't regret coming here, for I think the scenery
here extremely beautiful.
I shall have to produce an enormous number of things against
next year - when the World's Fair will be held - seeing that my
friends will not fail to have many interesting things on hand
by then. Not that I myself or any of the painters I hold
regular or special intercourse with are going to exhibit along
with the others, but it is to be expected that there will be a
free exhibition besides the official one. Now, for instance, I
am working on six pictures of fruit trees in bloom. And what I
brought home today would probably please you - it is a dug-up
square of earth in an orchard with a fence of rushes and two
peach trees in full bloom. Pink against a scintillating blue
sky with white clouds, and in the sunshine.(+)
[Added as a footnote](+)It is possible you
will see it, for I have finally decided to set it aside for Jet
Mauve. I have written on it “Souvenir de Mauve, Vincent
Of course I know very well that I could have found a similar
subject elsewhere, but if I take into consideration that many
painters will paint the same thing, I do not think it a matter
of indifference to work in the midst of a scenery which,
although in general similar to ours, is undoubtedly richer and
more colourful as subject matter and motif.
And then people here are picturesque too, and whereas in our
country a beggar looks more like a spectre, he becomes
a caricature here. Because - as you will observe when you read
Zola and Guy de Maupassant - what they absolutely insist on is
a great richness and a great gaiety in art - even though this
same Zola and Guy de Maupassant have said perhaps the most
poignantly tragic things that have ever been said - this same
tendency is beginning to be the rule in the art of painting
So I can imagine, for instance, that a present-day painter
should do something like what one finds described in Pierre
Loti's book Le mariage de Loti, in which a picture of nature in
Otaheite is drawn. A book which I warmly recommend to you to
You will understand that nature in the South cannot be
painted with the palette of Mauve, for instance, who belongs to
the North, and who is, and will remain, a master of the grey.
But at present the palette is distinctly colourful, sky blue,
orange, pink, vermilion, bright yellow, bright green, bright
But by intensifying all the colours one arrives once
again at quietude and harmony. There occurs in nature something
similar in what happens in Wagner's music, which, though played
by a big orchestra, is nonetheless intimate. Only when making a
choice one prefers sunny and colourful effects, and there is
nothing that prevents me from thinking that in the future many
painters will go and work in tropical countries. You
see I wrote only about my work, and I have to stop now, and I
don't know if I shall be able to write anything more.
Best wishes to you and Mother, and thanks for your
It is my own duty to congratulate you on your birthday; as I
should very much like to give you something of my work that
will please you, I have set aside a little study of a book for
you, and also, on a somewhat larger scale, a
flower, with a lot of books with pink, green and bright red
bindings - they were my set of seven Parisian novels, the same subject - Theo will
take them along for you - I have a study for Jet Mauve too.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Wilhelmina van Gogh. Written 30 March 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number W03.
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