My dear Theo,
Though I have nothing very unusual to tell you, I wanted to
let you know that I saw our friend Roulin again last Monday.
There was enough reason for it too, as the whole of France was
shaken. Certainly in our eyes the election and its
results and its representatives are only symbols. But what it
proves once more is that worldly ambition and fame pass away,
but the human heart beats the same to this day, in as perfect
sympathy with the past of our buried forefathers as with the
generation to come.
I had a very friendly letter from Gauguin this morning, to
which I replied without delay. When Roulin came I had just
finished the duplicate of my sunflowers, and I showed him the
two examples of “La Berceuse”
between the four bunches of flowers. Roulin sends
his kind regards.
He was present at the demonstration in Marseilles on Sunday
at the time that the election result was telegraphed from
Paris. Like Paris, the whole population of Marseilles was moved
to the very depths of their soul.
Well, who is there now who will dare to order any gun at all
to fire, machine gun or Lebel rifle, when so many hearts have
already offered themselves to serve as cannon fodder? All the
more because certainly the victorious politicians of this great
day, Rochefort and Boulanger, are with one accord more
ambitious for a graveyard than for any throne. Anyhow, that was
our interpretation of what has happened, not just Roulin's and
mine, but many others'. Nevertheless we were greatly moved.
Roulin told me that he almost cried when he saw that silent
crowd at Marseilles, and he only recovered himself when he
turned and saw behind him some very, very old friends, who
stopped and happened to recognize him. Then they had supper
together till late into the night.
Although he was very tired, he could not resist the desire
to come to Arles to see his family again, and he came to shake
hands, almost dropping with sleep and very pale. I could just
show him the two copies of the portrait of his wife, which
pleased him very much.
Everyone here is kind to me, the neighbours, etc., kind and
attentive as if I were at home.
I know already that several people here would ask me for
portraits if they dared. Roulin, quite a poor fellow and lowly
employee though he is, is much respected, and it is known that
I have done his whole family.
My dear brother, in the meantime we will certainly go on suffering, make mistakes,
fall into misfortune, I can't deny it, but we will always have worked in this present '89
with the French who we admire so much, since on their part they have made us feel that
this is our homeland too. Still, that's the way they are.
Don't speak to your fiancée about this business between us. Just let me go
on working in the way I asked you until the end of March. And in this way I will have done some
impressionist canvases, right?
Today I am working on a third “Berceuse.”
I know very well that it is neither drawn nor
painted as correctly as a Bouguereau and I rather regret this,
because I have an earnest desire to be correct. But though it
is doomed, alas, to be neither a Cabanel nor a Bouguereau, yet
I hope that it will be French.
It has been a magnificent day with no wind, and I have such
a longing to work that I am astonished, as I did not expect it
With a good handshake, also for De Haan and Isaäcson. I
shall expect your letter as soon as possible after February
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 30 January 1889 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 575.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.