Saint-Rémy, c. 2nd June 1889
My dear Theo,
I must beg you again to send me as soon as possible some
ordinary brushes about these sizes.
[A sketch of the brushes was drawn here.]
Half a dozen of each, please.
I hope that you are well and your wife too, and that you are
enjoying the fine weather a little. Here at any rate we have
The director mentioned that he had had a letter from you and
had written to you; he tells me nothing and I ask him nothing,
which is the simplest.
He's a gouty little man - several years a widower, with very
black spectacles. As the institution is a bit stagnant,
the man seems to get no great amusement out of his job, and
besides he has enough to live on. A new man has arrived, who is
so worked up that he smashes everything and shouts day and
night, he tears his shirts violently too, and up till now,
though he is all day long in a bath, he gets hardly any
quieter, he destroys his bed and everything else in his room,
upsets his food, etc. It is very sad to see, but they are very
patient here and will end by seeing him through. New things
grow old so quickly; I think that if I came to Paris in my
present state of mind, I would make no difference between a
so-called dark picture and a light impressionist picture,
between a varnished picture in oils and a mat picture done with
I mean by this that by dint of reflection, I have come by
slow degrees to believe more than ever in the eternal youth of
the school of Delacroix, Millet, Rousseau, Dupré
and Daubigny, as much as in that of the present, or even in
that of the artists to come. I hardly think that impressionism
will ever do more than the romantics for instance. Between that
and admiring people like Leon Glaize or Perrault there is
certainly a margin. This morning I saw the country from my
window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning
star, which looked very big. Daubigny and Rousseau have
depicted just that, expressing all that it has of intimacy, all
that vast peace and majesty, but adding as well a feeling so
individual, so heartbreaking. I have no aversion to that sort
I am always filled with remorse, terribly so, when I think
of my work as being so little in harmony with what I should
have liked to do. I hope that in the long run this will make me
do better things, but we have not got to that yet.
It's almost a whole month since I came here, not once has
the least desire to be elsewhere come to me, only the wish to
work is getting a scrap stronger.
I do not notice in the others either any very definite
desire to be anywhere else, and this may well come from the
feeling that we are too thoroughly shattered for life
What I cannot quite understand is their absolute idleness.
But that is the great fault of the South and its ruin. But what
a lovely country, and what lovely blue and what a sun! And yet
I have only seen the garden and what I can look at through my
Have you read the new book by Guy de Maupassant,
“Strong as the Dead,” what is the subject of it?
The last thing I read in that category was Zola's “The
Dream”; I thought the figure of the woman, the one who
did embroidery, very, very beautiful, and the description of
the embroidery all in gold, just because it is as it were a
question of the colour of the different yellows, whole and
broken up. But the figure of the man did not seem very lifelike
and the great cathedral also gave me the blues. Only that
contrast of lilac and blue-black did, if you like, make the
blonde figure stand out. But after all there are things like
that in Lamartine.
I hope that you will destroy a lot of the things that are
too bad in the batch I have sent you, or at least only show
what is most passable. As for the exhibition of the
Independents, it's all one to me, just act as if I weren't
there. So as not to be indifferent, and not to exhibit anything
too mad, perhaps the “Starry Night” and the
landscape with yellow verdure, which was in the walnut frame.
Since these are two with contrasting colours, it might give
somebody else the idea of doing those night effects better than
But you must absolutely set your mind at rest about me now.
When I have received the new canvas and the paints, I am going
off to see a little of the country.
Since it is just the season when there are plenty of flowers
and consequently colour effects, it would perhaps be wise to
send me five metres more of canvas.
For the flowers are short-lived and will be replaced by the
yellow wheat fields. Those especially I hope to catch better
than I did in Arles. The mistral (since there are some
mountains) seems much less tiresome than in Arles, where you
always got it firsthand.
When you receive the canvases that I have done in the
garden, you will see that I am not too melancholy here.
Goodbye for the present, a good handshake in thought for you
Ever yours, Vincent
[A sketch of a Nude seen from the back was enclosed.]
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 2 June 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 593.
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