My dear Theo,
Thank you for yesterday's letter. I too cannot write as I
would like, but after all we live in such a disturbed time that
there can be no way of having opinions fixed enough to form any
judgment of things.
I should have liked very much to know if you are still
having your meals in the restaurant or whether you are living
more at home. I hope so, for in the long run that must be
Things are going well with me. You will understand that
after almost half a year now of absolute frugality in eating,
drinking, smoking, with two-hour baths twice a week of late,
it's evident that it should steady me a lot. So it's all going
well, and as for the work, far from wearing me out, it occupies
and distracts me - which I am in great need of.
I am glad to hear that Isaäcson has found
some things that please him in my consignment. He and De Haan
seem very faithful, and that is so rare nowadays that one must
appreciate it. And I am also glad to hear that someone else has
turned up who actually saw something in the woman's figure in
black and yellow. That does not surprise me, though I think
that the merit is in the model and not in my painting.
I despair of ever finding models. Ah, if now and then I had
someone like that or like the woman who posed for “La
Berceuse,” I'd do something very different yet.
I think you were right not to show any pictures of mine at
the exhibition that Gauguin and the others had. My not yet
being recovered is reason enough for my keeping out of it
without giving them offense.
I think that unquestionably Gauguin and Bernard have great
and real merit. And it remains very understandable that for
beings like them - young and very vigorous, who must
live and try to hack out their way - it would be impossible to
turn all their canvases to the wall until it should please
people to admit them into something, into the official stew.
You cause a stir by exhibiting in cafes; I do not say it is not
bad taste to do it, but I myself have this crime on my
conscience twice over, as I exhibited at the Tambourin and at
the Avenue de Clichy, without counting the upset caused to 81
worthy anthropophagi of the good town of Arles and their
So in any case I am worse and more to blame than they, as
far as that goes, in causing stir enough, my word, quite
involuntarily. Young Bernard - I think - has already done some
absolutely astonishing canvases in which there is a sweetness
and something essentially French and sincere of rare
After all, neither he nor Gauguin are artists who could ever
look as if they were trying to get into a universal exhibition
by the back stairs.
Be reassured about this. That they could not hold
their tongues is very understandable. That the impressionist
movement has had no unity proves that they aren't as skilled
fighters as other artists such as Delacroix and Courbet.
At last I have a landscape with olive trees and also a new
study of a starry sky. Though I have not seen
either Gauguin's or Bernard's last canvases, I am pretty well
convinced that these two studies I've spoken of are parallel in
When you have looked at these two studies for some time, and
that of the ivy as well, it will perhaps give you some idea,
better than words could, of the things that Gauguin and Bernard
and I sometimes used to talk about, and which we've thought
about a good deal; it is not a return to the romantic or to
religious ideas, no. Nevertheless, by going the way of
Delacroix, more than is apparent, by colour and a more
spontaneous drawing than delusive precision, one could express
the purer nature of a countryside compared with the suburbs and
cabarets of Paris.
One would try to paint human beings who are also more serene
and pure than Daumier had before his eyes, but following
Daumier, of course, in the drawing.
Whether it exists or not is something we may leave aside,
but we do believe that nature extends beyond St. Ouen.
Perhaps even while reading Zola, we are moved by the sound
of the pure French of Renan, for instance.
And after all, while the Chat noir draws us women after its
fashion and Forain in a fashion that's masterly, we do some of
our own, and being less Parisian but no less fond of Paris and
its graces, we try to prove that something very different
exists as well.
Gauguin, Bernard and I may stop at that point perhaps and
not conquer, but neither shall we be conquered; perhaps we
exist neither for the one thing nor for the other, but to give
consolation or to prepare the way for a painting that will give
even greater consolation.
Perhaps Isaäcson and De Haan will not succeed
either, but in Holland they felt the compulsion to maintain
that Rembrandt did great painting and not delusive photography;
they also felt something that was different.
If you can get the “Bedroom” re-canvassed, it
would be better to have it done before sending it to
I have no more white at all at all.
You would give me great pleasure by writing again soon. I so
often think that after some time your marriage, I hope, will
give you back your old vigour, and that a year from now you
will be in better health.
What I should very much like to have to read here now and
then would be a Shakespeare. There is one at a shilling,
Dick's Shilling Shakespeare, which
is complete. There are plenty of editions, and I think the
cheap ones have been altered less than the more expensive ones.
In any case I don't want one that costs more than 3 francs.
Meanwhile, whatever is too bad in this batch, put it aside
altogether - no use having stuff like that about; it may be
useful later on to remind me of things. Whatever is good in it
will show up better in a smaller number of canvases.
The rest are only worth putting flat in some corner between
two sheets of cardboard with some old newspapers between the
studies. I am sending you a roll of drawings.
Handshakes for you, Jo, and our friends.
Ever yours, Vincent
The drawings - Hospital at Arles, the
Weeping Tree in the Grass, the Fields and the Olives
are a continuation of those old ones of Montmajour,
the others are hasty studies made in the garden.
There is no hurry for the Shakespeare, if they haven't got
an edition like that, it doesn't take an eternity to order
Do not fear that I shall ever, of my own will, rush to dizzy
heights. Unfortunately we are subject to the circumstances and
the maladies of our time, whether we like it or not.
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 17 or 18 June 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 595.
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