When you say you are a mother nearly seventy years old, it
must be true, but one would not notice it from your
handwriting, for it struck me as being very firm. Also Theo and
Wil wrote me that you seem to be getting young again, and I
think this is very good, and is sometimes necessary in life.
The news about Cor - no wonder that you are preoccupied with
it, and it will be hard for both sides to have to separate. He
is right though, I think, not to hesitate to accept this
position, as it seems that one can get on better and be happier
in the world by being at a distance from these big cities, not
only Paris, but Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and so many others in
Europe. There is more that is natural and good in the world
than one would suppose here in our continent.
I have often heard talk, not exactly about the Transvaal,
but for instance about Australia, by people who came from there
and were always longing to go back. Also about Haiti, for
instance, and Martinique, where Gauguin, who stayed with me in
Arles, has been. And I suppose that the Transvaal will have
several things in common with Australia. One has the chance to
develop oneself better there and to use one's energy better
than in this European circumlocution.
As far as the sorrow, dear Mother, is concerned, which we
have and continue to have in separation and loss, it seems to
me it is instinctive, that without that we could not resign
ourselves to separations, and that probably it will help us to
recognize and find each other again later. It seems impossible
for things to remain in their place.
And yet apples do not fall far away from the tree, nor will
stinging nettles grow from their pips. Beyond that I know
I have every hope that she will understand this, and perhaps
has understood it already.
The main thing is perhaps this: do you remember the story in
that book De Pruuvers 1, in which there was the tale
of someone who was ill, who used to look every morning at the
maid who was sweeping the floor and think that she had
“something reassuring” about her.
This is the main thing to which, in the most different and
the most divergent cases of sickness, recovery can largely be
attributed. Therefore I should, cruel as it may seem, leave the
anxiety about the strength of Theo's constitution to her, and
let her worry and struggle for a year before we have to be
concerned about him. And it seems to me, if we do not worry
about it, this is a sign of our own confidence, and of
“something reassuring” in nature in general.
It seems to me that it is not much warmer here in summer
than at home, as far as being oppressed by it is concerned, as
the air is much clearer and purer here. Further, we very often
have a strong wind, the “mistral.” I have been
painting in the wheat fields during the hottest part of the
day, without being unduly troubled by it.
But sometimes one notices that the sun is rather powerful,
as the grain gets yellow very soon, but the fields with us are
cultivated more intensely and more regularly than here, where
in many places the rocky soil is not fit for everything. Here
there are very beautiful fields with olive trees, which are
silvery grey in leaf, like pollard willows.
Then I never get tired of the blue sky. One never sees
buckwheat or rape here, and perhaps there is in general less
variety than with us. And I should so much like to paint a
buckwheat field in flower, or the rape in bloom, or flax, but
maybe I will have an opportunity for this later on in Normandy
or Brittany. Also, here one never sees those moss-covered roofs
on the barns or cottages as at home, nor the oak coppices, nor
spurry, nor beech hedges with their white tangled old stems.
Nor the real heather, nor the birches which were so beautiful
in Nuenen. But what is beautiful in the South are the
vineyards, but they are in the flat country or on the
hillsides. I have seen some, and even sent a picture of them to
Theo, in which a vineyard was quite purple,
fire-red, and yellow and green and violet, like the Virginia
creeper in Holland. I like to see a vineyard as much as a wheat
field. Besides, the hills full of thyme and other aromatic
plants are very nice here, and because of the clearness of the
air, from the heights one can see so much farther here than at
Now I close by saying that I believe you will be glad that
your son Theo has at last got married. If I were you, I should
not worry about his health, but in your place I should take
care to make an arrangement with him that he and his wife come
to visit you twice a year instead of once. This would be good
for you and for them, especially when Cor goes away. As far as
his business is concerned, it will do him no harm to get some
other thoughts, and as far as his wife is concerned, you may be
sure that she will not blame you if you stimulate his desire to
go to Holland with her from time to time. Don't forget that we
have as much reason for unthankfulness as for thankfulness
toward the Paris business, and you in your quality of a mother
of nearly seventy may take this into account.
I embrace you in thought and with a handshake for Cor I wish
him courage in his enterprise.
Believe me always,
Your loving Vincent
Dialect word meaning “tasters.”
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 2 July 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 598.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.