Once again I want to write you a letter while you are still
in the old house, to thank you for your last letter and the
news of Cor's good voyage. I believe he will work there with
zest, and thus have some pleasure in his life. What he writes
you makes me think of what my friend Gauguin told me about
Panama and Brazil. I did not know until now that
Isaäcson is also going to the Transvaal. You
know I never met him personally - but lately I have written him
because he intended to write about my work in a Dutch paper,
and I asked him not to do it; but also to thank him for his
faithful sympathy, as from the beginning we have often thought
of each other's work and have the same ideas about our old
Dutch and modern French painters. And I also like De Haan's
work very much.
Now I can tell you that what I promised you is quite ready -
the landscape studies and a small self-portrait
and a study of an interior. But I fear it will disappoint you
and the whole batch may seem unimportant and ugly to you. Wil
and you can do what you like with them, and if you feel like
giving something to the other sisters - for this reason I am
sending a few more.
But this does not concern me - I only try to form several
things into a kind of whole which I would prefer remained
together, so that it becomes more important in the course of
time. But I already understand that you will not have room for
everything, and therefore you may do what you like with them,
but I advise you to keep them together, at least for some time,
as in that case you will be better able to judge which ones you
like best in the long run. I certainly agree with you that it
is much better for Theo now than before, and I hope everything
will go well with Jo's confinement; that will set them up for
quite a while. It is always good to experience the way in which
a human being comes into the world, and that leads many a
character to more quietness and truth.
Nature is very beautiful here in autumn with the yellow
leaves. I am only sorry that there aren't more vineyards here.
I started to paint one a few hours away though. It happens that
a big field becomes quite purple and red, as the Virginia
creeper with us, and next to that a yellow square, and a little
farther on a spot which is still green. All this under a sky of
a beautiful blue, and violet rocks in the distance. Last year I had a better
opportunity to paint that than now. I should have liked to add something like it to what
I am sending you, but I'll owe you this for next year.
You will see from the self-portrait I add that though I saw
Paris and other big cities for many years, I keep looking more
or less like a peasant of Zundert, Toon, for instance, or Piet
Prins, and sometimes I imagine I also feel and think like them,
only the peasants are of more use in the world. Only when they
have all the other things, they get a feeling, a desire for
pictures, books, etc. In my estimation I consider myself
certainly below the peasants.
Well, I am ploughing on my canvases as they do on their
It goes badly enough in our profession - in fact that has
always been so, but at the moment it is very bad.
And yet never have such high prices been paid for pictures
as these days.
What makes us work on is friendship for each other, and love
of nature, and finally, if one has taken all the pains to
master the brush, one cannot leave painting alone.
Compared with others, I still belong to the lucky ones, but
think what it must be if one has entered the profession and has
to leave it before one has done anything, and there are many
like that. Given ten years as necessary to learn the profession
and somebody who has struggled through six years and paid for
them and then has to stop, just think how miserable that is,
and how many there are like that!
And those high prices one hears about, paid for work of
painters who are dead and who were never paid so much while
they were alive, it is a kind of tulip trade, under which the
living painters suffer rather than gain any benefit. And it
will also disappear like the tulip trade.
But one may reason that, though the tulip trade has long
been gone and is forgotten, the flower growers have remained
and will remain. And thus I consider painting too, thinking
that what abides is like a kind of flower growing. And as far
as it concerns me, I reckon myself happy to be in it. But for
This is to show you one must have no illusions. My letter
has to be posted. At the moment I am working on a portrait of
one of the patients here. It is curious that
after one has been with them for some time and got used to
them, one does not think of them as being mad any more.
Embracing you in thought,
Your loving Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to His Mother. Written c. 20-22 October 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 612.
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