My dear Theo,
Thank you for your letter, and I am very glad to hear that
Jo continues well. That is the one great thing now. I think
about you very often. As for you, when you write that you are
seeing so many pictures that you would like to see none for a
while, it proves that you have had too many business worries.
And then - yes, there is something else in life than pictures,
and this something else one neglects, and then nature seems to
revenge herself and fate itself is set on thwarting us. I think
that in these circumstances one must keep busy with pictures as
much as duty demands, but no more. As for the Vingtistes, here
is what I'd like to exhibit:
1 and 2. The two companion pictures of Sunflowers.
3. The Ivy, perpendicular.
4. Orchard in Bloom (the one Tanguy is exhibiting just now),
with a row of poplars across the canvas.
5. The Red Vineyard.
6. Wheat Field at Sunrise, on which I am working at the moment.
Gauguin has written me a very nice letter and talks with
enthusiasm about De Haan and their rough life at the
Bernard also has written me, complaining of lots of things,
while resigning himself like the good boy he is, but not at all
happy with all his talent, all his work, all his sobriety; it
seems that his home is often hell for him.
Isaäcson's letter gave me much pleasure;
enclosed my reply, which you must read - my thoughts begin to
link up a little more calmly, but as you will see from it, I do
not know if I must continue to paint or let painting alone.
If I continue, I certainly agree with you that it is perhaps
better to attack things with simplicity than to seek after
And I am not an admirer of Gauguin's “Christ in the
Garden of Olives,” for example, which he sent me a sketch
of. And then as for Bernard's picture, he promises me a
photograph of it. I don't know, but I fear that his biblical
compositions will make me want something different. Lately I
have seen the women picking and gathering the olives, but as I
had no chance of getting a model, I have done nothing with it.
However, now is not the moment to ask me to admire our friend
Gauguin's composition, and our friend Bernard has probably
never seen an olive tree. Now he is avoiding getting the least
idea of the possible, or of the reality of things, and that is
not the way to synthesize - no, I have never taken any stock in
their biblical interpretations.
I said that Rembrandt, and Delacroix, had done this
admirably, that I liked it even better than the primitives, but
stop! I do not want to resume this subject. If I stay here, I
shall not try to paint “Christ in the Garden of
Olives,” but the picking of the olives as you still see
it, giving nevertheless the exact proportions of the human
figure in it, perhaps that would make people think. I have no
right to meddle with it before doing some more serious studies
of it than I have done up to now.
And the Pre-Raphaelites too went a long way in this category
of ideas. When Millais 1 painted his “Light of
the World,” it was a more serious matter. Really there is
no comparison. Without counting Holman Hunt and others -
Pinwell and Rossetti.
And then here there is Puvis de Chavannes.
Now I must tell you that I have been to Arles and that I
have seen M. Salles, who handed over to me the rest of the
money you had sent him and the remainder of what I had handed
over to him, that is 72 francs. Nevertheless, now only about 20
francs remain in hand for M. Peyron, and paid for the room where the furniture is, etc.
I stayed there for two days, not yet knowing what to do in the
future; it is a good thing to show yourself there from time to
time, so that the same story doesn't start among people again.
At present no one has any antipathy to me, as far as I can see:
on the contrary, they were very friendly, and even welcomed me.
And if I stayed in the country, I should have a chance to
acclimatize myself little by little, which is hardly easy for
strangers and would have its use when painting here. But we
will wait a little first to see if this journey will provoke
another attack. I almost dare to hope it won't.
It is often cold here too; however, we are a little more
sheltered from the mistral by the mountains. And meanwhile I
keep working. I have several things to send you with the canvas
for the Vingtistes - I am waiting for that to dry.
If I had known in time that there were trains from here to
Paris for only 25 francs, I should certainly have come. It was
only when I went to Arles that I saw that, and it is because of
the expense that I have not done it - now I think that all the
same in spring it would be a good thing to go in any case and
get another look at the people and things in the North. For
this life here is terribly stupefying, and in the end I shall
lose my energy. I had hardly dared to hope that I should again
be as well as I am.
However, everything depends on whether this suits you or
not, and I think it is wise not to hurry. Perhaps by waiting a
little, we shall not even need the doctor at Auvers or the
If my health remains stable, then, if while I work I again
start trying to sell, to exhibit, to make exchanges, perhaps I
shall succeed a little in being less of a burden to you on the
one hand and on the other might recover a little more zest. For
I will not conceal from you that my stay here is very wearisome
because of its monotony, and because the company of all these
unfortunates, who do absolutely nothing all day long, is
But what's to be done? - we must not make any pretensions in
my case, I still make too many as it is.
Gauguin says that they get models easily. That is what I
lack most here.
Bernard talks of an exchange; you are quite at liberty to
arrange that with him if he wishes it and speaks to you about
it. I should like you to have one good thing of his besides the
portrait of his grandmother. It appears that he wants “La
I think that the six pictures for the Vingtistes will be
something of a whole, the “Wheat Field” will do
very well as a pendant to the “Orchard.” I am
writing a line to M. Maus to give him the titles, as he asked
for them in his letter. In the meantime kindest regards to Jo
and a good handshake. You must read the letter to
Isaäcson, it complements this one.
Good-by for now.
Ever yours, Vincent
This is an error on Vincent's part. He means Holman
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 17 November 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 614.
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