Saint-Rémy, 4 January 1890
My dear Theo,
Thank you for your letter; though I wrote you only
yesterday, I am answering at once.
I have never worked with more calm than in my last canvases
- I hope you will receive some at the same time as this
Therefore let's go on with the work as long as it is
possible, as if nothing had happened. I shall soon have an
opportunity to go out when the weather is not too cold and then
I have rather set my heart on trying to finish the work I have
I must do some more canvases of cypresses and mountains to
give an idea of Provence.
The “Ravine” and another canvas
of mountains, with a road in the foreground are typical of
And the “Ravine” especially, which I still have
here because it is not dry. And the view of the park, too, with
the pines. It has taken me all my time to observe the character
of pines, cypresses, etc., in the pure air here, lines which do
not alter and which you will find again at every step.
And what would be definitely worse would be to let myself
slip into the same condition as my companions in misfortune,
who do nothing all day, week, month, year, as I have told you
many times, and have also repeated to M. Salles, urging him
strongly never to recommend this asylum.
Just now some pictures are ripe in my head, I see in advance
the places that I still want to do in these months. Why should
I change the means of expression?
Once away from here - let's suppose so - we must really see
if something can be done with my canvases. I should have a
certain number of mine, a certain number of others, and perhaps
I should try to do a bit of business.
I do not know yet, but I see no reason for not doing some
more canvases here, which I shall need when I leave here. Once
more, I can foresee absolutely nothing, I see no way out, but I
also see that my stay here cannot go on indefinitely. Then, so
as to do nothing in a hurry, not to break off abruptly, I would
like to go on as usual while I am here.
Yesterday I sent two canvases to Marseilles, that is to say,
I made a present of them to my friend Roulin: a white house
among the olives, and a wheat field with a
background of lilac mountains and a black tree [Painting lost], as in the big
canvas I sent you. And I gave Mr. Salles a little canvas with
some pink and red geraniums against a background all black
[Painting lost], just like some I did at one time in Paris.
As for the money you sent me, 10 francs of it was due M.
Peyron because he had advanced it to me last month; I had given
20 francs in New Year's presents and I took 10 of it for the
postage for the canvases and other expenses, so there still
remain 10 francs in cash.
Just now I have done a little portrait of one of the
boys here, which he wanted to send to his mother. That
means I have already started working again, and if he saw any
objection, Mr. Peyron would probably not have let me do it.
What he said to me was - “Let's hope that there will be
no recurrence” - exactly the same thing as ever; he spoke
very kindly to me, and as for him, these things hardly surprise
him, but since there is no quick remedy, perhaps only time and
circumstances can have any influence.
I should very much like to go to Arles again, not
immediately, but toward the end of February, for instance,
first of all to see my friends again, which always refreshes
me, and then to test whether I am capable of risking the
journey to Paris.
I'm very happy that our sister has come. Kind regards to her
and Jo, and as for you and me, don't let's worry. In any case,
it did not last as long as last year and so we can still hope
that little by little it will pass in the course of time.
Well, be of good heart, a hearty handshake.
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 4 January 1890 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 622.
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