Paris, 8 December 1889
My dear Vincent,
We received the three rolls of canvases as well as your
letter today. Among the pictures there are some in which the
harmony is sought in less glaring tones than you generally use;
for all that there is a great deal of air in them. Though I
fully agree with you when you say in your last letter that you
want to work like a cobbler, surely this will not prevent you
from turning out canvases which will hold their own beside
those of the masters. What I approve of in modern times is that
they have done that much for art that nowadays everyone can
work in his own way, and is not forced to do things according
to the rules laid down by some school. This being the case, it
is permissible to do a piece of nature exactly as one sees it,
without being obliged to cut it down in this way or that. The
sympathy an artist feels for certain lines and for certain
colours will cause his soul to be reflected in them. At the
Universal Exhibition there is a small picture by Manet, which
perhaps you saw at Portier's when you were there. It represents
a young woman in a white dress, sitting against a background of
a little green hill, by her side a carriage with a child in it.
The father is sprawled carelessly on the grass behind the
This is decidedly not only one of the most modern pictures,
but there is also the highest form of art in it. I am of the
opinion that the researches of symbolism, for instance, need go
no farther than that picture, and besides, the symbol is not
Tangui has been exhibiting a great many of your pictures
recently; he told me he hopes to sell the bench with the ivy.
It was a fine choice that you made for Brussels. I have ordered
the frames. For the sunflowers I am leaving the narrow wooden
rim which is around it, and then I shall add a white frame. For
the others, white frames or frames in natural wood. You did not
say whether you want to exhibit drawings. When Maus was here he
greatly admired them, and urgently requested them to be sent
in. Perhaps it is possible to send a number of them in one
At the time you used to say that they ought to publish a
book on Monticelli. Well, I have seen a score of very fine
lithographs after his pictures, done by a certain Lauzet.
2 There will also be an accompanying text. The
artist is going to have a look at our pictures to see whether
there are any he might want to reproduce. He is especially well
up on the English and Scotch painters. The lithographs are
printed in different tones, and, with regard to the process
used, are more or less like the etchings on stone which Marvy
did in his time; the man who made them is a true artist.
That friend of Bernard's named Aurier looked me up, you
know, the one who came to see me once in the Rue
Lepic.3 He is very interested in what you are doing,
and he showed me a little paper which he edits, and in which he
wrote about Tangui's shop, on which occasion he mentioned your
Here we are having the dead of winter, and there is snow on
the roofs. How is the weather in your neighbourhood? I wrote a
letter to Mr. Peyron to tell him that you would probably be
obliged to work in a room, and I asked him to be so kind as to
allow you to light a fire and to add the cost to my account. I
rejoice to hear that you are feeling well. As for the future,
who can foretell anything? But above all don't worry more than
necessary. Better days will come to you eventually, and we
shall be seeing each other more often at any rate. The Corots,
Millets, etc., didn't sell their paintings for a high price,
but for all that they sold them in the end, but one must have
Jo gives you her kindest regards; we received quite a batch
of little things for the baby from Amsterdam. You will do its
portrait as soon as you are here. Wil probably will come in
January to lend a helping hand. She enjoyed herself thoroughly
Be of good heart!
Sincerely yours, Theo
Edouard Manet, “Under The Trees,” 1878, oil
on canvas 65 x 81 cm, private collection, Paris.
See Vincent's letter 617.
See the letter of Albert Aurier, T55a.
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Theo van Gogh. Letter to Vincent van Gogh. Written 8 December 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number T21.
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