van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Paris, Summer 1887

My dear friend,

Thank you for your letter, and for that which it contained. I feel sad that even successful paintings do not cover their costs.

I was touched by what you wrote about home, “They are fairly well but yet it is sad to see them.” A dozen years ago one would have sworn that, come what may, the family would always prosper and do well. It would give Mother much pleasure if your marriage came off; and you also ought not to stay single for the sake of your health and business.

As for me, I feel the desire for marriage and children leaving me, and now and then I'm rather depressed that I should be like this at 35, when I ought to be feeling quite the opposite. And sometimes I blame it all on this rotten painting. It was Richepin who said somewhere: the love of art is the undoing of true love. I think that's absolutely right, but on the other hand true love makes one weary of art.

And although I already feel old and broken, I can still be amorous enough at times to feel less passionate about painting. One must have ambition to succeed, and ambition seems to me absurd. I wish above all I were less of a burden to you - and that needn't be impossible from now on, for I hope to make such progress that you'll be able to show what I do in full confidence without compromising yourself. And then I'll retire somewhere in the Midi so as not to see so many painters who fill me with disgust as men.

You can be sure of one thing - I shan't be trying to do any more work for the Tambourin - I think it's about to change hands anyway, and I most certainly don't object to that. As for la Segatori, that is quite a different matter. I still feel affection for her and I hope that she, too, still feels some for me. But at the moment she is in a difficult situation, she is neither a free agent nor mistress in her own house, on top of which she's suffering and sick. Although I wouldn't say so in public - I'm convinced she's had an abortion (unless, that is, she did have a miscarriage) - whatever, in her case I don't hold it against her.

She'll be better in about two months' time, I hope, and then she may well be grateful to me for not having bothered her. Mind you, once she's well again, if she refuses in cold blood to return what is mine, or does me down in any way, I shan't pull my punches - but it won't come to that. After all, I know her well enough to still have confidence in her. And mind you, if she does manage to hang on to her establishment, then from a business point of view I shouldn't blame her for choosing to eat rather than be eaten. If that means she has to tread on my toes a bit - all right - she can do so. When I saw her last, she didn't tread all over my heart, which she would have done had she been as mean as people say she is.

I saw Tanguy yesterday and he has put a canvas I've just done in the window. I've done four since you left and I've got a big one under way. I realize that these big, long canvases are hard to sell, but later on people will see that there's fresh air and good humour in them. The whole lot would do well as decoration for a dining room or a country house. And if you were to fall properly in love and then got married, it doesn't seem impossible to me that you might manage to acquire a country house like so many other art dealers. If one lives well, one spends more, but also gains more ground, and perhaps nowadays one does better looking rich than looking hard up. It's better to enjoy life than to commit suicide.

Regards to all at home.

Ever yours,


At this time, Vincent was 34 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written Summer 1887 in Paris. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 462.

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