|Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Arles, 10 March 1888
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"Still Life with French Novels and a Rose," Vincent van Gogh
My dear Theo,
Thank you for your letter and the 100-Fr. note enclosed. I
very much hope that you are right in thinking Tersteeg will come to Paris
shortly. It's very much to be desired with things in the state you
say they are in - everyone on the rocks and hard up. I was very
much interested in what you write on the Lançon sale,
and about the painter's mistress. He did some work of very
great character; his drawing often reminded me very much of
Mauve. I am sorry I did not see the exhibition of his studies and
very sorry not to have seen the Willette exhibition as well.
What do you think of the news that Kaiser Wilhelm is dead?
Will this precipitate events in France, and is Paris going to remain
quiet? It's doubtful; and what will the effect of all this be
on the trade in paintings? I read that there seems to be some question
of abolishing the import duties on paintings into America; is this
Perhaps it would be easier to get a few dealers and
collectors to agree to buy the impressionist paintings than to
get the artists to agree to share the price of
Nevertheless, the artists couldn't do better than to get together,
and give over to the association, and share the proceeds
of the sales, so that the society could at least guarantee its
members a chance to live and to work.
If de Gas [Degas], Claude Monet, Renoir, Sisley and C. Pissarro
took the initiative, saying, “Look here, we 5 give 10
paintings each (or rather we each give to the value of 10,000
Frs. to be estimated by expert members such as Tersteeg and
yourself, co-opted by the Society, said experts likewise to put
in capital in the form of paintings) and we further undertake to
hand over every year pictures to the value of…
“And we invite you others, Guillaumin, Seurat, Gauguin, etc.,
etc., to join with us (your paintings to undergo the same
Thus the great impressionists of the Grand Boulevard, while
giving pictures which would become general property, would keep
their prestige, and the others could no longer reproach them
with keeping to themselves the advantages of a reputation no
doubt acquired primarily through their personal efforts and
individual genius, but all the same a reputation that is
growing, buttressed and actually maintained by the paintings of
a whole battalion of artists who have been working in perpetual
Anyway, it is to be hoped that it will come off, and that
Tersteeg and you will become expert members (with
I have two more studies of landscapes. I hope that the work
will go on steadily now, and that in a month I shall be able to
send you a first consignment. I say in a month, because I want
to send you only the best, and because I want them to be dry,
and because I want to send at least a dozen at a time, owing to
the expense of carriage.
I congratulate you on purchasing the Seurat; with what I
will be sending you, you must try to arrange another exchange with
Seurat as well.
You realize that if Tersteeg joins you in this business,
between you two you could easily persuade Boussod Valadon to grant
a regular credit for the necessary purchases. But it is urgent,
since failing that, the dealers will cut the ground from under your feet.
I have made the acquaintance of a Danish artist [Mourier
Peterson] who talks about Heyerdahl and other Northerners,
Kroyer, etc. His work is dry, but very conscientious, and he is
still young. Some time ago he saw the exhibition of the
impressionists in the Rue Lafitte. He is probably going to
Paris for the Salon, and wants to make a tour in Holland to see
I quite approve of your exhibiting the “Livres”
with the Independents; its title ought to be “Romans
I should be so glad to hear that you had managed to persuade
Tersteeg - but we must be patient.
I had to get 50 francs worth of stuff when your letter
arrived.This week I shall set four or five things going.
I am daily thinking about this association of artists, and the
plan has developed further in my mind; but Tersteeg must be in
it, a lot depends on that. As a matter of fact, the artists
would have Tersteeg's help. Without that we should be left
listening from morning till night to the lamentations of them
all as a whole, and each man in particular would be
everlastingly coming to ask for explanations, axioms and so
forth. I should not be surprised if Tersteeg's view will be
that we cannot do without the artists of the Grand Boulevard,
and that he will try to persuade them to take the initiative
towards our association by giving paintings which would become
common property, no longer individual. If they were to make the
proposal, the Petit Boulevard, in my opinion, would be morally
obliged to join.
And these gentlemen of the Grand Boulevard will keep their
present reputation only if they can forestall the not unfounded
criticisms of the lesser impressionists, who will say,
“Everything goes into your pockets.”
To which they might well make reply, “Not at all, on
the contrary, we are the first to say that our pictures
belong to the artists!” If de Gas, Monet, Renoir
and Pissarro were to say that, even allowing plenty of margin
for their individual ideas when it comes to putting it into
practice, they could do worse, if only by saying nothing at all
and letting things slide.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 34 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 10 March 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 468.
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