van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Arles, c. 14 March 1888
Relevant paintings:

"Langlois Bridge at Arles with Women Washing," Vincent van Gogh

"Gleize Bridge over the Vigueyrat Canal," Vincent van Gogh

"Avenue of Plane Trees near Arles Station," Vincent van Gogh

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My dear Theo,

I thank you very much for your letter, which I had not dared to expect so soon, as far as the 50-fr. note which you added was concerned.

I see that you have not yet had an answer from Tersteeg. I don't think that we need press him with a new letter. However, if you have any official business to transact with B. V. & Co. in The Hague, you might mention in a P. S. that you are rather surprised that he has in no way acknowledged the receipt of the letter in question.

As for my work, I brought back a size 15 canvas today. It is a drawbridge over which passes a little cart, standing out against a blue sky - the river blue as well, the banks orange coloured with grass and a group of women washing linen in smocks and multicoloured caps. And another landscape with a little rustic bridge and washerwomen also.

Finally an avenue of plane trees close to the station. Altogether 12 studies since I've been here.

The weather here is changeable, often windy with turbulent skies, but the almond trees are beginning to flower everywhere. I am very happy that the paintings are going to the Independents. You are right to go to see Signac at his house. I was very glad to read in today's letter that he made a more favourable impression on you than the first time. In any case I am glad to know that after today you will not be alone in the apartment.

Remember me kindly to Koning. Are you well?

I have company in the evening, for the young Danish painter who is here is a decent soul: his work is dry, correct and timid, but I do not object to that when the painter is young and intelligent. He originally began studying medicine: he knows Zola, de Goncourt, Guy de Maupassant, and he has enough money to do himself well. And with all this, a very genuine desire to do very different work than what he is producing now.

I think he would be wise to delay his return home for a year, or to come back here after a short visit to his friends.

But, my dear brother, you know that I feel as though I am in Japan - I say no more than that, and I still haven't seen anything in its usual splendour yet.

That's why (even though I'm vexed that just now expenses are heavy and the paintings worthless), that's why I don't despair of the future success of this idea of a long sojourn in the Midi.

Here I am seeing new things, I am learning, and if I take it easy, my body doesn't refuse to function.

For many reasons I should like to establish some sort of little retreat, where the poor cab horses of Paris - that is yourself and several of our friends, the poor impressionists - could go out to pasture when they get too exhausted.

I was present at the Inquiry into a crime committed at the door of a brothel here; two Italians killed two Zouaves. I took advantage of the opportunity to go into one of the brothels in a little street called “des ricolettes.”

That is the extent of my amorous adventures among the Arlésiennes. The mob all but (the Southerner, like Tartarin, being more energetic in good intentions than in action) - the mob, I repeat, all but lynched the murderers locked up in the town hall, but in retaliation all the Italians - men and women, the Savoyard monkeys included - have been forced to leave town.

I should not have told you about this, except that it means I've seen the streets of this town full of excited crowds. And it was indeed a fine sight.

I made my last three studies with the perspective frame which you know I use. I attach some importance to the use of the frame because it seems not unlikely to me that in the near future many artists will make use of it, just as the old German and Italian painters certainly did, and, as I am inclined to think, the Flemish too. The modern use of it may differ from the ancient practice, but in the same way isn't it true that in the process of painting in oils one gets very different effects today from those of the men who invented the process, Jan and Hubert van Eyck? And the moral of this is that it's my constant hope that I am not working for myself alone. I believe in the absolute necessity of a new art of colour, of design, and - of the artistic life. And if we work in that faith, it seems to me that there is a chance that we do not hope in vain.

You must know that I am actually ready to send some studies off to you, only it is impossible to roll them up yet. A hearty handshake. On Sunday I shall write to Bernard and de Lautrec, because I solemnly promised to, and shall send you those letters as well. I am deeply sorry for Gauguin's plight, especially because his health is shaken: he no longer has the kind of temperament that profits from hardships - on the contrary, this will only exhaust him from here on, and that will spoil him for his work. Goodbye for the present.

Ever yours, Vincent

At this time, Vincent was 34 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 14 March 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 469.

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