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My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your letter, and the 50-Fr note enclosed. I
did not know that the article on Claude Monet was by the same
person as the one on Bismarck. It does one good to read things
like that, more than most of the stuff the decadents write,
with their passion for saying the most obvious things in the
most wildly contorted phrases.
I am very dissatisfied with what I have been doing lately,
because it is very ugly. But all the same, figure is
interesting me more than landscape.
Anyway, I shall send you a drawing of the Zouave today. In
the end making studies of figures so as to experiment and to
learn will be the shortest way for me to do something worth
Bernard has got to the point. Today he sent me a rough
sketch of a brothel, which I am sending you enclosed to hang
beside his clowns, which you already have. There is a poem on
the back of the drawing, in just the same tone as the drawing;
probably he has a more finished painted study of it.
I should not be surprised if he wanted to make an exchange
with me for the Zouave's head, though it is very ugly. But as I
do not want to deprive him of studies which he can sell, I will
not suggest an exchange unless we could buy something from him
for a small sum at the same time.
It is still raining heavily here, which is doing a great
deal of harm to the wheat that is still standing.
But fortunately I have a model these days.
I am in need of a book - the A B C D of Drawing, by A.
Cassagne. I asked for it at the bookshop here, and after
waiting a fortnight, they told me that they must have the name
of the publisher, which I do not know. I'd be very grateful if
you could send it to me. The carelessness, the lazy
happy-go-lucky ways of the people here are beyond belief; you
have trouble getting the most trifling things. That is why I'll
have to go to Marseilles someday, to get what I want there. The
cost of carriage from Paris is no joke and runs up the price of
things, but to have to run one's errands in Marseilles makes
them even more expensive.
What often vexes me is that painting is like having a bad
mistress who spends and spends and it's never enough, and I
tell myself that even if a tolerable study comes out of it from
time to time, it would have been much cheaper to buy it from
The other thing, the hope of doing better, is rather a fata
morgana too. But there is no quick remedy for all this, unless
sometime or another you can join hands with a good worker, and
produce more together.
As for the publisher of Cassagne's book - surely you have
his treatise on perspective, and the address must be in it;
besides they keep those books at Lalouche and Rue's in the
Chaussée d'Antin, that place that always has the
continuations of the various series.
It is great that Claude Monet managed to paint those ten
pictures between February and May. Quick work doesn't mean less
serious work, it depends on one's self-confidence and
experience. In the same way Jules Guérard, the lion
hunter, says in his book that in the beginning young lions have
a lot of trouble killing a horse or an ox, but that the old
lions kill with a single blow of the paw or a well-placed bite,
and that they are amazingly sure at the job.
I see nothing here of the Southern gaiety that Daudet talks
about so much, but on the contrary, all kinds of insipid airs
and graces, a sordid carelessness. But the country is beautiful
in spite of it.
Nature here however must be very different from what it is
at Bordighera, Hyères, Geneva, or Antibes, where there
is less mistral and where the mountains have an entirely
different character. Here, except for an intenser colouring, it
reminds one of Holland: everything is flat, only one thinks
rather of the Holland of Ruysdael or Hobbema or Ostade than of
Holland as it is.
What surprises me is the scarcity of flowers; there are no
cornflowers in the wheat, and seldom poppies.
What was the cost of the carriage on that last case of
pictures? The impasto on some of the canvases is dry on the
surface, but not enough to be rolled, or else I would send
McKnight has a friend with him now, I never see any of his
work. Yesterday I showed four or five new studies to him and
his friend; they looked at them in frosty silence. I think they
are preparing a surprise on their own account, and I hope it
will be good, because it would give me great pleasure to see
what they have found their way.
A handshake for you and Mourier if he is not already
installed in the studio à la Gérôme.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 23 June 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 502.
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