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My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your letter, for the 50-franc note and
Your letter brings great news, namely that Gauguin agrees to
our plan. Certainly the best thing would be for him to come
rushing here at once. Instead of getting out of a mess, he will
probably get into one if he goes to Paris first.
Perhaps he might make a deal with the pictures he will be
bringing along with him, which would be great luck. Herewith
I only want to say this, that not only am I enthusiastic
about painting in the South, but equally so about the North,
Certainly the Picards and the Leonardo da Vinci too are not
less beautiful because they are few, and on the other hand the
Montcellis, the Daumiers, the Corots, the Daubignys and the
Millets are not ugly because in so many cases they have been
painted with very great rapidity and because there are
relatively a good many of them. As for landscapes, I begin to
find that some done more rapidly than ever are the best of what
I do. For instance, the one I sent you the cartoon of, the
harvest, and the stacks too.
It is at times like these that the prospect of not being
alone is not disagreeable.
And very often indeed I think of that excellent painter
Monticelli - who they said was such a drinker, and off his head
- when I come back myself from the mental labour of balancing
the six essential colours, red - blue - yellow - orange - lilac
- green. Sheer work and calculation, with one's mind strained
to the utmost, like an actor on the stage in a difficult part,
with a hundred things to think of at once in a single half
After that, the only thing to bring ease and distraction, in
my case and other people's too, is to stun oneself with a lot
of drinking or heavy smoking. Not very virtuous, no doubt, but
it's to return to the subject of Monticelli. I'd like to see a
drunkard in front of a canvas or on the boards. It is too gross
a lie, all the Roquette woman's malicious, Jesuitical slanders
Monticelli, the logical colourist, able to pursue the most
complicated calculations, subdivided according to the scales of
tones that he was balancing, certainly over-strained his brain
at this work, just as Delacroix did, and Richard Wagner.
And if perhaps he did drink, it was because he - and
Jongkind too - having a stronger constitution than Delacroix,
and more physical ailments (Delacroix was better off), well, if
they hadn't drunk - I for one am inclined to believe - their
nerves would have rebelled, and played them other tricks: Jules
and Edmond de Goncourt said the very same thing, word for word
- “We used to smoke very strong tobacco to stupefy
ourselves” in the furnace of creation.
Don't think that I would maintain a feverish condition
artificially, but understand that I am in the midst of a
complicated calculation long beforehand. So now, when
anyone says that such and such is done too quickly, you can
reply that they have looked at it too quickly. Apart from that
I am now busy going over all my canvases a bit before sending
them to you. But during the harvest my work was not any easier
than what the peasants who were actually harvesting were doing.
Far from complaining of it, it is just at these times in
artistic life, even though it is not the real one, that I feel
almost as happy as I could be in the ideal, in that real
If all goes well, and Gauguin sees fit to join us, we could
put the thing on a firmer footing by suggesting he put
all his pictures together with mine, and share profit
and loss. But either that will not happen, or it will happen of
itself, according to whether he thinks my painting good or bad,
and also according to whether or not we co-operate.
Now I must write to Russell and I am going to urge him to
make an exchange with me. I must work hard to try to sell
something on my part to help with the expenses, but we must be
of good heart in spite of the difficulties, and working as we
are to safeguard the artists' life, it will fire our blood.
A handshake, I'll write again soon. I'm going into the
Camargue for two or three days to make some drawings there. I
am glad that you are sending for our sister.
Ever yours, Vincent
I'll write Mourier one of these days, you will read the
letter, you will see how I will talk to him - I can see the
picture from here!!! the head like a Delaroche.
Have patience with M. a little longer. Perhaps he is going
through a crisis.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 29 June 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 507.
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