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My dear Theo,
You will have got my wire telling you that 2nd
lieutenant Milliet will arrive in Paris on Friday morning; he
will arrive at the Gare de Lyon at 5:15 in the morning and go
from there straight to the Cercle Militaire in the Avenue de
l'Opéra. It would be simplest for both of you if you
went to see him there at 7 o'clock sharp in the morning.
Of course you could also meet him at the Gare de Lyon
itself, but to begin with that is farther off, and then you
would have to get up very early. He has been very nice to me,
particularly these last few days. He will return to Paris for a
week, but he is spending the greater part of his leave in the
I am very glad to have these pictures sent off, and in this
way our sister will see my studies, and that makes a difference
to me, for by this she will share in something that is
essentially part of our life in France, crude and casual as it
may be. I mean, she will see painting in the raw. But to do me
a great favour, show her one or two studies put on stretchers
and framed in white. You can take some of the earlier ones out
of their stretchers and frames. Don't let my stuff take up too
much room, so don't get encumbered with stretchers and frames
for my sake. For the comrades will see well enough what it is
like just as it stands, and you even more. Later on - when the
hundred are done - we will choose ten or fifteen of them to be
framed. I have kept the big portrait of the postman, and the
head which I included was done at a single sitting.
But that's what I'm good at, doing a fellow roughly in one
sitting. If I wanted to show off, my boy, I'd always do it,
drink with the first comer, paint him, and that not in water
colours but in oils, on the spot in the manner of Daumier.
If I did a hundred like that, there would be some good ones
among them. And I'd be more of a Frenchman and more myself, and
more of a drinker. It does tempt me so - not drinking, but
painting tramps. What I gained by it as an artist, should I
lose that as a man? If I had the faith to do it, I'd be a
notable madman; now I am an insignificant one, but you see I am
not sufficiently ambitious for that fame to set a match to the
powder. I would rather wait for the next generation, which will
do in portraiture what Claude Monet does in landscape, the
rich, daring landscape à la Guy de Maupassant.
But then I know that I am not - not their equal - but didn't
the Flauberts and Balzacs make the Zolas and Maupassants? So
here's to - not us, but to the generation to come. You are a
good enough judge of painting to see and understand what I may
have of originality, and also to see the uselessness of
presenting what I am doing to the modern public, because the
others surpass me in clearness of touch. That is more the fault
of wind and circumstances, compared to what I could do without
the mistral and without the fatal conditions of vanished youth
and comparative poverty. For my part I am in no way set on
changing my condition, and I count myself only too happy to be
able to go on as I do.
No answer from friend Russell, and Gauguin certainly
I have put in this package a drawing after
a picture which I am working on now - the boats with the man
unloading sand. If some studies are not quite dry, so much the
worse for them.
A good handshake, and I do hope to hear from you by Friday
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 15 August 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 525.
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