My dear Theo,
I know quite well that I already wrote you yesterday,
but it has been such a lovely day again today. My great regret
is that you cannot see what I am seeing here.
Since seven o'clock this morning I have been sitting in
front of something which after all is no great matter, a
ball-shaped bush of cedar or cypress, planted in the grass. You
already know this ball-shaped bush, since you already have a study of
the garden. Enclosed also a sketch of my canvas, again a square
size 30.[Painting lost]
The bush is green, a little bronze and various
The grass is very, very green, lemon-tinted emerald green.
The sky is very, very blue.
The row of bushes in the background are all oleanders,
raving mad; the blasted plants flowering so riotously they
could certainly catch locomotor ataxia. They are loaded with fresh
flowers, and heaps of faded flowers as well, their
greenery is likewise renewing itself in vigorous new shoots,
A funereal cypress, all black, is standing over them, and some colourful
little figures walking on a pink path.
This makes a pendant to another size 30 canvas of the same
place, only from quite another point of view, where the whole
garden is coloured in very different green, under a pale lemon-
But isn't it true that this garden has a strange character
which makes one easily imagine the poets of the
Renaissance, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, strolling among these
bushes and over the flowering grass?
Only it has been overcrowded by some bushes which are not in character.
And this should find that truer and more fundamental character.
This is the third time that I've painted the same place.
It just happens to be the garden right in front of my house.
But this corner of garden is a good example of what I was
telling you, that to get at the real character of things here, it is
necessary to study them and paint them for a very long time.
Perhaps you will see nothing in the sketch except that the
lines are now very simple. This picture is again painted very
thickly, like its pendant with the yellow sky.
I hope to work again with Milliet tomorrow.
Today again from seven o'clock in the morning till six in
the evening I worked without budging except to grab a bite just
two steps away. That is why the work is going so quickly.
But what will you say of it, and what shall I think of it
myself, a little while from now?
I have a lover's lucidity or blindness for work
Because the setting of colours all about me are new to me, and it gives
me an extraordinary exaltation.
I have no thought of fatigue, I could even do another painting
this evening, and I would bring it off.
If I tell you that it is very urgent for me to have:
6 large tubes of chrome yellow, 1 lemon yellow
6 “ “ veronese green
3 “ “ Prussian blue
10 “ “ zinc white
Big tubes like the zinc and silver white
Then this can be deducted from yesterday's order
At the same time 5 meters of canvas
I can't help it, I feel so lucid, and I want as far
as possible to make sure I have enough pictures to hold my own when
the others are making a great effort for the year '89. Seurat
with 2 or 3 of his enormous canvases has enough to hold an
exhibition of his own, Signac is a good worker and has enough
as well. Gauguin and Guillaumin too. So for the time being, whether we exhibit
or not, I want to have the series of studies:
In this way we shall be absolutely original, for the others
will not be able to think us pretentious when we have only
But you may be quite sure that I shall try to put
style into them. Today Milliet was pleased with what I
had done - the ploughed field - generally he does
not like what I do, but because the clods of
earth are as soft in colour as a pair of sabots, it did not offend him,
with the forget-me-not blue sky flecked with white clouds.
It would give me great pleasure if he posed better,
and he would have a more elegant portrait than I
can manage now, though the subject is beautiful with his pale and matte
tinted face, the kepi red against a viridian
Ah, how I wish you could see all that I am seeing these days. In front of so
many lovely things I can only let myself go. Especially since I think that
the work is getting somewhat better than the last batch. Only
it was the studies in the last batch that prepared me to be able to
work with so much assurance, these days that are free of
Why doesn't our good father Thomas want to lend me anything on
my studies? He is making a mistake if he doesn't, and I hope he
will. I am afraid of overburdening you, and yet I would like to
order some 200 franc's worth of paints, and canvas, and
brushes. It is not for anything else, it is for that.
Perhaps the entire autumn will be fine, and if I knock off a size 30 canvas every
two or three days, I shall make several thousand franc notes.
I still have a kind of concentrated power, more than I need to
spend just on the work. But I am bound to begin by using up a heap
of paint, and that is why I need Thomas.
If I continue to work like this, I shall have my
studio full of very sound studies the way Guillaumin's is.
Guillaumin is sure to have some beautiful new things I don't doubt,
and I would love to see them.
The touch is not much divided and the tones are often
blended, and altogether I can't help laying it on thick à
la Monticelli. Sometimes I think I really am continuing
that man's work, only I have not yet done the figure of a lover
as he did.
And probably I shall not do it either before doing some serious studies
from life. But there is no rush, and now I am quite
set in my mind to work hard until I have surmounted that.
If I want to get this letter off, I must hurry.
Have you news of Gauguin? At any moment I am expecting Bernard's
letter which will probably follow the sketches.
Gauguin must certainly have another combination in mind, I have felt that for weeks
He has a perfect right to, of course.
I believe it is not necessary to say anything unpleasant to Gauguin if he
does change his mind, and take it absolutely in good part.
If he has joined forces with Laval, it is only natural, since Laval
is his pupil, and they have already lived together.
As a matter of fact, if they might really both come here, we could find
some way of putting them up.
As for the furnishings, if I knew beforehand that
Gauguin was not coming, I still would like to
have two beds in case I had to put someone up. So of course he
is quite free. There will always be someone with the desire to
see the Midi. What has Vignon done?? After all, if everything
takes a turn for the better, everyone will be sure to make
great progress, and the same for me too. If you can't always see these lovely days
here, you will see some of it in the paintings. And I am trying to
get more into them than in the others.
A handshake and
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 27 September 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 541.
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