[In the Dutch edition this letter appears under number
Arles, 3 October 1888
[Sent by Gauguin to Schuffenecker on October 8, 1888, with
the observation: “I am sending you a letter from Vincent
to let you know how things stand between us and with all our
My dear Gauguin,
This morning I received your excellent letter, which I have
again sent on to my brother. Your view of impressionism in
general, of which your portrait is a symbol, is striking. No
one could be more anxious than I am to see it - but I am sure
even now that this work is too important for me to take in
exchange. But if you would like to keep it for us, my brother
will, if you agree, buy it at the first opportunity - and I
immediately asked him to do so - so let's hope it happens
For we are trying once more to make it as easy as possible
for you to come here soon.
When you left Paris, my brother and I stayed on together for
a time, which will always remain an unforgettable memory for
me. The discussions ranged further and wider - with Guillaumin,
with the Pissarros, father and son, and with Seurat, whom I had
not met before (I visited his studio only a few hours before my
These discussions often dealt with something so near to my
brother's heart and mine, namely what steps to take in order to
safeguard the material existence of painters, to safeguard
their means of production (paints, canvases) and to safeguard
their true share in the price their pictures fetch these days -
though not until long after they have left the artist's
When you are here, we can mull over all these
Now, hope is vaguely beckoning on the horizon again, that
flickering hope which used sometimes to console my solitary
I should so much like to imbue you with a large share of my
faith that we shall succeed in starting something that will
When we have had a talk about those strange days spent in
discussion in run-down studios and the cafés of the
Petit Boulevard, you will understand the full scope of this
idea of my brother's and mine - as yet unrealized when it comes
to setting up a society.
Still, you will appreciate that in order to remedy the
terrible situation of the last few years something is needed,
either along the precise lines we proposed or else very much
like them. That much we have taken for our unshakeable
foundation, as you will gather when you have the full
explanation. And you will agree that we have gone a good way
beyond the plan we have already communicated to you. That we
have gone beyond it is no more than our duty as picture
dealers, for you probably know that I, too, spent several years
in the trade and do not despise a profession in which I used to
earn my living. Suffice it to say that I'm sure that, although
you have apparently isolated yourself from Paris, you haven't
stopped feeling a fairly close rapport with Paris.
I am having an extraordinary spell of feverish activity
these days. Right now I am tackling a landscape with a blue sky
above an immense green, purple and yellow vineyard, with black
and orange vines. Little figures of ladies with red parasols
and little figures of grape pickers with their small cart make
it even gayer. Grey sand in the foreground. Another size 30
square canvas to decorate the house.
Not wishing to exaggerate my own
personality, however, I aimed rather for the character of a
bonze, a simple worshipper of the eternal Buddha. Though I have taken rather a lot of trouble
with it, I shall have to go over it again if I want to express the idea
properly, and I shall have to recover even further from the
stultifying effect of our so-called state of civilization if I
am to have a better model for a better picture.
One thing that gives me enormous pleasure is the letter I
received yesterday from Boch (his sister is one of the Belgian
Vingtistes), who writes that he has settled down in the
Borinage to paint miners and coal mines there. He nevertheless
intends to return to the south - to vary his impressions - and
if he does he is certain to come to Arles.
I consider my views of art excessively ordinary compared
I have always had the coarse tastes of an animal.
I neglect everything for the external beauty of things,
which I cannot reproduce because I render it so ugly and
coarse in my pictures, albeit nature seems so perfect to
At present, however, my bony carcass is so full of energy
that it makes straight for its objective. The result is a
degree of sincerity, perhaps original at times, about what I
feel, but only if the subject lends itself to my crude and
This part of the country has already seen the cult of Venus
- in Greece, primarily artistic - followed by the poets and
artists of the Renaissance. Where these things could flourish,
impressionism can as well.
I have made a special decoration, the Poet's garden, for the
room you will have (there is a first draft of it among the
sketches in Bernard's possession - it was later simplified).
The ordinary public garden contains plants and shrubs that
conjure up landscapes in which one can readily imagine
Botticelli, Giotto, Petrarch, Dante and Boccaccio. I have tried
to distil in the decoration the essence of what constitutes the
immutable character of this country.
And I set out to paint that garden in such a way that one is
put in mind of the old poet from these parts (or rather from
Avignon), Petrarch, and of the new poet from these parts - Paul
Gauguin - .
However clumsy this attempt may be, it may show you perhaps
that I have been thinking of you with very great emotion as I
prepared your studio.
Let's be of good heart about the success of our venture, and
please keep thinking of this as your home, for I feel very sure
that all this will last for a very long time.
A warm handshake, and believe me
Ever yours, Vincent
I am only afraid that you will think Brittany more
beautiful, indeed, that you will find nothing more beautiful
here than Daumier, the figures here are often pure Daumier. It
shouldn't take you long to discover that antiquity and the
renaissance lie dormant under all this modernity. Well, you are
free to revive them.
Bernard tells me that he, Morel, Laval and somebody else
will be making exchanges with me. In principle I am very much
in favour of the system of exchanges between artists because I
have seen the important part it played in the life of the
Japanese painters. Accordingly, one of these days I shall be
sending you what studies I have that are dry and that I can
spare, so that you may have first pick. But I shall make no
exchanges at all with you if it means that on your side it
costs you something as important as your portrait, which is
sure to be too beautiful. Truly, I wouldn't dare, because my
brother would gladly buy it from you for a whole month's
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Paul Gauguin. Written 3 October 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number .
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