van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
Arles, 13 October 1888
Relevant paintings:

"Tarascon Diligence," Vincent van Gogh

"Sketch by Vincent," Vincent van Gogh

"Sketch by Vincent," Vincent van Gogh

"Public Garden with Couple and Blue Fir Tree: The Poet's Garden III," Vincent van Gogh

"Trinquetaille Bridge," Vincent van Gogh

"Railway Bridge over Avenue Montmajour, Arles," Vincent van Gogh

"Sketch by Vincent," Vincent van Gogh

"Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers," Vincent van Gogh

"Night Cafe on Place Lamartine in Arles," Vincent van Gogh

"Vincent's House in Arles (The Yellow House)," Vincent van Gogh

"Starry Night over the Rhone," Vincent van Gogh

"Ploughed Field," Vincent van Gogh

"The Green Vineyard," Vincent van Gogh

My dear Theo,

I did not quite dare to hope for your new money order for 50 francs so soon, and I thank you very much for it.

I have a lot of expenses, and it worries me a good deal sometimes when I realize more and more that painting is a profession carried on most likely by exceedingly poor men, and it costs so much money.

But the autumn still continues to be so beautiful! It's a queer place, this native land of Tartarin's! Yes, I am content with my lot, it isn't a superb, sublime country, this; it is only a Daumier come to life.

Have you reread the Tartarins yet? Be sure not to forget. Do you remember that wonderful page in Tartarin, the complaint of the old Tarascon diligence? Well, I have just painted that red and green vehicle in the courtyard of the inn. You will see it.

[A sketch of the Tarascon Diligence appears here.]

This hasty sketch gives you the composition, a simple foreground of grey sand, background very simple too, pink and yellow walls, with windows with green shutters, and a corner of blue sky. The two carriages very colourful, green and red, the wheels yellow, black, blue and orange. Again a size 30 canvas. The carriages are painted like a Monticelli, thickly laid paint. You used to have a very fine Claude Monet showing four coloured boats on a beach. Well, here they are carriages, but the composition is in the same style.

[A sketch of "Poet's Garden III" appears here.]

Now imagine an immense greenish-blue pine, spreading its branches horizontally over a bright green lawn, and gravel splashed with light and shade. This very simple patch of garden is brightened by beds of geraniums, lead orange in the background under the black branches. Two figures of lovers in the shade of the great tree; size 30 canvas.

Then two other size 30 canvases, the Trinquetaille bridge and another bridge, along the road passing under the railway.

[Two sketches of "The Railway Bridge" and "The Trinquetaille Bridge" appear here.]

This canvas is a little like a Bosboom in colour.

The Trinquetaille bridge with all these steps is a canvas done on a grey morning, the stones, the asphalt, the pavements are grey; the sky, pale blue, the figures, coloured; and there is a sickly tree with yellow foliage. Two canvases in gray and blended tones, and two highly coloured ones.

Forgive these very bad sketches, I am half dead with painting that Tarascon diligence, and I see that I am not in the right mood for drawing.

I am just going to have dinner and I'll write you again this evening.

But these decorations are getting on a bit, and I think that they will broaden my way of seeing and doing things.

There will be a thousand things to criticize in it, but that's all right provided I can manage to get some verve into it.

But here's to the country of good old Tartarin, I am enjoying myself in it more and more, and it is going to be our second fatherland. Not that I forget Holland, the very contrasts make one think of it many a time. I will go on with this letter directly.

I am going on with it now. I so much wish I could show you the work that I am doing.

I am really so tired that I can see my writing isn't much.

I'll write better another time, because the idea of this decoration is beginning to take shape.

I wrote Gauguin again the day before yesterday to say once again that he would probably recover more quickly here.

And he will do such beautiful things here.

He will need time to recover, I tell you.

What a lot of things there are that ought to be changed. Isn't it true that all painters ought to live like workmen? A carpenter or a blacksmith is accustomed to producing infinitely more than they do. And in painting too we should have large studios where each man would work with greater regularity.

Good-by for the present, because I still have a lot to say, and I must make you some better sketches. I shall probably make them tomorrow.

Thank you again very much for your money order. A good handshake.

Ever yours, Vincent

That's 5 canvases I have in progress this week, that brings the number of these size 30 canvases for the decoration to 15, I think.

2 canvases of sunflowers
3 “ the poet's garden
2 “ the other garden
1 “ the night café
1 “ the Trinquetaille bridge
1 “ the railway bridge
1 “ the house
1 “ Tarascon diligence
1 “ the starry night
1 “ the furrows
1 “ the vineyard

At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 13 October 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 552.

This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.
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