My dear Theo,
I am overjoyed to hear what you tell me of your two new
friends. 1 But all the same it amazes me that you
tell me about them and their frame (at, if my memory serves me,
2000 fr.) and never a word of what was inside that frame, nor a
single word of what they had done in the way of painting.
Perhaps it is because you think that I may have heard of
them, but I declare it is the first time I have heard of this
business, and even of the men themselves.
So being ignorant of things, I should like to ask,
“Yes, yes, so much for the frame, but what was there
inside it, and what are they actually doing?”
After that I shall certainly be better able to get some idea
of what their conversations with you and Pissarro were, once I
have some notion of what they themselves are doing.
In any case it proves one thing, that the Dutch artists have
spoken of you as the dealer in impressionist pictures, and we
must not lose sight of that.
Then what did they tell you of Dutch art, Breitner and
Rappard and others, and lastly what do they say about
Gauguin writes that he has already sent off his trunk and
promises to come about the twentieth of this month, that is
within a few days. I shall be very glad, because I do believe
that it will do both of us good. So write me some details about
the new friends' painting soon, and if they are really painters
trying to make progress in virgin fields, boldly recommend the
South to them. I believe that a new school of colourists
will take root in the South, as I see more and more that those
in the North rely on their ability with the brush, and the
so-called “picturesque,” rather than on the desire
to express something by colour itself. Your news gave me great
pleasure, but it so astonishes me not to know what there was
inside that frame.
Here, under a stronger sun, I have found what Pissarro said
confirmed, and also what Gauguin wrote to me, the simplicity,
the fading of the colours, the gravity of great sunlight
You never come near to suspecting it in the North. And if
these artists of the monstrous frame really wish to see
something new, let them go to Bing, and then to the South.
Myself, I already had palpitations over my order for pine wood
frames at 5 francs.
It is just what I said to Russell about his house, that this
one here would cost several times less in hundreds than his
will cost in thousands, and that after all, even without
Russell, we were working for Gauguin.
Have they seen anything of Seurat's, our gentlemen of the
frame? I think that as a creation I should prefer Seurat's
frame to theirs.
By the way, speaking of Seurat, have you seen him again?
As to selling, I say you are certainly right not to go out
of your way looking for sales, I certainly should prefer never
to sell, if it could be.
But all the same if we were forced to it, certainly after
what has gone before we have no alternative, yet even though we
might be obliged to do it someday, we could not do better than
take our time about it.
A good handshake, and I hope that you will tell me what
there really was inside the frame. And regards to the new
friends, and my best wishes.
If they want to see something new, certainly they could go
South, or to Africa or Sicily if it is winter. But if they have
originality, it is only the real South that will show them
anything different from Holland.
Good-by, I hope for only a little while, and that you will
write again soon, a good handshake.
Ever yours, Vincent
Have you read Madame Chrysanthème yet?
I am adding a line to tell you that this afternoon I
finished the canvas representing the bedroom.
In any case it pleased me mightily that you should have
fallen in with these Dutchmen. It is really quite possible that
I may have heard of this large picture, though not of the
frame. Some time ago Rappard told me a story praising a picture
and its painter, and I can easily tell if it's the same picture
when you tell me what they are doing.
Certainly I have my own moments when I should dearly like to
change and be in business for a bit, and by so doing be able to
earn some money myself.
But since for the moment we can do nothing to change it,
let's accept this fate, that you on your part are condemned
always to do business without rest or change, and that I on my
part also have a job without rest, wearing enough and
exhausting to the brain. I hope that within a year you will
feel that between us we have produced a work of art.
This bedroom is something like the still life of the
“Romans Parisiens” with the yellow, pink and green
covers, you remember it. But I think the
workmanship is more virile and simple. No stippling, no
hatching, nothing, only flat colours in harmony.
And in just such moments after hard work - and all the more
the harder it is - I feel my own noodle empty too, you
And if I let myself go, nothing would be easier than to
detest what I have just done, and kick my foot through it a few
times, like old Cézanne. After all, why kick my foot
through it - let's leave the studies in peace, even if one sees
no good in them; and if we see something that may be called
good, well, so much the better.
And after all, don't let's meditate on good and bad too
deeply - they're always relative.
That is exactly the fault of the Dutch, to call one thing
absolutely good and another absolutely bad. Nothing in the
world is as hard and fast as that.
By the way, I have read Richepin's Césarine too;
there are some very good things in it, that march on the
retreating soldiers, how one feels their weariness, and without
being soldiers, haven't we all marched like that sometime?
The quarrel of the father and son is just heartbreaking, but
it is like La Glu, also by Richepin. I find that it leaves no
hope, whereas Guy de Maupassant, who has written things
certainly as sad, lets things end more humanely in the end.
Look at Monsieur Parent, look at Pierre et Jean, it does not
end in happiness, but in the end people are resigned and go on
in spite of everything. It does not end in blood and horrors
like the other things. Indeed, I much prefer Guy de Maupassant
because he is more comforting. At the moment I have just
finished Eugénie Grandet by Balzac, the story of a
Good-by, I hope for only a little while.
Ever yours, Vincent
Come now, if we do not produce pictures with frames like
these Dutchmen's, you and I are making pictures like Japanese
prints, and let's be content with that.
The painter Meyer de Haan and his friend Isaäcson.
De Haan exhibited his large picture “Uriel
Acosta” in the Panorama in Amsterdam; discouraged by
the unfavourable criticism, he went to Paris and lived
there for a short time with Theo. After the latter's
marriage he went to Pont-Aven, where he lived and worked
with Gauguin. He died in Amsterdam in 1895. Nothing is
known of his work in France. Isaäcson wrote a few
articles on the art of painting in the periodical Le
Portefeuille. Nothing is known of his paintings of
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 17 October 1888 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 555.
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