"Blossoming Pear Tree," Vincent van Gogh
"Harvest at La Crau, with Montmajour in the Background," Vincent van Gogh
Paris, 8 May 1889
It is high time at last that your new little sister had a
chat with you herself, instead of leaving it to Theo to send
her regards. When we were not yet married I was always
thinking, Oh, at present you haven't yet got the courage to
write about everything to Vincent, but now we are really and
truly brother and sister, and I should be so very happy if you
knew me a little too, and, if possible, loved me a little.
As for me, this has been the case for quite a long time . .
. Wil as well as Theo have told me so many things about you,
and here in the house there are so many things which remind one
of you; at the moment I come across a charming little jug or
vase or some such thing, I am sure to hear, This was
bought by Vincent, that Vincent thought so pretty.
Hardly ever a day passes without our speaking of you. You see,
I still speak of “our house,” and do not seem to be
able to accustom myself to saying “the apartment”;
I should so much like you to see how pretty and cozily Theo had
everything arranged before I came. The bedroom especially is so
sweet, very light and a great deal of pink in it - in the
morning, when I am lying in bed, I have to look at that fine
little peach tree in bloom of yours, which
looks at me so kindly every morning in its turn. Over the piano
in our drawing room (we have one; Aunt Cornélie
gave it to us) there also hangs a picture by you - a large one
which I like very much. It is a landscape in the neighbourhood
of Arles. The dining room is also full of
them, but Theo is still dissatisfied with the arrangement, and
every Sunday morning is spent hanging the pictures in other
places and rearranging everything.
It is so delightful on Sundays when Theo is at home all day;
I well remember how as a child I always loved Sundays, because
at home they were so pleasant and cozy (something which most
people could not understand), and now they are much more so. So
Monday meant a double festivity for me, for all the art shops
were closed on account of the opening of the exhibition - of
course we did not go to the exhibition, but enjoyed ourselves
in our own way. Paris certainly looked beautiful that day - I
so hope I shall come to love it as much as Theo does - but at
times I am very much afraid it won't be possible. It is so
noisy that we are living in our quiet cité
2 - it may not be an aristocratic quarter but it is
certainly a highly typical one—a big painters' studio
across the way, a little arbour and a few lilac trees, which
are in deliciously full flower at the moment. What a lot of
beautiful flowers there are in Paris - if I should have to
enumerate some good qualities of Paris, this would surely be
one of the very first things!
A great number of Theo's acquaintances have already come to
see us in the evening—last night, for instance, there was
quite a reunion. Pissarro and his son, Isaäcson
and the young Nibbrig 3 (but I don't know whether
you know the latter) and my brother - who for some time now has
been dining with us every day because his wife has gone to
I certainly wish I could speak French a little better - I
can manage on my own when I do my shopping or when I speak to
the femme de ménage [charwoman], but I think
carrying on a conversation, especially when Theo is present, is
something horrible. So I did not venture on a French letter -
although I know that in point of fact you would have preferred
it, but Wil told me that she also confines herself to writing
in Dutch. As soon as I feel that I am getting to be a bit of a
Parisienne, I'll start writing in French - is that a
Lies and Wil have laid a little plot to come here this
summer, the two of them; how pleasant it would be particularly
to have Wil here. How she would laugh at me - for she herself
is such a clever little housekeeper. She can do everything -
whereas I - to make a clean breast of it - I don't know how to
do anything - twice already I've let the rice burn and once the
prunes - poor Theo, he has to swallow it all.
For the rest we are getting along very well together - we
have been married three weeks today - it seems to me as though
it happened long ago and also only a short while ago - it
doesn't seem the tiniest little bit strange to us - it's as if
we had always been together. What is worst is that I don't at
all look like a married lady yet - yesterday I went to pay our
baker, and the good man could not possibly understand that I
myself was Madame Van Gogh, and persisted in calling me
mademoiselle, which is really something too frightful!
Now I have to prepared lunch for Theo will be coming home in
a minute or two - so I will say goodbye for today - I hope I
have not bored you too much, but the fact is that I have grown
so accustomed lately to writing about all these little things,
which they like to hear about so much, to Breda and also to
Amsterdam that I am no longer able to write a serious letter -
this will improve later on, I hope.
With most cordial regards, and wishing you all the best,
Your affectionate little sister, Jo
Written in Dutch.
8, Cité Pigalle. Cité
has the old meaning here of “city-street,” in
contradistinction to suburban street.
Ferdinand Hart Nibbrig (1866-1915), Dutch
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Theo van Gogh. Letter to Vincent van Gogh. Written 8 May 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number T08.
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