Dear Mr Furnée,
In response to your postcard, I should like to put a number of things to you for your consideration.
I wrote to you how, after my father’s death, I came to live alone here, and asked you to wait, that I would soon remit to you.
But look, perhaps you know that until now I’ve been helped by my brother, who is an art dealer in Paris. I am progressing with my work, though, my chances of selling are better than before, but at the same time it is precisely the moment when financial assistance from others ceases altogether, and I can only count on my own work. My father’s death and my desire to stand entirely on my own are two changes that have made me even poorer for the moment than I was before.
And look — suppose you draw a bill of exchange on me, well I cannot pay. Cash, if I have it, is 10 guilders one time, 5 guilders another time, and in order to earn that I have to pay for canvas, paint, brushes again. So if you demand payment, you would have to go to the extreme (if you demand your money) of selling my furniture and whatever else I have.1
They consist of a couple of old chairs, a rough wooden worktable and, in a word, are so worthless that the whole lot would certainly not even fetch 10 guilders in a village like this.
What do you gain by so doing? If you want to do this, it would be of little concern to me, but it is decidedly not the way to get your money, but if you wait, I will pay you in full.
If you demand payment and take this drastic measure — well, it would be to my advantage.
I only have one thing and that is getting better and better, that is my paintings and drawings.
I hear both good and ill said of them, and everyone can think of them what they will. As to them — as being the only things with which I can pay you — what do you want?
Do you want to wait until I sell something and settle my account? Very well, I’m not dishonest; I will pay you, just as soon as I have it.
Do you want me to send you some of my work so that you can show it to art lovers?
I’d like nothing better.
I have inherited — not a penny.
Firstly my father was not rich, and secondly none of the children has claimed his share.2
It seems to me that you have nothing to lose by trying whether you might have success with my painting. I’m prepared to send it to you and perhaps it would not disappoint you. And might even be the cause of my not only being able to pay you, but also to take more paint.
I’m as hard up for paint as for money at present.
Since I am very afraid of debt I don’t let it mount up; I buy very little and for cash, and only use paint3 that I get ground here.
If I have to make you wait, it’s because I myself certainly have to wait more patiently than you.
As regards demanding payment, I tell you expressly that I am absolutely not asking for clemency, but you would have to go to the extreme. And as I say, it would be to my advantage because I own literally nothing but my tools. Please reply to my letter, in any event. For you should know that of course if you demand payment, you will not achieve your objective that way, and then I would certainly not pay you later, since you would lose your rights. But you will be paid either if you are willing to try on your part to place some of my work for me, or if you wait until I sell something of what I have on hand. I express my regret about it, but the circumstances I inform you of are my excuse. Things are not going badly for me, though, and you must above all not despair about your money, it will be all right, but I shall have to wait more patiently and longer than you.
I respectfully remain,
Vincent van Gogh
Just one last word.
If I were dishonest, certainly no moment could be more suitable for getting out of a number of small debts by letting you draw your bill, and then just awaiting events. But I don’t yet have too much to fear for the relatively very little that I have to pay. I work too hard to be working in vain. If I say to you and to Leurs, who also has to have about 25 guilders from me, go ahead with your bills! then you, not I are the losing party.
Be aware once and for all that I’m definitely not afraid of bills. I pay cash for virtually everything, and I tailor my needs to my money such that I sometimes go weeks without spending a guilder, except for a loaf. Last year I had an unfortunate business with a decoration for a dining room, which I made for someone who didn’t pay me. When you consider that, despite every effort, I have still not got over the deficit that this caused
2v:6 — the paint I had from you and Leurs last year was for that — you’ll understand that the year hasn’t been good for me.
I don’t have friends — but nonetheless I tell you, do not despair about your money!
However, if you could do something yourself about getting my work seen in The Hague — that would be best, and in that way you would perhaps help both yourself and me, too, at the same time. I don’t ask high prices; the sum in question isn’t large. And so I suggest you try it. I do not have money, less than ever, since for me this is the period when I am making myself independent of all subsidies.