My dear Theo,
I’ve received your letter and 25 francs enclosed and I thank you very much for both. I’m really glad that you like my plan to come to Paris. I believe it will help me make progress and at the same time that, if I didn’t go, I might easily get into a mess, keep moving around in the same circle too much, persist in the same mistakes. Furthermore, as for you, I don’t think that coming home to a studio would do you any harm. For the rest, I have to tell you the same about me as you write about yourself — I’ll disappoint you.
And even so, this is the way to combine forces. And even so, much greater understanding of each other can follow from it.
Now what shall I tell you about my health? I still believe that I have a chance of avoiding being really ill; all the same, I’ll need time to get better. I also still have two more teeth to be filled, then my upper jaw, which was most affected, will be all right again. I still have to pay 10 francs for that, and then another 40 francs to get the bottom half right too.
Some years of those 10 years that I appear to have spent in prison will disappear as a result. Because bad teeth, which one so seldom sees any more as it’s so easy to get them put right,
1v:2 since bad teeth give a physiognomy a sort of sunken look.
And then — even eating the same things, one can naturally digest better when one can chew properly, and so my stomach will have a chance to recover.
I really do notice that I’ve been at a very low ebb, though — and as you wrote yourself, all sorts of things that are even worse could arise out of neglecting it. However, we’ll see that we get it put right.
I haven’t worked for a few days, gone to bed early a couple of nights (otherwise it was usually 1 or 2 o’clock because of drawing at the club). And I feel that it’s calming me.
I’ve had a note from Ma, who writes that they’re going to start packing in March.1
Further, since you say you’ll have to pay rent until the end of June — well then, perhaps it would be best after all if I were to return to Nuenen, starting in March, only — if I encountered opposition and scenes like I got before I left, I would be wasting my time there and so, even if it were only just for those few months, I’d make a change anyhow, since I want to have some new things from the country ready to bring to Paris with me.
That Siberdt, the teacher of the antique, who spoke to me at first as I told you, definitely tried to pick a quarrel
1v:3 with me today, perhaps with a view to getting rid of me. Which didn’t work inasmuch as I said — Why are you trying to pick a quarrel with me? I have no wish to quarrel, and in any case I have absolutely no desire to contradict you, but you deliberately try to pick a quarrel with me.
He evidently hadn’t expected that and couldn’t say much to refute it this time, but — next time, of course, he’ll be able to start something.
The issue behind it is that the fellows in the class are talking about things in my work among themselves, and I’ve said, not to Siberdt but outside the class to some of the fellows, that their drawings were completely wrong.
Bear in mind that if I go to Cormon and run into trouble sooner or later either with the master or the pupils, I wouldn’t let it worry me. If need be, even if I didn’t have a master, I could also go through the antique course by going to draw in the Louvre or somewhere. And so I’d do that if I had to — although I’d far rather have correction — as long as it doesn’t become DELIBERATE provocation; that correction without one giving any cause other than a certain singularity in one’s manner of working which is different from the others. If he starts on me again, I’ll say out loud in the class, I’m happy to do mechanically everything that you tell me to do, because I’m determined to pay you back what is your due, if need be, if you insist on it, but —
1r:4 as far as mechanizing me as you mechanize the others is concerned, that has not, I assure you, the slightest hold over me.
Besides, you started by telling me something quite different, that’s to say, you told me: tackle it as you wish.
The reason why I’m drawing plaster casts — not to start from the outline, but to start from the centres2— I haven’t got it yet, but I feel it more and more and — I’ll certainly carry on with it, it’s too interesting.
I wish that we could spend a few days together in the Louvre and could just talk about it. I believe it would interest you.
This morning I sent you Chérie, mainly for the preface, which will certainly strike you.
And — I wish that at the end of our lives we could also walk somewhere together and — looking back, say — we’ve done this — and that’s one; and that — and that’s two; and that — and that’s three.3 And if we want to and dare to — will there be anything to talk about then?
We can try two things — making something good ourselves — collecting things by other people that we think are good, and dealing in them.
2r:5 But we must both live rather more robustly, and perhaps combining forces is a step towards becoming more robust.
But now allow me to touch on a delicate matter — if I’ve said unpleasant things to you, specifically about our upbringing and our home, this has been because we’re in an area where being critical is essential in order for us to get along with and understand each other and cooperate in business.
Now I can well understand that one can passionately love something or someone that one can’t do anything about.
Very well — I won’t go into that except in so far as it might make a fatal separation between us where reconciliation is needed.
And our upbringing &c. — won’t prove to be so good that we’ll retain many illusions about it — there you are — and we might perhaps have been happier with a different upbringing. But if we stick to the positive idea of wanting to produce and to be something, then we’ll be able, without getting angry, to discuss faits accomplis as such when it’s unavoidable and might perhaps touch on or directly concern the Goupils or the family. And for the rest, these issues between us are for the understanding of the situation and not out of rancour.
But if we undertake something it won’t be a matter of indifference to either of us to improve our health, because we need time alive — some 25 or 30 years of working constantly. There’s so much of interest in the present age when one thinks how very possible it is that we may well yet see the beginning of the end of a society. And just as there is infinite poetry in the autumn or in a sunset, and then there’s so much soul and mysterious endeavour in nature, so it is now. And as for art — decline, if you will, after the Delacroix, Corots, Millets, Duprés, Troyons, Bretons, Rousseaux, Daubignys — very well — but a decline so full of charm — that there truly is still an immense, immense amount of good things to come, and they’re being made every day.
I’m longing dreadfully for the Louvre, Luxembourg etc., where everything will be so new to me.
For the rest of my life I’ll regret that I didn’t see the Cent chefs d’oeuvre,4 the Delacroix exhibition5 and the Meissonier exhibition.6 But there will still be plenty of opportunities to catch up. It’s true, for instance, that wanting to progress too quickly here, I may actually have progressed less, but what would you? My health is also behind it, and if I regain that as I hope to do, then my taking pains will have been less in vain.
After all, I believe that if one asks permission, one may draw plaster casts in the Louvre, even if one isn’t at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts.7
It wouldn’t surprise me if, once the idea of living together takes hold, you’ll find it odder and odder that we’ve been together so surprisingly little, if you will — for fully 10 years.
Anyway, I most certainly hope that this will be the end of it, and that it won’t begin again.
What you say about the apartment is perhaps really rather expensive. I mean, I’d be just as happy if it weren’t quite as good.
I’m curious as to how those few months in Nuenen will be for me. Since I have some furniture there, since it’s beautiful there, too, and I know the district a little, it might be a good thing for me to keep a pied-à-terre there, if need be in an inn where I could leave that furniture, since otherwise it will be lost — and it could still come in very useful.
There’s sometimes the most to do by returning to old places.
I must finish this now, since I’m going to the club.
Keep thinking about what we can best do. Regards.