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581 Paul Gauguin to Vincent van Gogh. Pont-Aven, on or about Wednesday, 29 February 1888.

No. 581 (Brieven 1990 583, Complete Letters GAC 28)
From: Paul Gauguin
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Pont-Aven, on or about Wednesday, 29 February 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b839 V/1962

The letter dates from no later than 1 March, since Theo had to send it on from Paris and Vincent says in letter 582 of around 2 March that he has meanwhile received it. Moreover, he does not mention Gauguin’s letter in his letter to Theo of around Monday, 27 February (letter 580). We, like Merlhès, have therefore dated it on or about Wednesday, 29 February 1888. See Correspondance Gauguin 1984, p. 172.

Vincent sent this letter to Theo for him to read, together with letter 583. From ll. 3-4 it appears that Gauguin assumed that the brothers were still living together. He had consequently sent the letter to Theo’s address, and Theo had apparently sent it on unopened. Vincent says in letter 582 that in future Theo can open his mail.

original text
Mon cher Vincent,
je voulais écrire à votre frère mais je sais que vous vous voyez tous les jours1 et je crains de l’ennuyer, occupé comme il est depuis le matin jusqu’au soir par les affaires.
Je suis parti pour travailler en Bretagne, (toujours la rage de peindre), et j’avais bon espoir d’avoir les fonds pour celà.– Le peu que j’ai vendu a servi à payer les quelques dettes criardes et dans un mois je vais me trouver sans rien.– Zéro  1v:2 c’est une force négative.–
Je ne veux pas presser votre frère mais un petit mot de vous à ce sujet me tranquiliserait ou du moins me ferait patienter. Mon dieu que les questions d’argent sont terribles pour un artiste!
Et s’il faut faire des rabais ne craignez pas, pourvu que je trouve quelques fonds.–2 Je viens de passer 15 jours dans le lit, repris par la fièvre3 et je recommence à travailler. Si je peux étaler  1v:3 5 à 6 mois je crois que je rapporterai quelques bonnes toiles.–
Un mot de réponse encourageant si c’est possible.–4

Tout à vous
Paul Gauguin

Pont Aven chez Made Gloanec

My dear Vincent,
I wanted to write to your brother but I know you see each other every day1 and I’m afraid to trouble him, occupied as he is with business from morning till night.
I have left to work in Brittany (always the rage to paint), and I had high hopes of having funds for that. The little I’ve sold went to pay off some pressing debts, and in a month I’m going to find myself with nothing. Zero  1v:2 is a negative power.
I don’t want to put pressure on your brother, but a brief word from you on this subject would set my mind at rest, or at least enable me to hold on. My God, how terrible these money matters are for an artist!
And if we have to make some reductions don’t worry, as long as I find some funds.2 I’ve just spent a fortnight in bed, struck down again by fever,3 and I’m getting back to work. If I can eke things out for  1v:3 5 or 6 months I think I’ll bring back some good canvases.
A word of encouragement in reply if possible.4

Ever yours,
Paul Gauguin

Pont-Aven, at Madame Gloanec’s
1. Gauguin was evidently unaware that Van Gogh had gone to Arles; he himself having left Paris for Brittany on 26 January. See Merlhès 1989, p. 61.
2. In December 1887 Theo had taken several recent works by Gauguin on commission. He showed four paintings, The beach at Dieppe (W178/W166), Bathing at the watermill in the Bois d’Amour (W221/W272), Landscape with swine (W229/-) and Coming and going (W245/-), and five ceramic objects by Gauguin, followed in January by the exhibition of one painting, Two female bathers (W241/W215). Op 26 December 1887 Theo had made his first sale of one of his works, Bathing at the watermill in the Bois d’Amour, for 450 francs. See Wildenstein 2001, pp. 217, 276, 287, 328, 314, 608.
3. In 1888 Gauguin suffered for several months from the after-effects of the malaria, dysentery and hepatitis he had contracted during his trip to Panama and Martinique with the painter Charles Laval (from April to October 1887). See exhib. cat. Washington 1988, p. 45.
4. In letter 583 of about 9 March, Vincent told Theo that he had written to Gauguin and given him Russell’s address in the hope that he would buy work by Gauguin.
5. Gauguin was staying in the boarding-house run by Marie-Jeanne Gloanec-Morvan in Pont-Aven, 13 place de la Mairie, Finistère (Brittany). Cf. Correspondance Gauguin 1984, pp. 433-436 (with a photograph of the boarding-house).