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583 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Friday, 9 March 1888.

metadata
No. 583 (Brieven 1990 585, Complete Letters 467)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Friday, 9 March 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b507 V/1962

Date
Van Gogh writes: ‘this morning the weather has changed and has turned milder’. Following a period of cold and the mistral, after a slight improvement on 8 March the weather became considerably milder on 9 March (Météo-France). We have therefore dated the letter Friday, 9 March 1888.

Additional
Van Gogh enclosed letter 581 from Gauguin with this letter.

Ongoing topics
Efforts to interest Tersteeg in modern art (580)
Gauguin’s illness (581)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
à la fin des fin voilà que ce matin le temps a changé et s’est adouci – j’ai donc déja eu occasion d’apprendre ce que c’est que ce mistral1 aussi. J’ai fait plusieurs courses dans les environs mais toujours il était par ce vent impossible de rien faire. Le ciel était d’un bleu dur avec un grand soleil brillant qui a fait fondre à tant soit peu prèsa toute la quantité de neige – mais le vent était si froid et si sec qu’on en avait la chair de poule. Mais néamoins j’ai vu de bien belles choses – une ruine d’abbaye sur une colline plantée de houx, de pins, d’oliviers gris. Nous attaquerons cela sous peu j’espère.2 Maintenant je viens de terminer une étude comme celle qu’a Lucien Pissaro de moi mais cette fois ci c’est des oranges.3 Cela fait jusqu’ici huit études que j’ai.–4 Mais cela ne compte pas, comme j’ai pas encore pu travailler bien à mon aise et au chaud.–
 1v:2
La lettre de Gauguin que j’avais l’intention de t’envoyer mais que je croyais momentanément avoir brûlee avec d’autres papiers, l’ayant retrouvée après, je te l’envoie ci-inclus.5 Seulement je lui ai déjà écrit directement et je lui ai envoié l’adresse de Russell ainsi que j’ai envoyé celle de Gauguin à Russell afin qu’ils puissent, s’ils veulent, se mettre en rapport directement.6 Mais comme pour beaucoup d’entre nous – et surement nous serons de ce nombre nous mêmes – l’avenir est encore difficile.– Je crois bien à la victoire finale, mais les artistes en profiteront ils et verront ils des jours plus sereins?–
J’ai acheté de la grosse toile ici et je l’ai faite préparer pour les effets mats,7 je puis avoir tout maintenant à peu près au prix de Paris.
Samedi soir j’ai eu la visite de deux peintres amateurs  1v:3 dont l’un est épicier – et vend aussi les articles de peinture – et l’autre est un juge de paix qui a l’air bon et intelligent.8
Malheureusement je n’arrive guère à vivre à meilleur compte qu’à Paris, il faut que je compte 5 fr. par jour.
Je n’ai pour le moment encore rien trouvé en fait de pension bourgeoise mais cela doit sûrement exister pourtant.
Si à Paris le temps s’adoucit aussi cela te fera du bien.– Quel hiver!
Je n’ose pas rouler mes études encore car cela n’a guère séché et il y a des empâtements qui ne seront pas vite secs.–
Je viens de lire Tartarin sur les Alpes qui m’a énormement amusé.–9
Est ce que ce sacré Tersteeg t’a écrit, cela fera toujours du bien – va.–
S’il ne répond pas, il entendra parler de nous tout de même et nous ferons de façon qu’il n’y aie pas à redire sur nos actions.– Par exemple nous enverrons à Mme Mauve un tableau en souvenir de Mauve10 avec une lettre de nous deux aussi dans laquelle, si Tersteeg ne répond pas, nous ne dirons pas un mot contre  1r:4 lui mais nous ferons sentir que nous ne meritons pas qu’on nous traite comme si nous étions des morts.–
Enfin, il est probable que Tersteeg n’aura pas de parti pris contre nous en somme.
Ce pauvre Gauguin n’a pas de chance, je crains bien que dans son cas la convalescence soit encore plus longue que la quinzaine qu’il a dû passer au lit.
Nom de dieu quand est ce que l’on verra une génération d’artistes qui aient des corps sains. A des moments je suis vraiment furieux contre moi-même car il ne suffit pas du tout de n’être ni plus ni moins malade que d’autres, l’ideal serait d’avoir un temperament fort assez pour vivre 80 ans et avec ça un sang qui serait du vrai bon sang.
On s’en consolerait pourtant si on sentait qu’il va y venir une génération d’artistes plus heureux.
J’ai voulu t’ecrire tout de suite que j’ai esperance que l’hiver soit maintenant passé et j’espère qu’il en sera de même à Paris. Poignee de main.

b. à t.
Vincent

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
Now at long last, this morning the weather has changed and has turned milder — and I’ve already had an opportunity to find out what this mistral’s1 like too. I’ve been out on several hikes round about here, but that wind always made it impossible to do anything. The sky was a hard blue with a great bright sun that melted just about all the snow — but the wind was so cold and dry it gave you goose-pimples. But even so I’ve seen lots of beautiful things — a ruined abbey on a hill planted with hollies, pines and grey olive trees. We’ll get down to that soon, I hope.2 Now I’ve just finished a study like the one of mine Lucien Pissarro has, but this time it’s of oranges.3 That makes eight studies I have up to now.4 But that doesn’t count, as I haven’t yet been able to work in comfort and in the warm.  1v:2
The letter from Gauguin that I had intended to send you but which for a moment I thought I had burned with some other papers, I later found and enclose herewith.5 But I’ve already written to him direct and I’ve sent him Russell’s address as well as sending Gauguin’s to Russell, so that if they wish they can make direct contact.6 But as for many of us — and surely we’ll be among them ourselves — the future is still difficult. I do believe in a final victory, but will artists benefit from it, and will they see more peaceful days?
I’ve bought some coarse canvas here and I’ve had it prepared for matt effects,7 I can now get everything, more or less, at Paris prices.
On Saturday evening I had a visit from two amateur painters,  1v:3 one of whom is a grocer — and also sells painting materials — and the other a justice of the peace who seems kind and intelligent.8
Unfortunately I’m hardly managing to live more cheaply than in Paris, I need to allow 5 francs a day.
For the moment I haven’t found anything like a boarding-house, but there must surely be some.
If the weather also gets milder in Paris it will do you good. What a winter!
I daren’t roll up my studies yet because they’re hardly dry, and there are some areas of impasto that won’t dry for a while.
I’ve just read Tartarin sur les Alpes, which I greatly enjoyed.9
Has that bloody man Tersteeg written to you? That’ll do us good anyway — don’t worry.
If he doesn’t reply, he’ll hear people talking about us all the same, and we’ll make sure he has nothing to fault in what we do. For example, we’ll send Mrs Mauve a painting in memory of Mauve10 with a letter as well from us both in which, if Tersteeg doesn’t reply, we won’t say a word against  1r:4 him but we’ll make it understood that we don’t deserve to be treated as though we were dead.
In fact, it’s likely that Tersteeg won’t be predisposed against us after all.
That poor Gauguin has no luck, I do fear that in his case convalescence will take longer than the fortnight he had to spend in bed.
For Christ’s sake, when are we going to see a generation of artists with healthy bodies? Sometimes I’m really furious with myself because it isn’t good enough to be iller or less ill than others, the ideal thing would be to have a strong enough constitution to live for 80 years and along with that, blood that was real good blood.
But we could take comfort if we felt that a generation of more fortunate artists was going to come along.
I wanted to write to you straightaway that I’m hopeful winter’s over now and I hope it will be the same in Paris. Handshake.

Yours truly,
Vincent
notes
1. The mistral is a cold, dry katabatic wind from the north-west or north, which blows in the Rhône valley and the coastal regions of south-east France.
a. Conflation of the expressions ‘à peu près’ and ‘tant soit peu’, which both mean ‘almost’.
2. The medieval abbey of Montmajour on the plain of La Crau, about five km to the north-east of Arles. Van Gogh often worked in the immediate vicinity of the abbey and depicted it in several works.
3. The study with the oranges is Basket of oranges (F 395 / JH 1363 ). In Paris Van Gogh had exchanged his Basket of apples (F 378 / JH 1340 ) for several wood engravings by Lucien Pissarro (FR b886).
4. These eight studies are: An old woman of Arles (F 390 / JH 1357 ), Landscape with snow (F 290 / JH 1360 ), View of a butcher’s shop (F 389 / JH 1359 ) (see letter 578); a study, possibly Bowl of Potatoes (F 386 / JH 1365 ) (see letter 580); Landscape with snow (F 391 / JH 1358 ), Sprig of almond blossom in a glass (F 392 / JH 1361 ), Sprig of almond blossom in a glass with a book (F 393 / JH 1362 ) (see letter 582); and the Basket of oranges (F 395 / JH 1363 ) referred to above.
5. This was letter 581.
6. Van Gogh was trying to persuade Russell to buy a work from Gauguin (see also letter 582). As far as we know, Gauguin and Russell never got in touch. Merlhès suggests that Gauguin was too proud to approach Russell. Correspondance Gauguin 1984, p. 474 (n. 242).
7. Van Gogh means canvas with a ground that absorbs surplus oil, producing a matt effect. See Peres et al. 1991, pp. 26-27. He painted Avenue of plane trees (F 398 / JH 1366 ) and The Gleize bridge with washerwomen (F 396 / JH 1367 ) on this type of canvas.
8. The grocer was probably Jules Armand, ‘épicier-droguiste’, 30 rue du Quatre-Septembre. Stokvis mentions a Madame J. Armand, the widow of a grocer who was an amateur artist, ‘where Vincent occasionally bought what he needed’. Coquiot calls her ‘the widow of a colourman, where Vincent bought supplies the first few days’, but he doesn’t give a name. See Stokvis 1929, p. 4, and Coquiot 1923, p. 164.
Jules Armand was the first known owner of Marcelle Roulin (F 440 / JH 1639). In the Museon Arlaten in Arles there is a portrait of an Arlésienne, signed ‘J. Armand 1889’. We know from the local newspapers that he regularly exhibited his work in the window of the Bompard fils’ wallpaper shop at 14 place de la République, under the name Armand-Ronin. The official deeds give his name as Jean Auguste Armand; on the electoral roll and in address books it is Jules Armand; Ronin was the maiden name of his wife Joséphine (ACA).
At this time there were two justices of the peace in Arles: Paul Marre for the western canton, and Eugène Giraud for the eastern canton (L’indicateur marseillais 1888). We do not know which of the two was an amateur artist. In May 1888 Van Gogh went to see Giraud about a dispute with his landlord; see letter 609, n. 1.
9. Alphonse Daudet’s Tartarin sur les Alpes (1885), like Tartarin de Tarascon (1872), is a satirical novel that mocks the men of southern France, and particularly the inhabitants of Tarascon. The central character, Tartarin, a self-proclaimed lion-hunter and the president of the Tarascon mountain climbing association – whose members have never been further than the foothills of the Alpilles – goes to Switzerland to conquer the highest peaks in the Alps and strengthen his position as president before the elections. Tartarin is a know-it-all, who tries to rescue himself from embarrassing situations that he himself has caused.
10. Mauve died on 5 February. Around 30 March, in response to his death, Van Gogh painted Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394 / JH 1379 ) and decided to give it to Mauve’s widow, Jet Mauve-Carbentus. See letter 590.