My dear Theo,
I thank you very much for your letter, which I hadn’t even dared to expect so soon as regards the 50-franc note you included with it.
I see you’ve had no response yet from Tersteeg — I don’t see the need to press the point from our end in a new letter — however, if you had some official business to transact with the firm of Boussod Valadon & Cie in The Hague you could make it clear in a P.S. that you’re quite surprised that he hasn’t let you know that he received the letter in question. As far as work goes, I brought home a no.15 canvas today, it’s a drawbridge, with a little carriage going across it, outlined against a blue sky — the river blue as well, the banks orange with greenery, a group of washerwomen wearing blouses and multicoloured bonnets.1 And another landscape with a little rustic bridge and washerwomen as well.2 Lastly an avenue of plane trees near the station.3 12 studies altogether since I’ve been here.4
The weather’s changeable, often windy and cloudy skies — but the almond trees are starting to blossom everywhere. All in all I’m very pleased that the paintings are at the Independents.5  1v:2
You’ll do well to go and see Signac at his place.6 I was very pleased at what you wrote in today’s letter, that he made a better impression on you than the first time. In any case I’m happy to know that from today you won’t be on your own in the apartment. Be sure to say hello to Koning for me. Is your health good? As far as mine goes, it’s better, but eating’s a real chore as I have a fever and no appetite, but it’s just a passing thing and a question of patience.
I have company in the evening, because the young Danish painter who’s here is very nice; his work is dry, correct and timid, but I’m not averse to that when the person is young and intelligent. At one time he’d begun to study medicine, he knows the works of Zola, De Goncourt and Guy de Maupassant, and he has enough money to have an easy time of it.7 Besides that he has a very serious wish to do something different from what he’s doing at present. I think he’d do well to put off returning home for a year, or to come back after a short visit to his compatriots.
But, my dear brother — you know, I feel I’m in Japan. I say no more than that, and again, I’ve seen nothing yet in its usual splendour.  1v:3 That’s why (even while being worried that at the moment expenses are steep and the paintings of no value), that’s why I don’t despair of success in this enterprise of going on a long journey in the south. Here I’m seeing new things, I’m learning, and being treated with a bit of gentleness, my body isn’t refusing me its services. For many reasons I’d like to be able to create a pied-à-terre which, when people were exhausted, could be used to provide a rest in the country for poor Paris cab-horses like yourself and several of our friends, the poor Impressionists.
I attended the inquiry into a crime committed at the door of a brothel here; two Italians killed two Zouaves.8 I took advantage of the opportunity to go into one of the brothels in the little street called ‘des Récollets’.9 Which is the limit of my amorous exploits vis-à-vis the Arlésiennes. The crowd almost (the southerner, following Tartarin’s example,10 being braver in good intentions than in action), the crowd, I’m telling you, almost lynched the murderers locked up in the town hall, but its revenge was that all the Italians, men and women, including the young chimney-sweeps, had to leave the town under duress.11  1r:4
I wouldn’t talk to you about that if it weren’t to tell you that I’ve seen the boulevards of this town full of excited people. And really, that was quite beautiful.
I made my last three studies with the help of the perspective frame you know about.12 I attach importance to the use of the frame, because it doesn’t seem unlikely to me that several artists will use it in the not too distant future, just as the old German and Italian painters, certainly, and, I’m inclined to believe, the Flemish artists too, used it.
The modern use of this tool may differ from the use people made of it in the past — but — isn’t it also true that with the process of painting in oils we nowadays achieve very different effects from those of the inventors of the process, J. and Hubert van Eyck?13 This is to say that I still hope not to work for myself alone. I believe in the absolute necessity of a new art of colour, of drawing and — of the artistic life. And if we work in that faith, it seems to me that there’s a chance that our hopes won’t be in vain. You’ll still know that I’m in a position to send you some studies if need be, only it’s still impossible to roll them up. I shake your hand firmly. On Sunday I’ll write to Bernard and Lautrec because I solemnly promised to. Anyway, I’ll send you the letters.14 I’m really sorry about Gauguin’s situation, especially since, now that his health has been undermined, he no longer has a constitution that could only benefit from being put to the test, on the contrary, it will just wear him out now, and that will surely make it difficult for him to work. More soon.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 587 | CL: 469
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Friday, 16 March 1888

1. The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 397 / JH 1368 [2571]).
2. The Gleize bridge with washerwomen (F 396 / JH 1367 [2570]).
3. Avenue of plane trees (F 398 / JH 1366 [2569]).
4. Among these twelve studies, aside from the three works just mentioned, were the eight studies referred to in letter 583: An old woman of Arles (F 390 / JH 1357 [2561]), Landscape with snow (F 290 / JH 1360 [2564]), View of a butcher’s shop (F 389 / JH 1359 [2563]), Landscape with snow (F 391 / JH 1358 [2562]), Sprig of almond blossom in a glass (F 392 / JH 1361 [2565]), Sprig of almond blossom in a glass with a book (F 393 / JH 1362 [2566]), Basket of oranges (F 395 / JH 1363 [2567]) and a study, possibly Bowl of Potatoes (F 386 / JH 1365 [2568]). The twelfth work was Pollard willows with setting sun (F 572 / JH 1597 [2727]) (see letter 584, n. 7).
[2561] [2564] [2563] [2562] [2565] [2566] [2567] [2568] [2727]
5. Van Gogh exhibited three works with the Indépendants; see letter 582, n. 9.
6. In 1888 Signac lived at 130 boulevard de Clichy, where he also had his studio. Theo could have visited him there, or it might have been in his mother’s house in Asnières, where Signac often received his friends.
7. Christian Mourier-Petersen – whom Van Gogh refers to as ‘young’, but who was actually only five years younger than him – had studied medicine for some time in Copenhagen prior to 1880. He came from a family of landowners and had the considerable sum of 6000 Danish Kroner available for his planned three-year ‘Grand Tour’ to the south of Europe. See Larsson 1993, pp. 12-13.
8. At eleven o’clock in the evening of 11 March the Zouaves Louis-Edouard Dupont and Jean Destanque were stabbed to death when leaving a brothel in rue des Récollets after a row with three Italian labourers. This brothel, the ‘maison de tolérance’ no. 14 on the corner of the rue du Bout d’Arles and rue des Récollets, must have been the one that Van Gogh visited. See Murphy 2016, pp. 60-61, 270 (n. 8). The investigation of the crime (and hence also Van Gogh’s brothel visit) took place in the afternoon of Monday, 12 March. See further n. 11 below.
9. Rue des Récollets opened off rue de la Cavalerie, where Van Gogh’s boarding-house was.
10. The central character in Daudet’s novels Tartarin de Tarascon (1872) and Tartarin sur les Alpes (1885); see letter 583, n. 9.
11. The local newspapers L’Homme de Bronze and Le Forum Républicain reported on the occurrence at length in their editions of Sunday, 18 March. L’Intransigeant of 19 March 1888 also covered it. The incident brought the whole town of Arles up in arms. When the offenders were rounded up, the buildings where they were locked up were besieged by a crowd of angry inhabitants. They also drove virtually all the Italians out of the town, prompted in part by anger that they took a lot of jobs while there was high unemployment among the local population. The murdered Zouaves were buried with great ceremony on Wednesday, 14 March, and the event attracted crowds of people.
For the ‘petits ramoneurs savoyards’ see www.hautesavoiephotos.com.
12. For Van Gogh’s knowledge and use of the perspective frame see letter 235, n. 10 and cat. Amsterdam 2011. See for the three studies: nn. 1-3 above.
13. In the fifteenth century artists made the paint thicker and more stable by adding special oil. Jan van Eyck was certainly one of the first artists to use this technique, but contrary to what is often asserted he did not invent it.
14. These letters were enclosed with letter 588.