My dear sister,
So as not to let your letter go unanswered I’m writing immediately upon receipt of your letter and Ma’s and the good wishes from you both.1
You should know that I’d be very happy to write to you more often were it not that quite a lot of things contribute to my not being master of my time, and you mustn’t imagine that I do exactly what I want or leave what I’d rather not do. The work has me in its grip now, I think for all time, and although this isn’t unhappy, I nonetheless imagine happiness as something very different.
To begin with, it gave me an enormous amount of pleasure here that relations have begun between Theo and Mr Tersteeg in order to make the work of the painters from here whom they call Impressionists known in Holland too.2
For myself I have no regrets about having come here, since I find nature here almighty beautiful.
By next year — when the World Exhibition will be held3 — I have to make a mass of things, because my friends will certainly also not fail to have a great many interesting things on hand.
Not that I or any of the painters with whom I’m more especially friendly will exhibit with the others, but an open exhibition will probably be staged alongside the official one at that time.4 Now here, for instance, at this moment, I have 6 paintings of blossoming fruit trees.5 And the one I brought home today would possibly appeal to you — it’s a dug-over patch of ground in an orchard, a wicker fence and two peach trees in full bloom, pink against a sparkling blue sky with white clouds and in sunshine.6 You may well see it, since I’ve decided to send this one to Jet Mauve. I’ve written on it
Souvenir de Mauve
Vincent & Theo7
Now I know very well that I could also have found such a subject elsewhere, but when I think that many painters will do the same I reckon it by no means immaterial to work in nature which, although it’s the same as at home in subject and fact, is undoubtedly much richer and more colourful.
Furthermore, the people here are picturesque too, and whereas at home a beggar looks much like a spectre, here he becomes a caricature. Since, as you’ll see when you read Zola and Guy de Maupassant, people definitely want — in art — something very rich and something very cheerful — even though that same Zola and Maupassant have said the most heart-rending things that have perhaps ever been said — the same movement is also beginning to become the rule in painting. For example I can imagine that a painter of today might make something like one finds described in the book by Pierre Loti, Le mariage de Loti, where nature in Otaheite is described.8 A book that I can really recommend to you.
You understand that the countryside of the south can’t exactly be painted with the palette of Mauve, say, who belongs in the north and is and always will be the master of grey. But today’s palette is definitely colourful — sky blue, pink, orange, vermilion, brilliant yellow, bright green, bright wine red, violet.
But by intensifying all the colours one again achieves calm and harmony. And something happens like with the Wagner music which, performed by a large orchestra, is no less intimate for that.9 Only people prefer sunny and colourful effects, and nothing stops me from thinking sometimes that later on many painters will go and work in tropical countries. You can get an idea of the change in painting if you think, say, of the colourful Japanese pictures that one sees everywhere, landscapes and figures. Theo and I have hundreds of these Japanese prints.10
You see I’m writing to you only about the work today, and I must close, and don’t know whether I’ll be able to write any more to add to it. Best wishes to you and Ma, and thanks for your letters.
For my part I must also wish you a happy birthday11 — since I’d like to give you something of my work that you’ll like I’ll set aside a little study of a book and a flower12 for you — in a large format with a whole mass of books with pink, yellow, green covers and fiery red — my painting Parisian novels was the same subject.13 Theo will bring this for you — I also have a study for Jet Mauve.14