Back to site

591 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Sunday, 1 April 1888.

metadata
No. 591 (Brieven 1990 592, Complete Letters 472)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Sunday, 1 April 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b512 V/1962

Date
Vincent thanks Theo for his letter and the enclosed money. This must have been the allowance of about Sunday, 1 April, since he tells Theo that he had recently received a letter from Willemien, to which he had replied immediately with letter 590 of about 30 March; the present letter must therefore have been written later. We have consequently dated it on or about Sunday, 1 April 1888.

Ongoing topics
Efforts to interest Tersteeg in modern art (580)
The plan to deal in modern art in England (578)
Disagreement with Reid (578)
Koning’s stay with Theo (578)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
merci de ta lettre ainsi que du billet de fr 50 y-inclus. J’aurais à t’écrire à mon aise mais dois le faire en grande hâte.– D’abord toujours encore Tersteeg.– Suis très-content de ce que ton envoi parte Lundi et en somme peut-être aussi de ce qu’il s’y trouve une toile de moi.–1
Cependant celle là ne compte pas puisque j’espère que tu trouveras bien ce que je viens de faire & dont la conséquence sera qu’une nouvelle toile de moi s’en aille en Hollande.–
J’avais travaillé une toile de 20 en plein air dans un verger – un terrain lilas labouré, une cloture en roseaux – deux pêchers roses contre un ciel glorieux bleu et blanc.2 Probablea le meilleur paysage que j’aie fait. Au moment où je l’ai rapporté chez moi je reçois de la part de notre soeur un écrit Hollandais dédié à la mémoire de Mauve avec son portrait (fort bien le portrait), le texte mal et disant rien – eauforte jolie.3 Seulement un je ne sais quoi m’a empoigné et serré la gorge  1v:2 d’émotion et j’ai écrit sur mon tableau

Souvenir de Mauve
Vincent & Theo4

et si tu le trouves bien tel quel nous l’enverrons à nous deux à Mme Mauve.
J’ai exprès pris la meilleure etude que j’aie fabriquée ici, je sais pas ce qu’ils en diront chez nous mais cela nous est égal. Il me semblait qu’il fallait en mémoire de Mauve quelque chôse et de tendre et de très gai et non pas une étude dans une gamme plus sérieuse que cela.

Ne crois pas que les morts soient morts
Tant qu’il y aura des vivants
Les morts vivront, les morts vivront”.5

C’est comme ça que je sens la chôse, pas plus triste que cela.
En outre de cela j’ai maintenant encore 4 ou 5 autres études de vergers6 et vais commencer une toile de 30 du même sujet.7
 1v:3
Ce blanc de zinc que j’emploie maintenant ne sèche point. Si tout était sec je ferais un envoi immédiatement. Seulement tous les jours sont bons maintenant, non quant au temps, il y a au contraire 3 jours de vent sur une journée tranquilles, mais quant aux motifs de vergers fleuris.– j’ai beaucoup de mal en peignant à cause du vent mais j’attache mon chevalet à des piquets plantés dans le terrain8 et travaille quand même, c’est trop beau.–
Maintenant continue ferme les relations avec Tersteeg. Succes ou pas, dans un an je suis porté à croire que cela y sera.–
Il me semble que Tersteeg & non pas Reid doive maintenant fonder l’exposition impressioniste en Angleterre.
Je n’aime aucunement la façon d’agir de Reid à notre égard, il me semble drole que Guillaumin et toi ne se soient pas déjà arrangés pour annuler la vente du tableau  1r:4 en question.9 Tu peux hardiment dire de ma part à Guillaumin que tel est décidement mon avis, et tant dans l’intérêt de G. lui-meme que dans l’intéret des affaires en général. le prix etait déjà derisoire.
Ou bien Reid, après ce qui s’est passé, doit acheter ferme, ou bien les artistes doivent lui fermer la porte au nez. J’ai vu ça comme ça dans le temps et réflexion faite je vois encore la chôse comme ça. Pour 300 francs on compromet les ventes prochaines, mais c’est très malheureux.–
Y a-t-il moyen que tu l’achètes pour nous, le tableau en question.10 Faudrait que Tersteeg sache tout ce qui est de l’affaire Reid et qu’il sache qu’il a un concurrent pour l’affaire Angleterre et qu’on préfererait que ce soit lui qui le fasse.– D’ailleurs ça me regarde pas, ça regarde – la maison Boussod Val. à laquelle vous appartenez, Tersteeg & toi.– En grande hâte.

t. à. t.
Vincent

Bien le bonjour à Koning & à demain j’espère si j’ai le temps d’écrire.

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter and for the 50-franc note enclosed in it. I would have things to write to you at leisure but have to do so in great haste. First of all, Tersteeg once again. Am very pleased that your consignment goes off on Monday and after all, perhaps also because there’s a canvas of mine in it.1
However, that one doesn’t count, because I hope you’ll think what I’ve just done is good and that it will mean a new canvas of mine goes off to Holland.
I’d worked on a no. 20 canvas in the open air in an orchard — ploughed lilac field, a reed fence — two pink peach trees against a glorious blue and white sky.2 Probably the best landscape I’ve done. Just as I brought it home I received from our sister a piece in Dutch dedicated to Mauve’s memory, with his portrait (really good, the portrait), the text poor and saying nothing — pretty etching.3 But something or other grabbed hold of me and made my throat tight  1v:2 with emotion, and I wrote on my painting

Souvenir de Mauve
Vincent & Theo4

and if you think it’s good as it stands we’ll send it to Mrs Mauve in both our names.
I deliberately took the best study I’ve made here, I don’t know what they’ll say about it back home, but that’s neither here nor there to us. It seemed to me that in memory of Mauve we needed something that was both tender and very cheerful and not a study in a more serious key than that.

Don’t believe that the dead are dead.
While there are people still alive
The dead will live, the dead will live.5

That’s how I feel the thing, no sadder than that.
In addition to that I now have another 4 or 5 studies of orchards6 and I’m going to start a no. 30 canvas of the same subject.7  1v:3
This zinc white that I’m using now doesn’t dry. If everything was dry I’d send a consignment at once. Only the days are all good now, not in terms of the weather, on the contrary, there are 3 windy days for one still one, but as for the subjects of orchards in blossom. I have a lot of trouble painting because of the wind, but I fix my easel to pegs stuck in the ground8 and work anyway, it’s too beautiful.
Now be steadfast in keeping up relations with Tersteeg. Success or not, in a year I’m inclined to believe it will be there.
It seems to me that Tersteeg and not Reid should now set up the Impressionist exhibition in England.
I don’t at all like Reid’s way of behaving towards us, it seems funny to me that you and Guillaumin haven’t already arranged to cancel the sale of the painting  1r:4 in question.9 You can tell Guillaumin boldly from me that that’s my firm opinion, and as much in the interests of G. himself as in the interests of business in general. The price was already derisory.
Either Reid, after what has happened, should buy outright, or the artists should shut the door in his face. That’s how I’ve seen it in the past, and on further reflection I still see it like that. For 300 francs we’re compromising further sales, but it’s very sad.
Is there any way for you to buy it for us, the painting in question?10 Tersteeg should know all about the Reid business, and know he has a competitor in the England business and that we’d prefer him to be the one who does it. Anyway, that’s not my affair, it’s that of the firm of Boussod Valadon, to which you belong, you and Tersteeg. In great haste.

Ever yours,
Vincent

Warm regards to Koning, and till tomorrow I hope, if I have time to write.
notes
1. The consignment to Tersteeg included The Seine with the Clichy bridge (F 303 / JH 1323 ); it arrived in The Hague on 6 April (see letter 589, n. 4).
2. Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394 / JH 1379 ); see further on this work: letter 590, n. 5.
a. Read: ‘Probablement’.
3. The weekly newspaper De Portefeuille had published an article dedicated to the memory of Mauve, which also appeared in an extended offprint. It must have been this offprint that Van Gogh had received from his sister, because it had the portrait of Mauve on the first page, whereas this was not printed in the paper. See E. Rittner Bos, ‘In memoriam Anton Mauve, overl. 6 februari 1888’, De Portefeuille. Kunst- en Letterbode 9 (1887-1888), vol. 1, pp. 647-648. The offprint was titled In memoriam A. Mauve (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum Library) and also contained Hendrik Adriaan Christiaan Dekker, ‘A. Mauve’ (originally in De Portefeuille. Kunst- en Letterbode 9 (1887-1888), vol. 1, pp. 237-239) and an epilogue. The portrait survived in the estate (t*1371). Ill. 2176 .
4. For the altered inscription on the painting, see letter 590, n. 7.
5. The opening and closing lines of the song that Miarka, the central character in Jean Richepin’s Miarka, la fille à l’ourse, sings ‘in a sad, soft voice, through the rain and through her tears’ (une voix triste et douce, à travers la pluie et à travers ses larmes). 5th ed. Paris n.d., livre quatrième, p. 237. The poem was set to music by Ernst Amédée Chausson, as the first of his ‘Deux chansons de Miarka’, op. 17, 1888.
6. In letter 590 Van Gogh said he was working on six studies. These probably included – besides the Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394/ JH 1379 ) mentioned above – Orchard with apricot trees in blossom (F 553 / JH 1387 ), Orchard with apricot trees in blossom (F 556 / JH 1383 ) and Almond tree in blossom (F 557 / JH 1397 ); the rest cannot be identified. See letter 590, n. 4.
7. We do not know of a no. 30 work from this period, nor a no. 25 canvas (which Van Gogh sometimes described as a no. 30). Van Gogh probably postponed his plan, since in letter 593 he said he was waiting for an absorbent no. 30 canvas. See further letter 594, n. 2.
8. Cf. letter 628 to Emile Bernard, where a passage about the same method is illustrated with a sketch.
9. Reid evidently wanted to buy a work from Guillaumin at a low price, and the latter had complained to Theo (cf. undated letter from Guillaumin to Theo, sale Piasa, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 20 November 2008, lot 201).
10. We do not know whether Theo did indeed buy Guillaumin’s work at this time. There were four Guillaumins in his estate; two of them, Self-portrait with palette and Portrait of a young woman, are now in the Van Gogh Museum. See Account book 2002, p. 22, and cat. Amsterdam 1987, pp. 350-351.