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592 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Tuesday, 3 April 1888.

metadata
No. 592 (Brieven 1990 594, Complete Letters 473)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Tuesday, 3 April 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b513 V/1962

Date
In letter 591 of about 1 April, Van Gogh said he hoped to write ‘tomorrow’. Now he says that he wrote letters ‘yesterday’ but tore them up (l. 7). This letter therefore dates from Monday, 2 April at the earliest – and at any rate it follows 591, since Van Gogh goes on about his plan to give Jet Mauve Souvenir de Mauveand about the consignment to Tersteeg. We have therefore dated the present letter on or about Tuesday, 3 April 1888.

Additional
The letter is not signed, so it may be incomplete.

Ongoing topics
Entry for the 1888 Indépendants exhibition (582)
Van Gogh wants to give Jet MauvePink Peach Trees(590)
Disagreement with Reid (578)
Koning’s stay with Theo (578)

Sketch

  1. Corner of a frame (F - / JH -), letter sketch. There are two words on the sketch: ‘or’ (gold) in the border of the frame and ‘bleu’ (blue) inside the box.

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
je suis dans une rage de travail puisque les arbres sont en fleurs et que je voulais faire un verger de Provence d’une gaieté monstre – t’écrire à tête reposé présente des difficultés serieuses, hier j’ai écrit des lettres que j’ai anéanties ensuite. Je continue à sentir tous les jours que nous sommes obligés de faire quelque chôse en Hollande – qu’il faut emmancher cela avec un entrain de sansculottes,1
avec une gaieté Francaise digne de la cause que nous plaidons.
Voici donc un plan d’attaque qui nous coûtera quelques uns des meilleurs tableaux que nous ayons fabriqué à nous deux, valant certes disons blusieurs pillets te mille vrans,2 enfin en tout cas nous ayant couté de l’argent et un lambeau de notre vie.
Mais ce serait une réponse à voix claire à de certaines insinuations sourdes nous traitant plus ou moins comme si nous étions déjà morts, et une revanche de ton voyage de l’année passé lorsque l’accueil qu’on t’a fait manquait de chaleur &c.3 Suffit.
Supposons donc que d’abord nous donnions à Jet Mauve le Souvenir de Mauve.4
 1v:2
Supposons que je dédie une étude à Breitner (j’en ai une précisement comme l’etude que j’ai échangé avec L. Pissarro5 et celle de Reid,6 des oranges, avant plan blanc, fond bleu).7
Supposons que nous donnions quelque etude aussi à notre soeur.8
Supposons que nous donnions au musée moderne de la Haye, puisque nous avons tant de souvenirs à la Haye, les 2 paysages Montmartre exposés aux Independants.9
Reste encore une chôse pas commode du tout. Tersteeg t’ayant écrit “envoies moi des impressionistes mais seulement les tableaux que toi-même jugeras être des meilleurs” et de ton côté tu ayant joint à cet envoi un tableau de moi,10 je me trouve dans la position pas commode de convaincre Tersteeg que reellement je suis un vrai impressioniste du petit boulevard11 et que je compte garder cette position.– Eh bien il aura un tableau de moi dans sa propre collection – j’y ai réflechi ces jours ci et j’ai trouvé une chôse drôle comme je n’en ferai pas tous les jours.  1v:3 C’est le pont Levis avec petite voiture jaune et groupe de laveuses, une etudes où les terrains sont orangé vif, l’herbe tres verte, le ciel et l’eau bleu.12
il lui faut seulement un cadre calculé expres en bleu de roi et or de ce modèle, le plat bleu, la baguette

[sketch A]
exterieure or. au besoin le cadre pourrait etre en pluche bleu mais mieux vaut le peindre.13
Je crois pouvoir t’assurer que ce que je fabrique ici est supérieur à la campagne d’Asnières au printemps dernier.14
Dans tout le plan il n’y a rien d’absolument décidé que la dedicace souvenir de Mauve et la dedicace à Tersteeg. Je n’ai pas encore réussi un petit mot écrit pour le lui dire mais je le trouverai, le tableau étant fait cela me viendra tout seul, mais tu sens bien que nous avons la force en nous pour les obliger de parler de nous si cela nous plait, et nous pouvons continuer le travail d’y introduire les impressionistes avec le plus grand calme et aplomb.
Si tu revois Reid il serait bon de lui dire que nous n’avons pas grande confiance dans le succes des gens ambitieux et que nous aimons mieux faire du bon travail, que nous avons ete surpris de ses facons de faire qui finissaient par être inexplicables et que depuis on ne sait plus que penser de lui.15 Je crois que Russell  1r:4 cherche à me reconcilier avec Reid et qu’il a écrit la lettre expres pour cela. j’écrirai surement à Russell en disant que j’ai carrément dit à Reid que j’étais sûr que c’était une erreur de lui et une folie que d’aimer les tableaux qui sont morts et de compter pour rien les artistes qui sont vivants. Que d’ailleurs j’espérais le voir changer en tant que quant à cela.16
J’ai dû dépenser aussitôt la lettre reçue presque tout pour des couleurs et des toiles et je voudrais bien qu’il te fusse possible de m’envoyer encore quelque chose de ces jours ci. Le tableau du jardin avec amoureux est au Theatre Libre.17 Boyer l’encadreur a toujours encore une lithographie, le vieillard à tête chauve.18
Je voudrais que l’envoi que je te ferai t’arrive avant que Tersteeg vienne à Paris et tu pourras mettre les pommiers en fleurs19 dans la chambre. Je suis bien content de ce que ça marche avec Koning et que tu ne restesa pas seul. Quel malheur avec Vignon, sans doute que M. Gendre était là-dedans, je lui souhaite à M. Gendre bien du mal, il en fait trop aux autres. C’est une triste fin pour le père Martin.20 Je ne puis pas encore te réussir une lettre telle que je voudrais, le travail m’absorbe complètement. Enfin c’est surtout pour te dire que je voudrais faire quelques etudes destinees pour la Hollande, puis après laisser la Hollande tranquille pour toujours. j’ai senti de ces jours ci en pensant à Mauve, à J.H. Weissenbruch, à Tersteeg, à notre mere et à Wil, plus d’emotion que raisonable peutêtre et cela me calme de me dire qu’on fera quelques tableaux pour là-bas. Puis après je les oublierai et ne penserai plus qu’au petit boulevard probable.b

Sois assuré que Tersteeg ne refusera pas le tableau et que c’est une resolution prise que celui là et celui pour Jet Mauve iront en Hollande.

de mon côté je n’écrirai pas à Tersteeg directement, si je lui dis quelque chôse je t’enverrai la lettre à toi avec le tableau.–

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
I’m in a fury of work as the trees are in blossom and I wanted to do a Provence orchard of tremendous gaiety — writing to you in a calm frame of mind presents serious difficulties, yesterday I wrote some letters that I later destroyed. I continue every day to feel that we’re obliged to do something in Holland — that we need to launch it with all the fervour of the sansculottes,1 with a French gaiety worthy of the cause we’re pleading.
So here’s a plan of attack that will cost us some of the best paintings we’ve made together, definitely worth let’s say a pundle off tousand-vrenc pills,2 well anyway they’ll have cost us money and a good slice out of our lives.
But it would be a loud and clear reply to certain muffled insinuations treating us more or less as if we were already dead, and a revenge for your trip last year when the welcome they gave you was lacking in warmth &c.3 Enough.
Let’s suppose, then, that first of all we gave Jet Mauve the Souvenir de Mauve.4  1v:2
Let’s suppose I dedicate a study to Breitner (I have one exactly like the study I exchanged with L. Pissarro5 and Reid’s one,6 oranges, foreground white, background blue).7
Let’s suppose we also gave our sister some study or other.8
Let’s suppose we gave the modern museum in The Hague, since we have so many memories in The Hague, the 2 Montmartre landscapes exhibited at the Independents’.9
There’s one more thing that’s not at all easy. With Tersteeg having written to you ‘send me some Impressionists, but only paintings you yourself think are among the best’, and you having for your part included one of my paintings in this consignment,10 I’m in the uncomfortable position of convincing Tersteeg I really am an Impressionist of the Petit Boulevard11 and that I expect to retain that position. Ah well, he’ll have one of my paintings in his own collection — I’ve been thinking about it these past few days and I’ve found a funny thing of a kind I’m not going to do every day.  1v:3 It’s the drawbridge with a little yellow carriage and group of washerwomen, a study in which the fields are a bright orange, the grass very green, the sky and the water blue.12
It just needs a frame designed specially for it, in royal blue and gold like this, the flat part blue, the outer

[sketch A]

strip gold. If necessary, the frame can be of blue plush, but it would be better to paint it.13
I think I can assure you that what I’m making here is better than my campaign in Asnières last spring.14
Nothing is absolutely decided in the whole plan except for the dedication in memory of Mauve and the dedication to Tersteeg. I haven’t yet managed to get a line written to tell him, but I’ll manage it, as the painting’s done it’ll come to me all by itself, but you’re well aware that we have the power in us to oblige them to talk about us if it so pleases us, and we can carry on the work of introducing the Impressionists there with the greatest calmness and self-assurance.
If you see Reid again it would be a good idea to tell him we don’t have much confidence in the success of ambitious people and that we prefer to do good work, that we were surprised at his ways of behaving, which in the end were inexplicable, and that since then we no longer know what to think of him.15 I think Russell  1r:4 is trying to make peace between Reid and me, and that he wrote the letter precisely with that in mind. I’ll certainly write to Russell saying I told Reid bluntly that I was sure it was a mistake on his part and crazy to like paintings that are dead and to have no regard for living artists. That in any case I hoped to see him change in that respect.16
As soon as I received the letter I had to spend almost everything on colours and canvases, and I’d be very pleased if it were possible for you to send me something extra in the next few days. The painting of the garden with lovers is at the Théâtre Libre.17 Boyer, the framer, still has a lithograph, the old man with a bald head.18
I’d like you to get the consignment that I’m going to make for you before Tersteeg arrives in Paris, and you can put the apple trees in blossom19 in the room. I’m really glad it’s going well with Koning and that you aren’t living alone. What a bad business with Vignon, no doubt Mr Gendre was involved, I wish Mr Gendre nothing but ill, he does too much of it to other people. It’s a sad end for père Martin.20 I still can’t manage a letter to you of the kind I’d like, work is absorbing me completely. Well, first and foremost it’s to tell you I’d like to do some studies intended for Holland, and after that leave Holland alone for ever. Thinking of Mauve, J.H. Weissenbruch, Tersteeg, our mother and Wil, in the past few days, I’ve felt more emotion than perhaps reasonable, and it calms me down to say to myself that we’ll do some paintings for there. And after that I’ll forget them and I’ll probably think only about the Petit Boulevard.

Rest assured that Tersteeg won’t refuse the painting, and that it’s a firm decision that that one and the one for Jet Mauve will go to Holland.

For my part I won’t write to Tersteeg direct, if I say something to him I’ll send the letter to you with the painting.
notes
1. Sans-culottes is the sobriquet of the revolutionaries in the French Revolution.
2. This comic spelling was probably prompted by Mourier-Petersen’s accent, which Van Gogh joked about; see letter 623.
3. A reference to Theo’s stay in the Netherlands in the second half of July 1887. At the time Vincent wrote in a letter to Willemien that Theo’s family and friends in Amsterdam and The Hague had not received him very warmly. He attributed this attitude to ‘professional jealousy’, because Theo was still selling pictures despite the difficult times. See letter 574.
4. Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394/ JH 1379 ).
5. Basket of apples (F 378 / JH 1340 ).
6. Reid had Basket of apples (F 379 / JH 1341 ).
7. Basket of oranges (F 395 / JH 1363 ) of early March 1888 (see letter 583). Breitner never had this study in his possession, nor was it dedicated to him.
8. Van Gogh had promised Sprig of almond blossom in a glass with a book (F 393 / JH 1362 ) to Willemien. See letter 590.
9. Since 1884 the Hague museum had been housed in a building in Korte Vijverberg and collected, among other things, paintings by contemporary (mainly Hague) artists. The gift of the two paintings, Vegetable gardens in Montmartre (F 350 / JH 1245 ) and The gardens of Montmartre (F 316 / JH 1246 ), did not go ahead.
10. For the consignment of paintings to Tersteeg, see letter 589, n. 4. Theo had included Vincent’s The Seine with the Clichy bridge (F 303 / JH 1323 ) in the consignment.
11. See for the ‘Petit Boulevard’: letter 584, n. 6.
12. The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 397 / JH 1368 ). Van Gogh dedicated the painting to Tersteeg, but in the end he did not get it; the dedication was removed. See letter 608, n. 3.
13. We do not know whether The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 397 / JH 1368 ) was framed in the way Van Gogh suggested. He painted a blue border around the second version (F 571 / JH 1392 ). See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1995-2, pp. 166-169.
14. In the spring and summer of 1887 Van Gogh painted a great deal in the neighbourhood of Asnières to the north of Paris. See for the works from this period: Hulsker 1996, pp. 280-285.
15. By Reid’s inexplicable behaviour Van Gogh was probably referring to his view that Reid had paid Guillaumin too low a price for a painting. See letter 591.
16. The proposed letter to Russell is letter 598, of 19 April.
17. The progressive Théâtre Libre in Paris, founded by André Antoine (96 rue Blanche), opened on 30 March 1887. Van Gogh’s Couples in a Montmartre garden (F 314 / JH 1258 ) hung in the rehearsal room. Seurat and Signac also exhibited there. See exhib. cat. Paris 1988, p. 34.
18. The frame maker Jean-Marie Boyer had his shop at 38bis rue Fontaine in Paris (Almanach du commerce de Paris 1887, and AP, Liste électorale 1889, 9e arr.). The lithograph was ‘At eternity’s gate’ (F 1662 / JH 268 ).
19. No work with apple trees in blossom from this period is known. The beginning of April is early for apple trees to come into flower, although it is not impossible in the warm south (with thanks to Hans den Nijs, Experimental Plant Systematics, University of Amsterdam). Van Gogh probably did not mean a specific painting here, but rather a subject he was planning to paint (some time later he mentions paintings of an orchard with ‘poiriers et pommiers’ (pear trees and apple trees)); see letter 597), or else he was using the word ‘pommiers’ here for orchards in blossom in general.
a. Read: ‘vives’.
20. It has not been possible to ascertain which question (or questions) Vincent is talking about here – evidently discussed by Theo in his previous letter. Pierre Firmin Martin, an art dealer and business contact of Theo’s, handled Victor Vignon’s work. See also letter 634, n. 9. Mr Gendre has not been identified.
b. Read: ‘probablement’.