My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter and for the 100-franc note it contained. I’ve sent you croquis of the paintings intended for Holland.1 Goes without saying that the painted studies are more brilliant in colour. Am hard at work again, still orchards in blossom.
The air here is definitely doing me good, I could wish you deep lungfuls of it. One of its effects is quite funny, one small glass of cognac goes to my head down here, so without having recourse to stimulants to get my blood circulating, my constitution won’t be taxed so much all the same.
But I’ve had a terribly weak stomach since I’ve been here, well, that’s probably a matter of a lot of patience.
I hope to make real progress this year, which I really need to do too.
I’ve got a new orchard that’s as good as the pink peach trees -– some very pale pink apricot trees.2 At present I’m working on some yellow-white plum trees with thousands of black branches.3
I’m using vast quantities of canvases and colours but all the same I hope not to waste money.  1v:2
Out of 4 canvases perhaps there’ll scarcely be one that would make a painting like Tersteeg’s or Mauve’s, but we’ll be able to use the studies for exchanges, I hope. When will I be able to send you something? I’d so much like to do two of Tersteeg’s,4 because it’s better than the Asnières studies.5
Yesterday I saw a bullfight where five men were working the ox with banderillas and rosettes. A toreador crushed one of his balls jumping over the barrier.6 He was a blond man with grey eyes and a lot of sang-froid, they said he’d feel it for a long time. He was dressed in sky-blue and gold, just like the little horseman in our Monticelli with the 3 figures in a wood.7 The bullring looks so beautiful when there’s sunshine and a crowd.
Bravo for Pissarro, he’s right, I think.8 I hope he’ll do an exchange with us one day.9
The same for Seurat, it would be a good thing to have a painted study by him.10  1v:3
Anyway, I’m working hard, hoping we’ll be able to do things of this kind.
The month will be hard for you and me, but nevertheless, if you can manage it, it’s to our advantage to do as many orchards in blossom as we can. I’m now well under way and I need 10 more, I think, same subject.
You know I’m changeable in my work, and this rage to paint orchards won’t last for ever. After that it may be bullrings. And I have an ENORMOUS amount of drawing to do, because I’d like to do drawings in the style of Japanese prints. I can’t do anything but strike while the iron’s hot. Will be worn out after the orchards, because they’re no. 25 and 30 and 20 canvases.
We wouldn’t have too many if I could knock off twice the number. Because I believe that could perhaps melt the ice in Holland once and for all. Mauve’s death was a rude shock for me.11 You’ll easily see that the pink peach trees were painted with a certain passion.  1r:4 I also need a starry night with Cypresses or — perhaps above a field of ripe wheat, there are some really beautiful nights here. I have a constant fever for work.
Am quite curious to know what the results will be after a year, I hope by then I’ll be less troubled by fits of faintness. At the moment I suffer a lot some days, but that doesn’t worry me in the least because it’s nothing but the reaction to this past winter, which wasn’t normal. And the blood’s restoring itself, that’s the main thing.
We must reach the point where my paintings are worth what I spend and even exceed that, seeing that so much has been spent already. Ah well, we’ll get there. Not everything I do is a success, of course, but the work’s getting along. Up to now you haven’t complained about what I spend here, but let me warn you that if I continue my work at the same rate I’ll find it hard to manage. But the work’s excessive.
If a month or a fortnight comes when you feel hard up let me know — then I’ll turn my hand to doing drawings and that will cost us less. This is to tell you that you shouldn’t force yourself for no reason — there’s so much to do here, all sorts of studies, that it’s not the same as in Paris, where you can’t sit down wherever you please.12  2r:5
If it’s possible to manage a bit of a steep month, so much the better, because orchards in blossom are subjects we have a chance of selling or exchanging. But I thought about the fact that you’ll have the rent to pay, and that’s why you must let me know if you’re too hard up.
I’m still going about with the Danish painter, but he’s going home soon. He’s an intelligent boy, and fine as far as loyalty and manners go, but his painting is still very poor.13 You’ll probably see him when he passes through Paris.
It was kind of you to go and see Bernard.14 If he does his service in Algeria, who knows, perhaps I’ll go and keep him company.
Has winter come to an end in Paris at long last?  2v:6
I think what Kahn says is quite true, that I haven’t paid enough attention to values,15 but it’ll be quite another thing they’ll say later — and no less true.
It’s not possible to do both values and colour.
Théodore Rousseau has done it better than anyone else, by mixing his colours the darkness caused by time has increased, and now his paintings are hardly recognizable.16
You can’t be at the pole and the equator at the same time. You have to choose. And I have high hopes of doing that, too, and it will probably be colour.
More soon, handshake from me to you, to Koning and to the pals.



Br. 1990: 596 | CL: 474
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Monday, 9 April 1888

1. These watercolour sketches, The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 1480 / JH 1382 [2580]) and Pink peach trees (F 1469 / JH 1384 [2582]), are after the paintings The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 397 / JH 1368 [2571]) and Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394 / JH 1379 [2577]), which Van Gogh had intended for Tersteeg and Jet Mauve respectively.
[2580] [2582] [2571] [2577]
2. Since Van Gogh later used similar wording for the left-hand work of a triptych in a letter sketch in letter 597 (that is ‘Pale pink orchard, apricot trees’), he must be referring here to The pink orchard (F 555 / JH 1380 [2578]). This was painted on hand-prepared absorbent canvas. See Peres et al. 1991, p. 27. Although F 555 / JH 1380 is on size 25 ‘figure’ (65 x 81 cm), this will be the size 30 absorbent canvas Van Gogh said he was waiting for in his previous letter (see letter 593). In the present letter he calls his orchards no. 25, 30 and 20 canvases, but the sizes of the paintings he had made up to this point are 25 (F 555 / JH 1380 [2578] and F 403 / JH 1378 [2576]), 20 (F 394 / JH 1379 [2577] and F 405 / JH 1394 [2590]) and 15 (F 553 / JH 1387 [2585] and F 556 / JH 1383 [2581]). He wasn’t always accurate when it came to giving canvas sizes; in letters 611 and 620 he called a 25 ‘figure’ canvas a size 30. ‘The pink peach trees’ is the painting Pink peach trees (F 1469 / JH 1384 [2582]).
[2578] [2578] [2576] [2577] [2590] [2585] [2581] [2582]
3. The white orchard (F 403 / JH 1378 [2576]); cf. also the sketch in letter 597.
4. A few days later Van Gogh made a variant of the painting for Tersteeg: The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 571 / JH 1392 [2589]). See letter 595, n. 4.
5. See for Asnières: letter 592, n. 14.
6. The bullfight Van Gogh describes here took place on Sunday, 8 April. We learn from a letter to the editor in Le Forum Républicain that the fight had to be abandoned because the torero, Eugène Hélias, was injured. See Clébert and Richard 1989, p. 72.
7. Adolphe Monticelli, Arabs and horseman, 1871 (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). Ill. 305 [305].
8. This was most probably about the falling-out between Camille Pissarro and the collector, amateur artist and pastrycook Eugène Murer, who owned several of Pissarro’s early works. In a letter of 12 March 1888 Pissarro had refused Murer’s offer to dedicate his book Un quart d’heure d’amour to him because their artistic views had meanwhile diverged to such an extent that they could no longer understand each other. Pissarro’s refusal meant an irreversible breach. See Correspondance Pissarro 1980-1991, vol. 2, p. 219 (no. 473).
9. There was probably no exchange with Camille Pissarro during Van Gogh’s lifetime, since the only works in the estate are an etching, which the artist gave Theo, the fan he made for Jo (see letter 830) and a small watercolour. In August 1890 Theo exchanged Vincent’s Mulberry tree (F 637 / JH 1796 [2847]) for a painting by Pissarro. Jo van Gogh-Bonger sold this unidentified work, ‘a no. 10 canvas’, to Ambroise Vollard in 1897. See FR b825, b936 and Account book 2002, pp. 24, 199.
10. As far as we know, Van Gogh and Seurat never exchanged works.
11. Van Gogh’s first teacher Anton Mauve had died on 5 February 1888.
12. Theo wrote to Jo Bonger on 14 February 1889 about the problems Vincent had encountered when painting out of doors in Paris: ‘In Paris he saw masses of things he wanted to paint, but time and again he was prevented from doing so. Models didn’t want to pose for him, he was forbidden to sit and work in the street and because of his volatile disposition this repeatedly led to scenes, which upset him so much that he became completely unapproachable and by the end of it all he’d had more than enough of Paris.’ See Brief happiness 2000, pp. 160-161.
13. The Danish painter is Christian Mourier-Petersen. See for his departure for Paris: letter 584, n. 12. Two examples of his work in Arles are the painting Apricot trees in blossom, Arles, showing the same orchard as Van Gogh’s Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394 / JH 1379 [2577]), and Girl from Arles, for which he may have used the same model as Van Gogh in Mousmé (F 431 / JH 1519 [2671]). See Larsson 1993, pp. 17-22, ills. 1, 4.
[672] [2577] [2671]
14. Since the autumn of 1887 the Bernard family had lived at 5 avenue de Beaulieu in Asnières, where Bernard had his studio in the garden. See exhib. cat. Mannheim 1990, p. 97. Van Gogh verifies this address with Bernard (with Paris as the place name) in letter 698.
15. In the ‘Chronique de la littérature et de l’art’ the critic Gustave Kahn discussed Van Gogh’s paintings at the Indépendants exhibition (see letter 582, nn. 8 and 9). In his article ‘Peinture: Exposition des indépendants’, he wrote: ‘Mr van Gogh paints large landscapes with a vigorous brush, paying little attention to the value and precision of his tones. A multicoloured multitude of books faces a tapestry; this subject, which is good for a study, cannot be the pretext for a painting.’ (M. Van Gogh brosse vigoureusement, sans un assez grand souci de la valeur et de l’exactitude de ses tons, de grands paysages. Vers une tapisserie s’oriente une multitude polychrome de livres; ce motif bon pour une étude, ne peut être un prétexte à tableau). See La Revue Indépendante (April 1888), no. 18 (vol. 7), pp. 160-164, quotation on p. 163.
16. The darkening of Rousseau’s paintings was caused to a significant extent by his use of ‘bitumen’ or ‘drying oil’. In his Souvenirs sur Th. Rousseau (1872) Sensier cited as examples of ‘this deplorable method’ the painting The descent of the cattle in the High Jura mountains [402], which Van Gogh knew from Mesdag’s collection (cf. letter 246, n. 13), and The chestnut avenue in the Louvre. See Michel Schulman et al., Théodore Rousseau 1812-1867. Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint. Paris 1999, pp. 50-52; and cat. The Hague 1996, pp. 381-384, cat. nos. 286-287.