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595 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Wednesday, 11 April 1888.

metadata
No. 595 (Brieven 1990 598, Complete Letters 476)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Wednesday, 11 April 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b516 V/1962

Date
The order of letters 595, 596 and 597 can be established on the basis of the descriptions of the progress of the work. It emerges from letter 597 that Van Gogh painted the plum trees first and then turned his attention to the enclosed orchard (the third triptych, as yet at an early stage). In letters 594 and 595 he is still working on the plum trees, but in letter 596 to Bernard he describes the new subject of the enclosed orchard with pear and peach trees. In the present letter to Theo he does not mention this latter subject, which indicates that this letter predates the one to Bernard.
The fact that letter 597 was written after 595 can be deduced from the paint order: in 595 he briefly acknowledges its receipt, and in 597 he discusses the order in more detail. We assume that these letters must have been written in quick succession and did not cross with the lost letter of about Sunday, 15 April (see letter 601). At the same time we regard it as more likely that they were written before this date than after it, given the continuity of the intensive work on the orchard series: in the present letter Van Gogh writes that he is working on The white orchard (F 403 / JH 1378), which is also mentioned in letter 594 of 9 April, and he says he is starting on The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 571 / JH 1392), on which he is still working in letter 597. In the absence of any further clues we have spaced the three letters evenly over the week between 9 and about 15 April, and dated 595 on or about Wednesday, 11 April, 596 on or about Thursday, 12 April and 597 on or about Friday, 13 April 1888.

Ongoing topics
Van Gogh wants to give Pink peach treesto Jet Mauve (590)
Koning’s stay with Theo (578)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
c’est rudement bon à toi de m’avoir envoyé la commande de couleurs toute entière,1 je viens de les recevoir mais n’ai pas encore eu le temps de les vérifier. J’en suis fort content. La journée d’aujourd’hui a d’ailleurs été bonne. Ce matin j’ai travaillé à un verger de pruniers en fleurs2 – tout à coup il a commencé à faire un vent formidable, un effet que je n’avais jamais vu qu’ici – et qui revenait par intervalles. Entre temps du soleil qui faisait etinceler toutes les petites fleurs blanches. C’était tellement beau! Mon ami le Danois3 est venu me rejoindre et au risques et perils à chaque moment de voir tout le tremblement par terre ai continué à peindre – il y a dans cet effet blanc beaucoup de jaune avec du bleu & du lilas, le ciel est blanc et bleu. Mais la facture de ce qu’on fait ainsi dehors, qu’en diront ils? Enfin attendons.  1v:2
Alors après diner j’ai mis en train le même tableau que je destine à Tersteeg, “le pont de l’Anglais”, pour toi.4 Et j’ai bien envie de faire une répétition de celui pour Jet Mauve aussi,5 parceque puisque je dépense tant nous ne devons pas perdre de vue qu’il faut chercher à en rattraper, de cet argent qui file vite.
J’ai après regretté de ne pas avoir demandé les couleurs au Pere Tanguy tout de même quoiqu’il n’y aie pas le moindre avantage à cela – au contraire – mais c’est un si drôle de bonhomme et je pense encore souvent à lui. N’oublie pas de lui dire bonjour pour moi si tu le vois et dis lui que s’il veut des tableaux pour sa vitrine il en aura d’ici et des meilleurs.–6 Ah il me semble de plus en plus que les gens sont la racine de tout et quoique cela demeure éternellement un sentiment melancolique de ne pas se trouver dans la vraie vie, dans ce sens qu’il vaudrait mieux travailler dans  1v:3 la chair même que dans la couleur ou le plâtre, dans ce sens qu’il vaudrait mieux fabriquer des enfants que de fabriquer des tableaux ou de faire des affaires, cependant on se sent vivre quand on y songe qu’on a des amis dans ceux qui eux non plus sonta dans la vie vraie.
Mais justement à cause de ce que c’est dans le coeur des gens qu’est aussi le coeur des affaires, il faut conquerir des amitiés en Hollande ou plutôt les ranimer. De plus puisque pour la cause de l’impressionisme on a peu à craindre dans ce moment de ne pas gagner. Et c’est à cause de la victoire presqu’assurée d’avance que de notre côté il faut avoir de bonnes manières et faire tout cela avec calme.
J’aurais bien voulu voir l’incarnation de Marat dont tu as parlé l’autre jour.7 Cela m’intéresserait certes beaucoup. Involontairement je me figure Marat comme l’équivalent – au moral – (mais plus puissant) de Xantippe8 – La femme qui a l’amour aigri.– Qui demeure touchante quand bien même – mais enfin c’est pas aussi gai que la maison Tellier de Guy de Maupassant.9
 1r:4
Est ce que de Lautrec a fini son tableau d’une femme accoudée sur une petite table de café?–10
Si je réussis à apprendre à travailler sur une autre toile les études faites sur nature, nous y gagnerions pour ce qui est de la possibilité de la vente.– J’espère y arriver ici – et c’est pourquoi je fais un essai avec les deux tableaux qui s’en iront en Hollande,11 d’un autre côté tu les auras aussi et de cette façon il n’y a pas d’imprudence.
Tu as eu raison de dire à Tasset qu’il fallait ajouter la laque géranium tout de même, il l’a envoyée, je viens de vérifier – toutes les couleurs que l’impressionisme a mises à la mode sont changeantes, raison de plus de les employer hardiment trop crues, le temps les adoucira que trop.12 Ainsi toute la commande que j’ai faite, soit les 3 chromes (l’orangé, le jaune, le citron), le bleu de prusse, l’émeraude, les laques de garance, le vert veronese, la mine orange, tout cela ne se trouve guère sur la palette hollandaise, Maris, Mauve et Israels.–13 Seulement cela se trouvait sur celle de Delacroix qui avait la rage des deux couleurs les plus condamnées et pour les meilleures raisons, le citron et le bleu de Prusse.–14 Cependant il me semble qu’il en aie fait de superbes avec cela, des bleus et des jaunes citron. Poignee de main à toi, à Koning et encore une fois bien merci des couleurs.

t. à t.
Vincent

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
It’s awfully good of you to have sent me the complete order of colours,1 I’ve just received them but haven’t yet had the time to check them. I’m so pleased about it. Today has been a good day too. This morning I worked on an orchard of plum trees in blossom2 — suddenly a tremendous wind began to blow, an effect I’d only ever seen here — and came back again at intervals. In the intervals, sunshine that made all the little white flowers sparkle. It was so beautiful! My friend the Dane3 came to join me, and at risk and peril every moment of seeing the whole lot of it on the ground I carried on painting — in this white effect there’s a lot of yellow with blue and lilac, the sky is white and blue. But as for the execution of what we do out of doors like this, what will they say? Well, let’s wait and see.  1v:2
So, after supper I started on the same painting I intend for Tersteeg, ‘The Langlois bridge’, for you.4 And I’d really like to make a repetition of that one for Jet Mauve too,5 because since I’m spending so much we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we’ve got to try to get some back, of this money that’s quickly slipping away.
Afterwards I was sorry I hadn’t asked for the colours from père Tanguy anyway, although there isn’t the least advantage in that — on the contrary — but he’s such a funny fellow and I still think of him often. Don’t forget to say hello to him for me if you see him, and tell him that if he’d like any paintings for his shop window he can have some from here, and the best.6 Ah, it seems to me more and more that people are the root of everything, and although it remains for ever a melancholy feeling not to find oneself in real life, in the sense that it would be better to work in  1v:3 flesh itself than colour or plaster, in the sense that it would be better to make children than to make paintings or to do business, at the same time you feel you’re living when you consider that you have friends among those who themselves aren’t in real life either.
But precisely because what’s in people’s hearts is also the heart of business, we have to conquer friendships in Holland, or rather, revive them. All the more so since, as far as the cause of Impressionism goes, we have little to fear at the moment of not winning through. And it’s because of this victory that’s almost guaranteed in advance that for our part we have to have good manners and do everything calmly.
I would really like to have seen the embodiment of Marat you spoke about the other day.7 That would certainly interest me very much. Unwittingly, I imagine Marat as the — moral — equivalent (but more powerful) of Xanthippe8 — the woman whose love turned sour. Who nevertheless is still touching — but in the end it’s not as jolly as Guy de Maupassant’s La Maison Tellier.9  1r:4
Has De Lautrec finished his painting of a woman leaning on a little café table?10
If I manage to learn how to work up the studies I’ve done from life on another canvas, we’d gain in terms of possible sales. I hope to succeed in doing it here — and that’s why I’m making a trial effort with the two paintings that will go to Holland,11 and on the other hand, you’ll have them too, and in this way there’s nothing reckless.
You were right to tell Tasset that the geranium lake should be included after all, he sent it, I’ve just checked — all the colours that Impressionism has made fashionable are unstable, all the more reason boldly to use them too raw, time will only soften them too much.12 So the whole order I made up, in other words the 3 chromes (the orange, the yellow, the lemon), the Prussian blue, the emerald, the madder lakes, the Veronese green, the orange lead, all of that is hardly found in the Dutch palette, Maris, Mauve and Israëls.13 But it’s found in that of Delacroix, who had a passion for the two colours most disapproved of, and for the best of reasons, lemon and Prussian blue.14 All the same, I think he did superb things with them, blues and lemon yellows. Handshake to you, to Koning and once again many thanks for the colours.

Ever yours,
Vincent
notes
1. See letter 593 for Van Gogh’s order from Tasset & Lhote in Paris; he had left it up to Theo to place either a limited or a large order.
2. The white orchard (F 403 / JH 1378 ). Van Gogh also mentioned working on this painting in letter 594.
3. Christian Mourier-Petersen.
4. The painting intended for Tersteeg was The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 397 / JH 1368 ); the repetition of this is The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 571 / JH 1392 ). Van Gogh wrote ‘Pont de l’Anglais’, but the bridge was actually called ‘Pont de Langlois’ after the former bridge-keeper – he also wrote the incorrect title on the watercolour The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 1480 / JH 1382 ). The official name was Pont de Réginelle (or Réginal).
5. Van Gogh painted a repetition of the painting intended for Jet Mauve, Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394 / JH 1379 ); this was Pink peach trees (F 404 / JH 1391 ). See letter 597, n. 3.
6. At this time the paint merchant Julien Tanguy had works by Van Gogh in stock. It emerges from a letter of 29 May 1888 from Gustave Geffroy to Theo that the collector Paul Gallimard wanted to buy two works by Van Gogh from Tanguy (FR b1199).
a. Read: ‘non plus ne sont pas’.
7. It is not clear what this remark relates to. There is possibly a link with the legal proceedings that one of Jacques Louis David’s heirs had instituted against someone who had presented a copy of his famous painting of Marat as the original. See Gazette des Beaux-Arts of 10 March 1888. It is not impossible that the reference is in some way an extension of this topical issue.
8. Xantippe was the wife of the Greek philosopher Socrates; her name is synonymous with a spiteful woman or shrew.
9. The novella La Maison Tellier (1881) by Guy de Maupassant describes a day in the life of Madame Tellier, the owner of the brothel Maison Tellier, and her five girls. The ladies set off to attend the first communion of Madame’s niece, they enjoy ordinary everyday life and the festivities, and they go to Mass.
10. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The hangover (Cambridge, Mass., Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University). Ill. 2177 .
11. The paintings intended for Tersteeg and Jet Mauve, see nn. 4 and 5 above.
12. On the discolouration of red pigments in Van Gogh, see Maarten van Bommel, Muriel Geldof and Ella Hendriks, ‘Examination of the use of organic red pigments in paintings by Vincent van Gogh (November 1885 to February 1888)’, Art matters. Netherlands technical studies in art 3 (2005), pp. 111-137.
13. The phrase ‘the Dutch palette’ and the list of painters refer to the artists of the Hague School, which was well known for its muted palette with numerous grey tints. Several technical research projects have demonstrated that most of the pigments that Van Gogh mentions here were indeed used by those painters (with thanks to René Boitelle). In this connection see, among others, W.E. Roelofs Jr, De practijk van het schilderen. Wenken aan collega’s door een kunstschilder. Amsterdam 1919, who also lists the pigments mentioned by Van Gogh, giving them their Dutch names. It should be added that Van Gogh must have known through his contacts with Mauve and other artists whom he met in The Hague that they did indeed use modern, bright pigments.
14. Van Gogh had read about Delacroix’s bold use of lemon yellow and Prussian blue in his Pietà in Silvestre’s Eugène Delacroix. Documents nouveaux who had observed: ‘You had to be Delacroix to dare that, the chrome yellow changing more than gold and turning green with time’ (Il fallait être Delacroix pour oser cela, le jaune de chrôme s’altérant plus que l’or, et verdissant avec le temps). See letter 526, n. 4. His assertion that Prussian blue was ‘disapproved of’ is confirmed by the manuals by Karl Robert and others, who warn against the use of Prussian blue in large quantities or unmixed. See M. Rummens, ‘Van Goghs expressieve onhandigheid’, Jong Holland 10-4 (1994), pp. 32-33. See also cat. Amsterdam 2011.