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607 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Thursday, 10 May 1888.

metadata
No. 607 (Brieven 1990 609, Complete Letters 485)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Thursday, 10 May 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b525 V/1962

Date
Van Gogh writes that the crate with the first consignment of paintings will go off ‘today’ (l. 36); in his previous letter, of 7 May, he said he had wanted to send it, but had not yet got that far (letter 606). In his letter of 12 May he reports that the consignment has actually been sent (letter 609), and the weather reports confirm what he says in the present letter: ‘the weather’s beautiful’ (ll. 21-22) – from 7 to 10 May it was hot and there was little wind (Météo-France). Since Jo van Gogh-Bonger gave the date as 10 May in Brieven 1914, and she may have had a postmark to go on, we have dated the letter Thursday, 10 May 1888.

Ongoing topics
Dispute with the hotel-keeper Carrel about the bill (606)
First consignment of paintings from Arles (606)
Theo’s trip to Belgium and the Netherlands (600)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
J’ai provisoirement à payer ma note tout en étant stipulé sur la quittance que ce payement n’est que pour rentrer en possession de mes effets et que la note exagéré sera soumise au juge de paix.
Mais avec tout cela il ne me reste presque rien, j’ai acheté de quoi pouvoir faire un peu de café ou de bouillon chez moi et deux chaises & une table.– Cela fait que j’ai encore juste 15 francs. Je te prie donc de m’envoyer encore de l’argent pas plus tard que ton retour à Paris dans tous les cas.
Cela m’embête beaucoup puisque cette affaire me dérange considérablement  1v:2 pour travailler – et il fait très beau justement.
Je regrette de ne pas avoir pris cet atelier plus tôt. avec ce que ces gens m’ont pris de trop j’aurais pu me meubler déjà.
Seulement je compte bien avoir maintenant payé mon tribut au malheur & mieux vaut que cela vienne au début qu’à la fin de l’expédition.
Je me sens assuré d’avoir sous peu plusieurs nouvelles toiles sur le chevalet.
Mon envoi est emballé et partira aujourd’hui.
C’est seulement décourageant que de travailler dur et de voir son benefice aller dans les mains de gens que l’on déteste.  1v:3
Et nous mettrons fin à cela. Je ferai un atelier ici qui durera et où au besoin on puisse encore caser un autre peintre.
Les étrangers sont exploités ici et – les gens d’ici de leur côté n’ont pas tort – on considère comme un devoir d’en tirer tout ce qu’on peut.
En pleine campagne comme Mc Knight1 on paye moins mais Mc Knight s’embête beaucoup et travaille tres peu jusqu’ici.–
Et mieux vaut encore travailler dur et dépenser, s’il le faut absolument, davantage.
Si tu mettais de côté ce qu’il y a de mieux dans l’envoi – et si tu considerais ces tableaux comme un payement de ma part en deduction de ce que je te dois –
Alors le jour où de mon côté j’aurais apporté quelque chose comme 10 mille fr. de cette façon,  1r:4 je me sentirais plus tranquille. L’argent deja depensé dans d’autres années doit aussi revenir dans nos mains au moins en valeurs. Je suis encore loin de cela. Mais je sens que dans cette nature ci il y a tout le nécessaire pour faire de bonnes choses. Ce serait donc de ma faute si je ne réussissais pas. Mauve a dans un seul mois fait et vendu pour 6000 francs d’aquarelles à ce que lui-même me racontait dans le temps. Eh bien il y a de telles veines dont à travers les soucis actuels je sens pourtant la possibilité.
Dans cet envoi il y a le verger rose sur toile grossiere2 et le verger blanc en largeur3 et le pont,4 qui si nous les gardons il me semble que plus tard cela pourrait monter et une cinquantaine de tableaux de cette qualité nous dedommagerait en quelque sorte de ce que dans le passé nous avons eu trop peu de chance. Prends donc ces trois pour la collection chez toi et ne les vends pas car plus tard cela vaudra 500 chaque.
Et si nous en avons 50 comme cela de côté alors je respirerais un peu plus à mon aise. Enfin – ecris moi bientôt.

t. à t.
Vincent

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
For the time being I have to pay my bill, but at the same time it’s stated on the receipt that this payment is only to recover possession of my things, and that the inflated bill will be submitted to the justice of the peace.
But with all that I have practically nothing left, I bought what I need to make a little coffee or broth at home, and two chairs and a table. That means I have just 15 francs left. So I’m asking you to send me some more money no later than when you get back to Paris, in any case.
It’s very annoying, as this business is seriously interfering with my work —  1v:2 and the weather’s beautiful just now.
I regret not having taken this studio sooner. With what those people overcharged me I could already have furnished it.
But I really count on it I’ve now paid my dues to misfortune and it’s better that should come at the beginning than at the end of the expedition.
I feel sure I’ll soon have several new canvases on the easel.
My consignment is packed up and will go off today.
But it’s discouraging to work hard and see your profit going into the hands of people you detest.  1v:3
And we’ll put an end to that. I’ll make a studio here that will last, and where if need be we can fit another painter in.
Foreigners are exploited here and — for their part, the people around here aren’t wrong — it’s considered a duty to get all you can out of them.
Right out in the country like MacKnight1 you pay less, but MacKnight is very bored and is working very little so far.
And it’s better to work hard and spend more, if it’s absolutely necessary.
If you put aside what’s best in the consignment — and if you were to think of these paintings as a payment on my part to be deducted from what I owe you —
Then the day when, from my side, I would have contributed something like 10 thousand francs in this way,  1r:4 I would feel more at ease. The money already spent in other years should also come back into our hands, in value at least. I’m still far from that. But I feel that nature here has everything you need to make good things. So it would be my fault if I didn’t succeed. In a single year Mauve made and sold watercolours for 6,000 francs, according to what he told me at the time. Ah well, there are strokes of luck of that kind for which I can sense a possibility, even through my present worries.
In this consignment there are the pink orchard on coarse canvas2 and the horizontal white orchard3 and the bridge,4 which, if we keep them, I think could go up in value later, and about fifty paintings of that quality would compensate us in a way for the fact that we’ve had too little luck in the past. So take these three for your collection at home and don’t sell them because later on they’ll be worth 500 each.
And if we had 50 like that put aside, then I’d breathe a bit more easily. Anyway — write to me soon.

Ever yours,
Vincent
notes
1. MacKnight was staying in Fontvieille.
2. This description and the mention of ‘the largest of all in pink and green on absorbent canvas’ in his next letter must relate to the same work. This was The pink orchard (F 555 / JH 1380 ), the only large painting of an orchard on absorbent canvas (See Peres et al. 1991, p. 27. F 556 is also on absorbent canvas, but it only measures 55 x 65 cm). At size 25 ‘figure’ (65 x 81 cm) F 555 is a fraction larger than its pendant The white orchard (F 403 / JH 1378 ) (60 x 80 cm). It seems strange that in letter 608 Van Gogh calls it ‘the largest of all’, but this can be explained by the fact that it was the largest work in the first series of orchards (in other words the first two triptychs, see letter 597). True, the two orchards he painted after that, F 513 and F 551, are the same size (and he consequently calls them ‘large studies’ in letter 608) but he painted them later, and his recollection was evidently that F 555 was larger than the rest.
Hulsker believed that it was Orchard (F 511 / JH 1386 ), which measures 72 x 92 cm (a no. 30 canvas); he links it with the earlier mention of a no. 30 canvas in letter 591 and the left-hand side of the triptych in the letter sketch in letter 597. See Hulsker 1993-1, p. 50, and Hulsker, ‘Het probleem van de Verger rose’ (Van Gogh Museum, Documentation, Typescript). However, F 511 is not painted on ‘coarse canvas’ or ‘absorbent canvas’; it is moreover stylistically more akin to the orchards in blossom done in the spring of 1889. Van Tilborgh therefore argued that this pink orchard was not known and that F 511 dated from a year later. See Gijsbert van der Wal, ‘Met de neus op de bloesem. De datering van Vincent van Goghs Boomgaard in bloei in het Van Gogh Museum’, Jong Holland 17-1 (2001), pp. 23-25. Van Tilborgh and the editors of this edition now assume that all the references to the pink orchard relate to the same painting, namely F 555, which Van Gogh incorporated in his sketch of the decoration as ‘pale pink orchard’ (letter 597). Dorn likewise believed that F 555 could be the work meant in the present letter and letter 608; see Dorn 1990, p. 464.
3. The white orchard (F 403 / JH 1378 ).
4. The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 571 / JH 1392 ); the other version of this work (F 397 / JH 1368 ) was intended for Tersteeg.