My dear Theo,
I thought of Gauguin1 and here we are — if Gauguin wants to come here there’s Gauguin’s fare, and then there are the two beds or the two mattresses we absolutely have to buy.
But later on, as Gauguin’s a sailor,2 there’s a likelihood we’ll manage to make our grub at home.
And the two of us will live on the same money as I spend on myself alone.
You know I’ve always thought it ridiculous for painters to live alone &c. You always lose when you’re isolated.
Well, it’s in response to your wish to help him out.
You can’t send him what he needs to live on in Brittany, and me what I need to live on in Provence. But you may agree that we should share, and set a sum of, let’s say, 250 a month if every month, in
1v:2 addition to and apart from my work, you were to have a Gauguin.
As long as we didn’t exceed that amount, wouldn’t there even be a benefit? Besides, I’m speculating about joining forces with others.
So herewith rough draft of a letter to Gauguin, which I’ll write if you approve, with the changes that will doubtless have to be made to turns of phrase. But I wrote that way first. Think of it as a simple business arrangement, that’s best for everyone, and let’s treat it straightforwardly that way. Only, given that you’re not in business on your own account, you may, for example, think it right that I take it upon myself,
1v:3 and Gauguin would join forces with me as a pal.
I thought that you had a wish to come to his aid, as I suffer myself at the thought that he’s in a tight corner — something that won’t change overnight.
We can’t offer better than that, and others wouldn’t do as much.
For my part, it worries me to spend so much on myself alone, but to find a remedy for that there’s none other than that of finding a wife with money or pals who associate with one another for paintings. Now I don’t see the wife, but I do see the pals.
If that suited him, wouldn’t do to keep him waiting.
This would be the beginnings of an association, then. Bernard, who’s coming to the south too, will join us,3 and be sure of this, I still see you in France, at the head of an association
1r:4 of Impressionists. And if I could be useful in putting them together, I’d willingly see them abler than myself. You must feel how much it vexes me to spend more than they do; I have to find a partnership that’s more advantageous, both to you and to them. And that’s how it would be. However, think it over carefully, but isn’t it true that in good company you could live on little as long as you spent your money at home?
Later on there may be days when we’ll be less hard up, but I’m not counting on it. It would please me so much if you had the Gauguins first. I’m not good at cooking &c., but they’ve had different training in that, having done their service &c.
Handshake and best wishes to Koning, after all, it’s a source of satisfaction for you to deliver him in good condition, which might not have been the case if you hadn’t taken him with you.4 It’s also satisfactory that the Goupils have been interested in taking that room you suggested.
Has Tersteeg come to Paris yet?5
In order to prepare things, and to expand on this letter, I’m writing to Gauguin, but without saying anything about all this, just to talk about work.6
You have to think it over very, very, very carefully before starting to travel. It seems so likely to me that your job is to stay in France.
[Appendix: draft letter to Paul Gauguin]
My dear old Gauguin,
I’ve thought of you very often and if I’m only writing now it’s because I didn’t want to write empty phrases.
The deal with Russell hasn’t come off yet, but Russell has bought some Impressionists all the same, Guillaumin and Bernard and — wait for your moment — he’ll come of his own accord, but I couldn’t press the point further, having had two refusals, but always with a promise for the future.7
Wanted to write now to tell you I’ve just rented a four-room house here in Arles.8
And that it seems to me that if I find another painter who feels like getting the most out of the south, and who like me was sufficiently absorbed in his work to be able to resign himself to living like a monk who’d go to the brothel once a fortnight — apart from that, bound up in his work and not inclined to waste his time — then the thing would be good. On my own, I suffer a bit from this isolation.
So I’ve very often thought about talking to you about it straight out.
You know that my brother and I have a high regard for your painting and that we’d very much wish to know you were a little at your ease. But all the same, my brother can’t send money to you in Brittany and at the same time money to me in Provence. But would you like to share with me here? Then by joining forces, there would perhaps be enough for two; I’m sure of it, even.
Having once attacked the south, I see no reason to give it up.
I was ill when I came, I’m better now and in fact, I feel rather attracted to the south, where outdoor work is possible almost all the year round.
Living here seems more expensive, though, but isn’t it also the case that the opportunities for gaining paintings are greater? In any event, if my brother were to send us 250 francs a month for both of us, would you like to come, and we would share. But in that case we’d have to make up our minds to eat at home as much as possible; we’d take on some kind of charwoman for a few hours a day, avoiding all the costs of a hotel that way.
And you would give my brother one painting a month, while you’d be free to do whatever you liked with the rest.
Now the two of us would start exhibiting in Marseille straightaway, thus opening the way for other Impressionists as well as for ourselves.
We mustn’t forget that there would now be the cost of travel and of buying a bed, which would also have to be paid for with paintings.
You are, of course, free to correspond with my brother about this matter, but I warn you that he’ll most probably refuse to take responsibility for it.9
He’ll just assure you that the only means we’ve found up to now of helping you in a more practical way would be this arrangement, if it suits you. We’ve thought about it a good deal. It seems to me that what you need for your health’s sake is peace and quiet above all. If I’m wrong, and if the heat in the south turned out to be too much — well — we’d have to see. For myself, so far I feel very well in this climate. There’s plenty more I could tell you — but here we are, business first. Reply to both of us soon.