My dear Theo —
If Gauguin wants to accept, and if the only obstacle to going into business would be the travel, it’s better not to keep him waiting. So I’ve written, although I hardly had the time, having two canvases on the easel.1 If you think the letter’s clear enough, send it,2 if not, it would be better for us, too, to abstain when in doubt.3 And the things you would do for him shouldn’t upset the plan to bring our sisters over, and especially not our needs, yours and mine. Because if we ourselves don’t keep ourselves in a state of vigour, how can we claim the right to get involved in other people’s troubles? But at present we’re on the way to remaining vigorous, and so let’s do the possible, what’s right in front of us.
I’m sending you enclosed herewith canvas sample for Tasset; however, I don’t  1v:2 know if we should go on with his canvas.4
If you send me the5 next letter by Sunday morning, I’ll probably go off to Saintes-Maries again at 1 o’clock that day and spend the week there.6
I’m reading a book about Wagner which I’ll send you afterwards7 — what an artist — one like that in painting, now that would be something. It will come.
Do you know that at

6 rue Coëllogon, rue de Rennes,
on 7 and 8 June from 1 to 7 o’clock
there’s an exhibition of paintings and drawings by

that could be very interesting; now there’s two who’ve travelled all over the place, he and his brother.8

Ever yours,

I believe in the victory of Gauguin and other artists — but — between then and now there’s a long time, and even if he had the good fortune to sell one or two canvases — it would be the same story. While waiting, Gauguin could peg out like Meryon, discouraged.9 It’s bad that he’s not working — well, we’ll see his reply.


Br. 1990: 624 | CL: 494
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Tuesday, 5 or Wednesday, 6 June 1888

1. It emerges from letter 620 that Van Gogh was working on Fishing boats on the beach at Saintes-Maries (F 413 / JH 1460 [2638]). The other canvas was probably one of the two paintings of cottages, Row of cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 420 / JH 1462 [2640]) or Cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 419 / JH 1465 [2643]).
[2638] [2640] [2643]
2. Theo was sent the letter to read and forwarded it to Gauguin, who in turn sent it on to Emile Schuffenecker in the second week of June (see Merlhès 1989, p. 68).
3. Derived from the Hippocratic adage ‘in dubio abstine’.
4. For the sending of canvas samples see also letter 614, n. 1.
5. It is possible that Van Gogh wrote ‘ta’ (‘your’) instead of ‘la’ (‘the’).
6. By ‘send’ Van Gogh did not mean ‘post’, but rather ‘make sure that the allowance reaches Arles by Sunday morning’. In fact, though, he got a telegraph money order on Monday morning (letter 623). It emerges from letters 623 and 625, however, that he abandoned the idea of the trip because he had already spent too much.
Dorn took the verb ‘refiler’ to mean ‘go’, not ‘go back’ or ‘go again’; his reading is an important element of his argument for dating the visit to Saintes-Maries (see letter 617, Date). We agree with Hulsker and Van der Veen that by ‘refiler’ Van Gogh meant that he wanted to go back to the seaside town, and hence that he had already been there. See Hulsker 1999, pp. 25-26, and Van der Veen 2002, p. 73.
7. It is generally assumed that Van Gogh is referring to Richard Wagner, musiciens, poètes et philosophes. Aperçus et jugements précédés de lettres inédites en France et traduits de l’Allemand pour la première fois par Camille Benoit. Paris 1887. Benoit wrote a 64-page study which precedes Wagner’s writings in this book. Cf. letter 686, n. 19. See for the possible influence of Wagner’s vocabulary on Van Gogh: exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, pp. 110-111, 379 (n. 67-68) and cf. Correspondance Gauguin 1984, pp. 485-486.
8. Van Gogh must have got this information from L’Intransigeant of 5 June 1888. The ‘Beaux-Arts’ column reported that it was a private exhibition in Félix Régamey’s studio (his brother Guillaume was not mentioned). As well as some paintings destined for the Musée Guimet, due to open shortly, there were ‘a great many’ drawings and watercolours of scenes from the Far East on show, as well as a number of portraits in pastel.
9. Charles Meryon suffered from delusions and bouts of severe depression during which he did not work and refused to eat. While he was in the asylum at Charenton for the second time he had starved himself to death. Jules and Edmond de Goncourt discussed Meryon’s folie in their Journal on several occasions, among them 19 October 1856 and 12 January 1869 (see Goncourt 1887-1906, vol. 1, p. 148; vol. 3, pp. 258-259). Burty’s Maîtres et petits maîtres, which Van Gogh had read in 1885, also contained details of Meryon’s ‘painful years’ (a nnées douloureuses) (Burty 1877, pp. 110-119).