Back to site

621 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 5 or Wednesday, 6 June 1888.

metadata
No. 621 (Brieven 1990 624, Complete Letters 494)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Tuesday, 5 or Wednesday, 6 June 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b534 V/1962

Date
The letter follows letter 620 of about 5 June, in which Van Gogh said he planned to write to Gauguin: in the present letter he says he has done so. It must in any event date from before 7 June, because Vincent informs his brother about the Régamey exhibition in Paris on 7 and 8 June – he also gives the opening times, from which we may deduce that this information would still have been of use to Theo (ll. 36-39). Since Jo van Gogh-Bonger gave the date as 6 June in Brieven 1914, and she may have had a postmark to go on, we have dated the letter Tuesday, 5 or Wednesday, 6 June 1888.

Additional
Vincent enclosed a letter to Gauguin for Theo to send on to him.

Ongoing topics
Gauguin coming to Arles (602)
Theo’s plan to get Willemien and Lies to come and stay with him in Paris (615)
Visit to Saintes-Maries (617)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo –
Si Gauguin veut accepter et s’il n’y aurait à vaincre que le déplacement pour entrer en affaire, mieux vaut ne pas le laisser languir.– J’ai donc écrit tout en n’ayant guère le temps, ayant deux toiles sur le chevalet.1 Si tu trouves la lettre claire assez envoie la,2 si non pour nous aussi en cas de doute mieux vaudrait s’abstenir.3 Et faudrait pas que des chôses que tu ferais pour lui dérangent le projet de faire venir les soeurs et surtout pas nos besoins à toi & à moi. Car si nous ne nous maintenons pas en état de vigueur nous mêmes, comment prétendre se mêler des dérangements des autres. Mais actuellement nous sommes sur la voie de demeurer en vigueur et donc faisons le possible droit devant nous.
je t’envoie ci-inclus échantillon toile pour Tasset, toutefois je ne  1v:2 sais s’il faut continuer sa toile.4
Si tu m’envoies la5 prochaine lettre Dimanche matin il est probable que je refile ce jour-là à 1h à Stes Maries pour y passer la semaine.6
je lis un livre sur Wagner que je t’enverrai après7 – quel artiste – un comme ca dans la peinture, voila ce qui serait chic.– Ça viendra.
Sais tu qu’il y a

6 Rue Coëllogon, Rue de Rennes
le 7 & 8 Juin de 1 à 7 heures.
l’exposition des tableaux et dessins de
Regamey

cela peut être très intéressant, en voilà qui ont voyagé partout lui & son frère.8
Poignée de main.

t. à t.
Vincent.

Je crois à la victoire de Gauguin et autres artistes – mais – entre alors et aujourd’hui il y a longtemps et quand bien même qu’il aurait la chance de vendre une ou deux toiles – ce serait même histoire. Gauguin en attendant pourrait crever comme Méryon, decouragé.9 c’est mauvais qu’il ne travaille pas – enfin, nous verrons la réponse.

translation
 1r:1
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
Régamey

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

Ever yours,
Vincent.

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.
notes
1. It emerges from letter 620 that Van Gogh was working on Fishing boats on the beach at Saintes-Maries (F 413 / JH 1460 ). The other canvas was probably one of the two paintings of cottages, Row of cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 420 / JH 1462 ) or Cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 419 / JH 1465 ).
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).