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623 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 12 June 1888.

metadata
No. 623 (Brieven 1990 626, Complete Letters 496)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Tuesday, 12 June 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b537 V/1962

Date
Vincent thanks Theo for the 50 francs he sent – the second instalment for June – and writes that it is ‘only Tuesday morning’ (l. 57). He has meanwhile abandoned his plan of going to Saintes-Maries on 10 June (see letter 621). This means that it must have been Tuesday, 12 June 1888.

Ongoing topics
Gauguin coming to Arles (602)
Gauguin’s illness (581)
The plan to go back to Saintes-Maries (621)
Request to Russell to buy a painting from Gauguin (582)
The proposed exchange with Russell (589)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
Lundi matin j’ai reçu ton mandat telegraphique de 50 francs dont je te remercie bien.– Seulement je n’ai pas encore reçu ta lettre ce qui me surprenait un peu.
J’ai recu une lettre de Gauguin qui dit avoir reçu de toi une lettre contenant 50 fr. ce dont il etait très touché et dans laquelle tu lui disais un mot du projet.1 Comme moi je t’avais envoyé ma lettre à lui, il n’avait lorsqu’il écrivait pas encore reçu la proposition plus nette.2
Mais il dit qu’il a l’expérience que lorsqu’il était avec son ami Laval à la Martinique à eux deux ils s’en tiraient à meilleur compte qu’un des deux seuls, qu’il était donc bien d’accord sur les avantages qu’aurait une vie en commun.3
Il dit que ses douleurs d’entrailles continuent toujours encore et il me parait bien triste. Il parle d’une esperance qu’il a de trouver un capital de six cent mille francs pour établir un marchand de tableaux impressioniste et qu’il expliquerait son plan et qu’il voudrait que toi tu fus à la tête de cette entreprise.4
Je ne serais pas étonné si cette espérance est un fata morgana, un mirage de la dèche. plus on est dans la dèche – surtout lorsqu’on est malade – plus on pense à des possibilités pareilles.
J’y vois donc dans ce plan surtout une preuve de plus qu’il se morfond et que le mieux serait de le mettre à flot le plus vite possible.
 1v:2
Il dit que lorsque les matelots ont à deplacer un lourd fardeau ou une ancre à lever, pour pouvoir soulever un plus grand poids, pour être capable d’un effort extrême, ils chantent tous ensemble pour se soutenir et se donner du ton. Que c’est là ce qui manque aux artistes. Je serais donc bien etonné s’il n’etait pas content de venir. mais les frais de l’hotel5 & de voyage sont encore compliqués de la note du medecin, ainsi ce sera bien difficile.
Mais il me semble qu’il devrait laisser la dette en plan et des tableaux en gage si c’est qu’il vienne ici, et si les gens n’acceptent pas cela laisser la dette en plan sans tableaux en gage. J’ai bien été obligé de faire la même chose pour venir à Paris6 et quoique j’ai eu une perte de bien des choses alors cela ne peut se faire autrement dans des cas comme cela et mieux vaut marcher en avant quand même que rester dans le marasme.
Je ne suis pas parti pour Stes Maries – ils ont fini de peindre la maison et j’avais à payer et puis j’ai à prendre provision de toiles assez considerable.
et des cinquante francs il me reste un louis7 et nous n’avons que mardi matin, encore cela etait donc guere possible que je parte et je crains pour la semaine prochaine que ce sera pas encore possible pas non plus.–
 1v:3
j’ai appris avec plaisir que Mouries est venu loger chez toi.–8
Si Gauguin préférerait aventurer de se relancer dans les affaires maintenant – s’il a reellement des espérances de faire quelque chôse à Paris – mon dieu qu’il y aille mais je crois qu’il serait plus sage de venir ici pour un an au moins, j’ai vu ici quelqu’un qui a ete au Tonkin et était malade en revenant de cet aimable pays – il s’est refait ici.9
J’ai deux ou trois nouveaux dessins et aussi 2 ou trois nouvelles etudes peintes.10
J’ai été un jour à Tarascon, malheureusement il faisait un tel soleil et une telle poussière ce jour que je suis rentré bredouille.11
On m’a signalé à Marseille 2 Monticelli, bouquet de fleurs à 250 fr. et figures. C’etait l’ami de Russell, Mac Knight, qui les y avait vus. J’aurais grande envie d’y aller une fois à Marseilles.
Je continue toujours à trouver les motifs d’ici tres beaux et tres interessants et malgré les contrariétés des frais, tout de même il me semble qu’il y ait une meilleure chance dans le midi que dans le nord.
Si tu voyais la Camargue – et bien d’autres endroits – tu serais comme moi très surpris de voir que cela a un caractere absolument à la Ruysdael.
 1r:4
J’ai un nouveau motif en train, des champs à perte de vue verts & jaunes que j’ai deja deux fois dessiné et que je recommence en tableau12 absolument comme un Salomon Konink, tu sais l’eleve de Rembrandt qui faisait les immenses campagnes plates.13
Ou c’est comme du Michel ou comme Jules Dupré mais enfin c’est tout autre chose que des jardins de roses. Il est vrai que je n’ai parcouru qu’un côté de la Provence et que de l’autre côté il y a la nature que fait par exemple Claude Monet.14
Je suis bien curieux de savoir comment fera Gauguin. il dit qu’il a fait acheter dans le temps chez Durand Ruel pour 35 mille d’impressionistes15 et qu’il espère faire la même chôse encore pour toi.– Seulement c’est si mauvais, lorsque l’on commence à avoir du mal avec la santé on ne peut plus risquer des coups de tête et je crois que ce que Gauguin a maintenant de plus solide c’est sa peinture, et les meilleures affaires qu’il puisse faire ses propres tableaux. Il est probable qu’il t’aura écrit de ces jours-ci, moi j’ai répondu à sa lettre samedi dernier. Je crois que ce serait bien lourd de payer tout ce qu’il doit là et le voyage &c. &c. Si Russell lui prenait un tableau – mais il a la maison qu’il bâtit qui le gêne.16 Je crois que j’écrirai pourtant à cet effet. j’ai moimême à lui envoyer quelque chose pour notre échange et si c’est que Gauguin veut venir alors je pourrais demander avec aplomb. Il est certain que si en échange de l’argent qu’on donnerait à G. on achète ses tableaux au prix actuel ce n’est aucunément de l’argent perdu. Je voudrais bien que tu eusses tous ses tabl. de la Martinique. enfin faisons ce que nous pouvons. Poignee de main, j’espère que tu écriras bientôt.

t. à t.
Vincent

Qu’est ce que le buste de femme de Rodin au Salon, c’est pas possible que ce soit le buste de Mrs. Russell – qu’il doit avoir en train pourtant.–17

Est ce que notre ami Mouries n’a pas un accent magistral. bropaplement il poit douchour encore tu gondjac afeec telloo.a

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
On Monday morning I received your telegraphed money order for 50 francs, for which I thank you kindly. But I haven’t yet received your letter, which surprised me a little.
I’ve received a letter from Gauguin, who said he’d received a letter from you containing 50 francs, by which he was very touched, and in which you said a few words about the plan.1 As I had sent you my letter to him, he hadn’t yet received the more clear-cut proposal when he wrote.2
But he says that he has the experience that when he was in Martinique with his friend Laval, the two of them together managed better than either one of them alone, and that he therefore fully agreed on the advantages a life in common would have.3
He says the pains in his bowels are still continuing, and he seems quite unhappy to me. He talks about a hope he has of finding capital of six hundred thousand francs to set up a dealer in Impressionist paintings, and that he would explain his plan and that he’d like you to be at the head of this business.4
I shouldn’t be surprised if that hope is a fata Morgana, a mirage that goes with being broke. The more broke you are — especially when you’re ill — the more you think of such possibilities.
So I see first and foremost in this plan yet another proof that he’s despondent, and that the best thing would be get him back on his feet as quickly as possible.  1v:2
He says that when sailors have to move a heavy load or raise an anchor, in order to be able to lift a greater weight, to be able to make an enormous effort, they all sing together to support each other and to give each other energy. That it’s just what artists lack. So I’d be really surprised if he weren’t glad to come. But the costs of the hotel5 and the journey are made even more complicated by the doctor’s bill, so it will be jolly hard.
But it seems to me that he should ditch the debt and leave some paintings as security if he’s going to come here, and if the people don’t agree to that, leave the debt in the lurch without any paintings as security. Wasn’t I forced to do the same thing in order to come to Paris?6 And although I suffered the loss of many things then, it can’t be done otherwise in cases like that, and it’s better to go forward anyway than to go on being depressed.
I haven’t left for Saintes-Maries — they’ve finished painting the house and I had to pay, and I also have to buy quite a considerable supply of canvas.
And out of the fifty francs I’ve got one louis7 left and we’re only Tuesday morning, and so it was hardly possible for me to leave and I fear it won’t yet be possible next week either.  1v:3
I was pleased to learn that Mourier has come to lodge with you.8
If Gauguin would prefer to take the risk of throwing himself back into business at this point — if he really has hopes of doing something in Paris — for Heaven’s sake let him go there, but I think he’d be wiser to come here for a year at least; I’ve seen someone here who had been to Tonkin and was ill when he came back from that delightful region — he recovered here.9
I have two or three new drawings and also 2 or three new painted studies.10
I went to Tarascon one day, unfortunately there was so much sun and dust that day that I came home empty-handed.11
I’ve had reports of 2 Monticellis in Marseille, a bouquet of flowers at 250 francs and figures. It was Russell’s friend, MacKnight, who had seen them there. I’d very much like to go there sometime, to Marseille.
I still continue to find the subjects here very beautiful and interesting, and despite the vexations of expenses, I nevertheless think there’s a better chance in the south than in the north.
If you saw the Camargue — and many other places — like me, you’d be very surprised to see that it has a character absolutely à la Ruisdael.  1r:4
I have a new subject on the go, green and yellow fields as far as the eye can see, which I’ve already drawn twice and am starting again as a painting,12 just like a Salomon Koninck, you know, Rembrandt’s pupil who made the vast flat landscapes.13
Or it’s like something by Michel or like Jules Dupré, but it’s really quite different from rose gardens. It’s true that I’ve only visited one part of Provence, and in the other part there’s the countryside that Claude Monet does, for example.14
I’m very curious to know what Gauguin will do. He says that in the past he got people to buy Impressionists to the tune of 35 thousand at Durand-Ruel’s,15 and that he hopes to do the same thing again for you. But it’s so bad, when you start having trouble with your health you can no longer risk sudden impulses, and I think Gauguin’s most solid asset is now his painting, and the best business he could do, his own paintings. It’s likely that he’ll have written to you in the past few days; I answered his letter last Saturday. I believe it would be pretty hard to pay all he owes over there and his fare, &c. &c. If Russell bought a painting from him — but he has the house he’s building, which puts him in financial difficulties.16 But I’ll still write to that effect, I think. I have to send him something myself for our exchange, and if Gauguin wishes to come, then I’ll be able to ask with confidence. It’s certain that if in exchange for the money we’d give G. we buy his paintings at the current price, it’s in no way money wasted. I’d very much like you to have all his paintings of Martinique. Anyway, let’s do what we can. Handshake, I hope you’ll write soon.

Ever yours,
Vincent

What’s Rodin’s bust of a woman in the Salon? It can’t possibly be the bust of Mrs Russell — which he must be working on, though.17

Doesn’t our friend Mourier have a terrific accent? He bropaply alvays trinks brendy viz vater.
notes
1. Gauguin’s letter to Vincent and Theo’s to Gauguin are not known. The latter must have been the reply to Gauguin’s letter to Theo of 22 May 1888. Gauguin thanked Theo for sending him 50 francs somewhere around 5-8 June. See Correspondance Gauguin 1984, pp. 176, 184.
2. This is the letter from Vincent to Gauguin, enclosed with letter 621 to Theo of 5 or 6 June. Gauguin forwarded the Van Gogh brothers’ letter, in which they suggested he might go to Arles, to Emile Schuffenecker to read, as we learn from a letter written in the second week of June. See Merlhès 1989, p. 68.
3. Gauguin and Laval sailed together from Saint-Nazaire to Panama on 10 April 1887, and then on to Martinique in about the middle of May. Weakened by malaria and dysentery, Gauguin returned to France, arriving about 13 November. See exhib. cat. Washington 1988, pp. 44-45. Laval came back to Pont-Aven later, but before about 25 July 1888; see letter 646.
4. In the letter to Emile Schuffenecker (n. 2 above) Gauguin set out his plans, for which he hoped Albert Dauprat and Henri Cottu, rich friends of Laval’s, would provide him with capital to the tune of 500,000 francs. See Wildenstein 2001, p. 610 and Merlhès 1989, p. 70.
5. Gauguin had written to Theo on 22 May 1888 and told him that by then he had already been living on credit at Madame Gloanec’s inn for three months (GAC 2).
6. Evidently Van Gogh left Antwerp without paying off his debts; this may have been one reason for his unannounced departure for Paris. Cf. letter 567.
7. A louis was a coin worth 20 francs.
8. Mourier-Petersen arrived at Theo’s apartment in rue Lepic on 6 June 1888, and stayed with him until about 15 August 1888. See Larsson 1993, pp. 26-27 (n. 95), 29.
9. This was Paul Eugène Milliet, second lieutenant in the 3rd Zouave Regiment, which was garrisoned in the Caserne Calvin, the barracks in boulevard des Lices in Arles (see letter 628). He had been in Tonkin from 12 January 1885 to 20 August 1887 (Paris, Archives Nationales, Fonds de la Légion d’honneur). Tonkin is the area that now makes up the greater part of northern Vietnam; it had been a French protectorate since 1883 and became part of French Indochina in 1887.
10. Van Gogh’s wording leads us to think that this was a related group of drawings and paintings of the same subjects. The description ‘two or three’ could indicate that the subjects were not yet all worked out to the same extent. Among the new works were in any event the drawing Farmhouse (F 1478 / JH 1444 ) and the painting based on it Farmhouse (F 565 / JH 1443 ). There was also the drawing Haystacks (F 1425 / JH 1441 ), which not long afterwards served as the preliminary study for Haystacks (F 425 / JH 1442 ). A third new drawing was The harvest (F 1483 / JH 1439 ); this, like F 1425, was filled in with different shades of watercolour and served as the preliminary study for the painting The harvest (F 412 / JH 1440 ) which Van Gogh refers to later in the letter. He had already done the drawing The harvest (F 1484 / JH 1438 ) before this. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 2005, p. 192. Another of the new studies was Wheatfield (F 564 / JH 1475 ), an initial exploration of the subject of F 412.
11. This expedition to Tarascon, around 20 km to the north of Arles, probably took place on 10 or 11 June: the weather was hot and sunny then, and the mistral was blowing – most probably the cause of the dust he mentions (Météo-France).
12. The two drawings are The harvest (F 1484 / JH 1438 ) and The harvest (F 1483 / JH 1439 ); the painting is The harvest (F 412 / JH 1440 ).
13. Van Gogh actually means Philips de Koninck, who painted flat landscapes and was thought for a long time to have been one of Rembrandt’s pupils. Salomon Koninck was also a follower of Rembrandt, but he tended to concentrate on paintings of scholars in their studies and biblical scenes. See W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler. 6 vols. Landau 1983, vol. 3, pp. 1530-1535, 1627-1630.
14. The part of Provence that Van Gogh knew is a largely flat agricultural region. In the spring of 1884 Monet had painted Mediterranean mountain landscapes in Menton in the south of France and in Bordighera, just over the Italian border. In the spring of 1888 he worked in Antibes, a resort near Nice. See Joachim Pissarro, Monet and the Mediterranean. New York 1997, pp. 74-144. Some of the works painted in 1884 could be seen from 8 May to 8 June 1887 at the Exposition internationale de peinture et de sculpture at Georges Petit’s gallery, which Theo and Vincent had gone to together. See letter 798 and Wildenstein 1996, cat. nos. 854, 855, 859.
15. In the 1881-1883 period Gauguin introduced clients to the Durand-Ruel gallery and mediated in purchases. See Correspondance Gauguin 1984, pp. 352-353.
16. After his second stay on the Breton island of Belle-Île in the summer of 1887, Russell decided to build a house for himself and his family in Port-Goulphar. He was the first foreigner to live permanently on the island. The locals called his house and studio, which he had designed himself in the style of an English manor, ‘Le Chateau de l’Anglais’ – the Englishman’s castle. See Galbally 1977, p. 45 and exhib. cat. Sydney 2001, p. 32 (with ill.). The family moved into the new house in the summer of 1888 (see letter 647).
17. Auguste Rodin’s Madame Vicuňa, 1888 (Paris, Musée d’Orsay) was exhibited at the Salon (under the title Portrait de Mme M.V...). Ill. 1292 . He did not complete the Bust of Mrs Russell, 1888-1889, silver (Morlaix, Musée de Morlaix) until later. Ill. 2184 . See exhib. cat. Sydney 2001, pp. 32, 51, 127 (cat. nos. 45-46), 129 (n. 42), and letter 647, n. 4.
a. Read: ‘probablement il boit toujours encore du cognac avec de l’eau’.