My dear Theo,
I’m writing you another line because I haven’t yet received your letter. But I presume you’ll have said to yourself that I would probably be at Saintes-Maries.
As the rent for the house and the painting of the doors and windows and the purchase of canvases have all come together and drained me dry, you’ll do me a very great service by sending me some money a few days early.
I’m working on a landscape with wheatfields which I believe is no worse than the white orchard, for example.1 It’s of the same kind as the two Butte Montmartre landscapes that were in the Independents,2 but I think it’s more substantial and that it has a little more style.
And I have another subject, a farmhouse and wheat stacks, which will probably be its pendant.3
I’m very curious to know what Gauguin will do. I hope he’ll be able to come. You’ll tell me it serves no purpose to think about the future, but painting progresses slowly, and in that respect one does need to calculate ahead.
Gauguin, no more than I, would be rescued if he sold a few canvases. In order to be able to work we must organize our lives as much as possible and need a reasonably firm basis to have our existence assured.
If he and I stay here for a long time we’ll make paintings that are more and more personal, precisely because we’ll have studied things in this part of the world more deeply.
It’s quite hard for me to imagine myself changing direction; having made a start on the south it’s better not to move than — penetrating ever deeper into the region.
I believe I have more chance of succeeding in doing things — even business affairs — that are a bit larger, than if I hold back and do them too small.
And that’s precisely why I think I’m going to enlarge the format of my canvases and boldly adopt the square 30 canvas.4
Those cost me 4 francs each here and that isn’t dear, considering the transport.
The last canvas absolutely kills all the rest; there’s only a still life with coffee-pots and cups and plates in blue and yellow that can stand beside it.5
It must be in the drawing.
What I’ve seen of Cézanne involuntarily comes back to mind, because he has presented the harsh side of Provence so forcefully — as in the harvest we saw at Portier’s.6
It has become something quite different from in the spring, but I certainly have no less love for nature that is starting to get scorched as early as now. There’s old gold, bronze, copper in everything now, you might say, and that, with the green blue of the sky heated white-hot, produces a delightful colour which is exceedingly harmonious, with broken tones à la Delacroix.
If Gauguin wished to join us, I believe we’d have taken a step forward. It would establish us squarely as miners of the south, and nobody could find fault with that.
I have to achieve the firmness of colour that I have in that painting that kills the rest. When I think that in the past Portier used to say that the Cézannes that he’d had looked like nothing at all seen on their own, but put next to other canvases they’d beat the colour of the others hollow.7
And also that the Cézannes did well in gold, which presupposes a very highly pitched range of colour.
So perhaps, perhaps, I’m on the right track and my eye’s adapting to nature here. Let’s wait a little longer to be sure.
This last painting can bear the red surround of the bricks with which the studio is paved. When I put it on the floor against this very red red-brick background, the colour of the painting doesn’t become hollow or white-looking. The countryside near Aix — where Cézanne works — it’s precisely the same as here, it’s still the Crau.8 If, coming home with my canvas, I say to myself: look, I’ve arrived precisely at père Cézanne’s tones, I only want to say this, that Cézanne, belonging absolutely to the region itself, like Zola,9 and therefore knows it so intimately, you have to do the same internal calculation to achieve the same tones. Goes without saying that seen together they’d hold their own, but there would be no resemblance.
Handshake, I hope you’ll be able to write in the very next few days.