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624 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 12 or Wednesday, 13 June 1888.

metadata
No. 624 (Brieven 1990 627, Complete Letters 497)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Tuesday, 12 or Wednesday, 13 June 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b538 V/1962

Date
The letter must have been written soon after letter 623, which dates from Tuesday, 12 June – possibly even the same day, for Van Gogh says ‘I’m writing you another line because I haven’t yet received your letter’ (ll. 1*-3; our italics). In 623 Van Gogh remarked that he hadn’t had a letter that morning. Furthermore, in the present letter he asks if he can have his allowance ‘a few days’ earlier than usual (ll. 11-12). If this request is to make any sense – Vincent generally received his money at the weekend – the letter must have been written on Tuesday, 12 or Wednesday, 13 June 1888.

Ongoing topics
The plan to go back to Saintes-Maries (621)
Entry for the 1888 Indépendants exhibition (582)
Gauguin coming to Arles (602)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
je t’écris encore un mot parceque je n’ai pas encore reçu ta lettre. Seulement je suppose que tu te seras dit que je serais probablement à Stes Maries.
Puisque et le loyer de la maison et la peinture des portes & fenêtres et l’achat de toiles sont venues simultanément m’épuiser, tu me rendras très grand service de m’envoyer de l’argent quelques jours plus tôt.
Je travaille à un paysage avec des champs de blé que je crois pas inférieur au verger blanc par exemple.1 il est dans le genre des deux paysages Butte Montmartre qui ont été aux Indépendants2 mais je crois que c’est plus solide et que cela a un peu plus de style.
Et j’ai un autre motif, une ferme et des meules, qui sera probablement le pendant.3
Je suis bien curieux de savoir ce que fera Gauguin. j’espère qu’il pourra venir. Tu me diras que cela ne sert à rien de penser à l’avenir mais la peinture avance lentement et là-dedans on doit bien calculer d’avance.
 1v:2
Gauguin pas plus que moi serait sauvé s’il vendait quelques toiles. Pour pouvoir travailler il faut autant que possible regler sa vie et il faut une base un peu ferme, d’avoir son existence garantie.
Si lui et moi restons ici longtemps nous ferons des tableaux de plus en plus personnels justement parceque nous aurons étudié les choses de ce pays plus à fond.
Je m’imagine assez difficilement de changer de direction; ayant commencé le midi mieux vaut ne plus bouger que – toujours en pénétrant dans le pays.
Je crois que j’ai plus de chance de réussir les choses et – meme les affaires – un peu plus larges que de me retenir en faisant trop petit.
Et c’est justement pour cela que je crois que je vais agrandir le format des toiles et hardiment adopter la toile de 30 carrée.4
 1v:3
Celles là me coûtent ici 4 francs chaque et cela n’est pas cher vu le transport.
La dernière toile tue absolument tout le reste, il n’y a qu’une nature morte avec des cafetieres et des tasses et assiettes en bleu & jaune qui se tienne à côté.5
Cela doit tenir au dessin.
Involontairement ce que j’ai vu de Cezanne me revient à la mémoire parceque lui a tellement – comme dans la moisson que nous avons vu chez Portier6 – donné le côté apre de la Provence.
C’est devenu tout autre chose qu’au printemps mais certes j’aime pas moins la nature qui commence à être brulée dès maintenant. Dans tout il y a maintenant du vieil or, du bronze, du cuivre dirait on et cela, avec l’azur vert du ciel chauffé à blanc, cela donne une couleur délicieuse excessivement harmonieuse avec des tons rompus à la Delacroix.
 1r:4
Si Gauguin voulait nous joindre je crois que nous aurions fait un pas en avant. cela nous poserait comme exploiteurs du Midi carrément et on ne pourrait pas trouver à redire à cela.
Il faut que j’arrive à la fermeté de couleur que j’ai dans cette toile qui tue les autres. Lorsque j’y pense que Portier racontait dans le temps que les Cezanne qu’il avait eu avaient l’air de rien du tout vus seuls mais que raprochés d’autres toiles cela enfoncait la couleur des autres.7 Et aussi que les Cezanne faisaient bien dans l’or, ce qui suppose une gamme très montée.
Alors peutêtre peutêtre je suis sur la piste et mon oeil se fait-il à la nature d’ici. Attendons encore pour être sûr.–
Ce dernier tableau supporte l’entourage rouge des briques dont l’atelier est pavé.– Lorsque je le mets par terre sur ce fond rouge brique très rouge la couleur du tableau ne devient pas creuse ou blanchâtre. La nature près d’Aix – où travaille Cezanne – c’est juste la même qu’ici, c’est toujours la Crau.8 Si en revenant avec ma toile je me dis: tiens voila que je suis arrivé juste à des tons au père Cézanne, je veux seulement dire ceci que Cezanne étant absolument du pays même comme Zola9 et le connait donc si intimement, il faut qu’on fasse interieurement le même calcul pour arriver à des tons pareils. Va sans dire que vus ensemble cela se tiendrait mais ne se ressemblerait pas.
Poignée de main, j’espère que tu pourras écrire de ces jours ci même.

t. à t.
Vincent

translation
 1r:1
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 haystacks, 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.  1v:2
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  1v:3
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.  1r:4
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.

Ever yours,
Vincent
notes
1. The harvest (F 412 / JH 1440 ). The white orchard is F 403 / JH 1378 . Van Gogh thought this was one of his best paintings (see letter 608).
2. Montmartre: behind the Moulin de la Galette (F 316 / JH 1246 ) and Vegetable gardens in Montmartre (F 350 / JH 1245 ).
3. This plan was to result in the painting Haystacks (F 425 / JH 1442 ). Van Gogh already had a drawing of the subject: Haystacks (F 1425 / JH 1441 ).
4. Among the harvest landscapes of this period Wheatfield with setting sun (F 465 / JH 1473 ) is the only one other than The harvest (F 412 / JH 1440 ) and Haystacks (F 425 / JH 1442 ) to have been painted on a canvas this size (approx. 73 x 92 cm).
5. ‘The last canvas’ is the Harvest referred to in n. 1 above; the still life is Still life with coffee pot (F 410 / JH 1426 ).
6. Paul Cézanne, The harvest, c. 1877 (private collection). Ill. 686 . Vincent and Theo saw the painting in Portier’s gallery at 54 rue Lepic. According to Rewald, Paul Gauguin was its first owner and he left it with Portier when he set off for Martinique in the spring of 1887, but there is no real evidence of this. See Rewald 1996, vol. 1, pp. 207-208, cat. no. 301, and exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, p. 384 (n. 22).
7. Aside from The harvest referred to in n. 6, Portier is known to have had one other painting by Cézanne: The village street, 1872-1873 (New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery). See Rewald 1996, vol. 1, p. 146, cat. no. 187.
8. Aix-en-Provence, about 60 km to the east of Arles, was where Cézanne lived; he painted in several places in the Crau. See Rewald 1986-2, pp. 267-269.
9. Zola also came from Aix-en-Provence, where he had been at school with Cézanne.