My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your letter, the 50-franc note and the Tasset consignment, colours and canvases, that has just arrived.1 He’d enclosed his invoice, which comes to 50.85 francs, which enabled me to check his prices and compare them with Edouard’s.2 He’s considerably cheaper than Edouard, which, combined with the 20% discount, means we can have no complaints about him. Now, for his canvas at 4.50, I’ll probably be able to find out the price by the piece at first hand.
Now your letter brings me a big piece of news — that Gauguin accepts the proposal.3 Indeed, the best thing would be for him to dash straight over here instead of sorting out the mess he’s in there; perhaps he’ll get into another one if he comes to Paris first. Perhaps, too, with the paintings he’ll bring he’ll make a deal, which would be very fortunate. My reply enclosed. I really want to say just this, that I feel enthusiastic not only about painting in the south — but just the same in the north too, feeling healthier than 6 months ago. So if it’s safer to go to Brittany where one can board for so little4 — from the point of view of outgoings I’m definitely prepared to go back to the north. But it must be good for him too, to come to the south.
Especially since in 4 months it’ll already be winter in the north. And this seems so certain to me, that two people having exactly the same work must, if circumstances prevent their spending more, be able to live at home on bread, wine and, well, everything else one might wish to add to that. The difficulty is to eat at home alone. Restaurants here are expensive because everyone eats at home.
Certainly neither Ricards nor Leonardo da Vincis are less beautiful because there are few of them — on the other hand, Monticellis, Daumiers, Corots, Daubignys and Millets aren’t ugly because in many cases they were done at great speed and there are relatively many of them. As for landscapes, I’m beginning to find that some, done more quickly than ever, are among the best things I do.
It’s like that with the one of which I sent you the drawing, the harvest and the haystacks too5 — it’s true I have to retouch everything to adjust the workmanship a little, to harmonize the brushstrokes, but all the essential work was done in a single long session, and I’ll spare it as much as possible when I go back to it.
But when I come back from a session like that I can assure you my brain is so tired that if that sort of work is repeated often — the way it’s been during this harvest — I become totally distracted and incapable of a whole lot of ordinary things. At these moments the prospect of not being alone isn’t unpleasant. And I think very, very often of that excellent painter Monticelli, who people said was such a drinker and insane, when I see myself coming back from the mental labour of balancing the six essential colours, red — blue — yellow — orange — lilac — green.
Work and dry calculation, in which one’s mind is extremely stretched, like an actor on the stage in a difficult role — where you have to think
1v:3 of a thousand things at the same time in a single half hour.
Afterwards — the only thing that comforts and distracts — in my case — as in others, is to stun oneself by taking a stiff drink or smoking very heavily.
Which is no doubt not very virtuous, but it’s in order to go back to Monticelli.
I’d really like to see a drinker in front of a canvas or on the boards. Of course, it’s all too crude a lie, this whole malicious, Jesuitical tale of the Roquette woman about Monticelli.6
Monticelli the logical colourist, able to carry out the most ramified and subdivided calculations on the ranges of tones that he balanced, certainly overtaxed his brain doing that work, as did Delacroix and Richard Wagner.
But if he did perhaps drink, it was only because — Jongkind too7 — being physically stronger than Delacroix and suffering more physically (Delacroix was richer), it was, then — I, for one, would be well inclined to believe — because if they hadn’t done it — their rebellious nerves would have played other tricks on them. And Jules and Edmond de Goncourt say this, word for word — ‘we took very strong tobacco to stupefy ourselves’ in the furnace of creation.8
Don’t believe, then, that I would artificially maintain a feverish state — but you should know that I’m in the middle of a complicated calculation that results in canvases done quickly one after another but calculated long beforehand. And look, when people say they’re done too quickly you’ll be able to reply that they looked at them too quickly. And besides, I’m now going over all the canvases a little more before sending them to you.
But during the harvest my work has been no easier than that of the farmers themselves who do this harvesting. Far from my complaining about it, it’s precisely at these moments in artistic life, even if it’s not the real one, that I feel almost as happy as I could be in the ideal, the real life.
If all goes well and Gauguin thinks it’s a good idea to join us, we could make the thing more serious by suggesting to him that he puts all his paintings in common, with mine, to share profits or losses. But that won’t happen or will happen of its own accord, depending on whether he found my painting good or bad, and also on whether or not we did things in collaboration. Have to write to Russell now, and I’ll hasten my exchange with him. We’ll have to work hard to try to sell something from my side to help with the expenses, but let’s take heart, despite our difficulties in working to safeguard the artists’ life, we’ll have fire in our bellies. Handshake, I’ll write to you again soon. I’m going to the Camargue for 2 or 3 days, to do some drawings there.9
Good that you’re bringing our sisters over.
Be patient a little longer with Mourier, perhaps he’s going through a crisis.10
I’ll write to Mourier one of these days; you’ll read the letter, you’ll see the way I used to talk to him. I can see the drawing from here!!! The head in the style of Delaroche.11