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637 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Sunday, 8 or Monday, 9 July 1888.

metadata
No. 637 (Brieven 1990 641, Complete Letters 505)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Sunday, 8 or Monday, 9 July 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. nos. b546 a-b V/1962

Date
Vincent thanks Theo for the 50 francs he sent, and for the illustrations by Toulouse-Lautrec (ll. 151-152), which had appeared in the Paris Illustré of 7 July. We generally date letters in which the receipt of money is confirmed to around a Sunday, but Van Gogh could not have received the illustrations in Saturday’s Paris Illustré on the same day. We have therefore dated the letter Sunday, 8 or Monday, 9 July 1888.

Ongoing topic
Gauguin coming to Arles (602)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
Je te remercie de ta lettre et du billet de 50 fr. qui y était inclus. Pour l’affaire Tanguy ne t’en mêle pas.– Seulement je te prie de ne pas risquer les nouveaux tableaux chez lui,1 retire les donc en réponse de ce qu’il t’a présenté un compte et demandé un acompte. Saches que tu as affaire à la femme Tanguy – et sinon si LUI agit comme cela c’est alors qu’il agit faussement envers moi.– Tanguy a encore de moi une étude que lui-même croyait vendre.2 Je la lui dois à la rigueur
mais je ne lui dois pas un sou d’argent. Entrer en discussion là-dedans c’est discussera avec la mère Tanguy ce à quoi nul mortel n’est tenu.3 Selon eux (les Tanguy) Guyllaumin, Monet, Gauguin, tous leur devraient de l’argent, est ce vrai ou non?? Dans tous les cas, si eux ne payent pas, pourquoi moi paierais je. Je regrette d’avoir voulu reprendre de la couleur chez lui pour lui faire plaisir, il peut y compter que dans la suite je ne lui en prendrai plus.– Il s’agit avec la mère Tanguy qui est vénéneuse de faire sans dire.– je te prie de reprendre mes nouveaux tableaux. Et cela suffit.–
 1v:2
Le blanc de zinc de Tanguy à raison de 40 centimes est un tant soit peu plus cher que les grands tubes de Tasset (à f 1.50) qui contiennent 4 fois autant au moins.4
Laisses à Tanguy l’étude qu’il a d’Asnières – une berge de la Seine. à la rigueur elle est à lui – mais fous le à la porte après et – sans grâce.
Si tu donnais un accompte – mais ce serait reconnaitre une dette que j’ose nier. Jamais – ne te laisse pas prendre donc. La seule chôse que reellement je dois c’est à Bing.5 b Dans ce sens qu’il y a encore des japonaiseries en commission pour 90 francs. Si pourtant l’on compte que souvent j’ai envoyé des gens chez Bing directement il vaut mieux que Bing nous laisse cela et même si j’étais encore là pour m’en occuper je voudrais augmenter le dépot de façon à pouvoir faire des affaires un peu plus importantes là-dedans.–
Et si je ne demande pas de commission à Bing c’est justement qu’en cas de réclamations j’en parlerais.– Ceci pour te dire que d’autres reclamations seraient probablement de nulle valeur.
Je me concentre pour faire valoir un peu mes tableaux en ce moments. Tu sais que je n’ai qu’un seul moyen pour arriver à ce but – c’est de les faire.
 1v:3
Mais je me dis que si j’arrive à faire 50 études à 100 fr. cette année j’aurai dans un certain sens pas fait une grande injustice en mangeant et en buvant comme si cela était un droit. Or c’est assez raide car quoique j’aie dans ce moment une trentaine d’études peintes je ne les compte pas tous à ce prix-là.–
Tout de même il doit y en avoir dans le nombre. Mais – les frais d’exécution me rendent très très pauvre malgré tout cela – je n’insisterais pas si on ne venait pas ainsi que l’ami(?) Tangui demander des acomptes alors que la dette est dubieuse infiniment. Tout l’argent que tu pourrais avoir disponible dans ce but, ma foi j’en aurais le plus grand besoin.
Je me prive moi de bien des chôses – pas que je considère cela comme un malheur mais je considère que mon argent dont j’aurai besoin dans l’avenir dépend un peu de la vigueur de mes efforts d’à présent.
On m’a chicané à la poste que des dessins que je t’envoyais étaient trop grands pour être expédiés de cette façon.6
J’en ai deux grands nouveaux.7 Lorsqu’il y en aura 6 je les enverrai sur rouleau par chemin de fer.
Je me dis que si les études ont du mal à sécher ici dans la chaleur, à plus forte raison cela aurait du mal à sécher chez toi. Ce qui me fait retarder l’envoi.
J’en ai gratté une grande des etudes peintes. un jardin des oliviers – avec une figure de Christ bleue et orangé, un ange jaune – un terrain rouge, collines vertes et bleues. Oliviers aux troncs violets et carminés, à feuillage vert gris et bleu.8 ciel citron.
 1r:4
Je l’ai grattée parce que je me dis qu’il ne faut pas faire des figures de cette portée sans modèle.
Certes – il vaudrait aussi selon moi mieux que Gauguin vienne ici – pour cette raison de l’hiver à venir. Toujours pas de réponse de Russell. Ce Bock restec avec Mc Knight et il travaille fort parait il. mais n’ai encore rien vu. C’est un garçon dont l’extérieur me plait beaucoup. figure en lame de rasoir, yeux verts, avec cela de la distinction. Mc Knight parait très vulgaire à côté de lui.
Après ce que tu me dis de lui je vais le voir cet après midi. Mac Knight a attrappé un chancre avec une grosse femme où j’allais simultanément, par un grand hasard justement je m’étais méfié – à quoi bon se méfier pourtant puisqu’on n’y peut rien et puisqu’après tout, tout marche toujours pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes.9 J’ai lu que Bing donne une exposition Japonaise et publie une revue sur l’art Japonais.10 As tu vu cela. Je trouve terrible par moments de ne pas pouvoir prendre un tas de japonaiseries encore. Enfin il faut plutôt chercher à en faire soi-même. As tu lu le livre de Loti, Mme Chrysantème?11 Très-intéressant. Je dois te dire aujourd’hui absolument la même chose que Jeudi dernier, la fin semaine sera très raide, si tu peux envoyer la prochaine lettre un ou deux jours plus tôt, tant mieux.
 2r:5
As-tu pu trouver ce livre A. Cassagne, ABCD du dessin, réellement j’en aurais besoin.12
Il faudrait certes que Mouriés en achète un pour lui. J’écrirai encore à Russell tout en considérant que je ferais mieux d’attendre sa réponse. mais enfin j’ecrirai ce soir et c’est justement pourquoi je vais voir ses amis Mac Knight et Bock pour pouvoir parler d’eux et d’avoir une occasion de lui dire quelque chôse avant qu’il ne m’aie répondu.
Si les 4 autres dessins que j’ai en tête sont comme les deux premiers que j’ai, alors tu auras le resumé d’un bien beau coin de Provence.13
C’est bien bon à Guillaumin d’être venu voir, j’en suis très sensible mais moi je suis en somme mecontent de tout cela que je fais. Pourquoi changer beaucoup d’endroit. Lorsque je reverrai les vergers ne serai je pas mieux aguerri, ne sera ce pas comme une chôse nouvelle, la nouvelle attaque, à la nouvelle saison, au même sujet.–
 2v:6
Et ainsi pour toute l’année, pour la moisson, pour les vignes, pour tout.
Je voudrais t’envoyer les 30 études14 dans ce moment pour que peut être cela facilite les frais à trouver pour la venue de Gauguin. C’est très bien ce qu’a fait Schoeffenecker.15 Et le père Thomas – il devrait bien acheter pour cent francs à moi ou à Gauguin – alors on y serait presque. Qu’est ce que l’exposition Bing. Si tu y verrais leur gérant16 dis lui que je suis ici et que je demande qu’il me laisse mon depot tranquille et que si j’étais là je me donnerais davantage de mal pour lui. Les Lautrec viennent d’arriver, je les trouve beaux.17
à bientôt, je t’écris encore de ces jours ci – mais ne donne pas dans le truc de la femme Tanguy car c’est pas juste et cela me fait du chagrin que le père Tanguy agisse ainsi. Sois en sûr que si je lui devais je le dirais mais il y a d’autres conditions, soit celle que je ne lui payerai jamais en argent et qu’il a droit sur les tableaux ENCORE RIEN QU’A L’AMIABLE.

t. à t.
Vincent.

fais y bien attention que Bernard aura la même histoire avec les Tanguy mais pire.

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
I thank you for your letter and the 50-franc note that was enclosed with it. About the Tanguy business, don’t get involved in it. Only I beg you not to risk the new paintings that are at his place,1 so take them back as a response to the fact that he presented you with an account and asked for a down payment. Bear in mind that you’re dealing with the Tanguy woman — and if not, if HE behaves like that then it’s the case that he’s dealing dishonestly towards me. Tanguy still has a study of mine that he thought he could sell.2 I owe him it, if it comes to it, but I don’t owe him a sou in money. To get into an argument about that is to argue with mère Tanguy, which no mortal should be obliged to do.3 According to them (the Tanguys), Guillaumin, Monet, Gauguin, all owe them money; is that true or not?? In any case, if they don’t pay, why should I pay? I regret having wished to get colours from him again to please him, he can expect that in future I won’t get any more from him. With mère Tanguy, who’s poisonous, it’s a question of doing it on the quiet — I beg you to take back my new paintings. And that’s enough.  1v:2
Tanguy’s zinc white at 40 centimes is a little dearer than Tasset’s large tubes (at 1.50 francs), which contain at least 4 times as much.4
Leave Tanguy the study he has of Asnières — a bank of the Seine. It’s his, if it comes to it — but kick him out afterwards — and without mercy.
If you made a down payment — but that would be to acknowledge a debt that I dare deny. Never — so don’t let yourself be taken in. The only thing I actually owe is to Bing.5 In the sense that there are still 90 francs worth of Japanese prints on commission. But if we take into account that I’ve often sent people directly to Bing, it would be better that Bing leave us that, and if I was still there to deal with it, I’d wish to increase the stock so as to be able to do slightly more important business in them.
And if I don’t ask Bing for a commission, it’s precisely that I would bring it up in case of claims. That’s to tell you that other claims would probably have no merit.
At the moment I’m concentrating on doing something to enhance the value of my paintings. You know I have only one means of achieving that end — it’s to paint them.  1v:3
But I say to myself that if I manage to do 50 studies at 100 francs this year I shall in a certain sense not have done a great injustice by eating and drinking as if that was a right. Now that’s a bit steep, because although at this moment I have about thirty painted studies, I don’t reckon them all at that price.
All the same, there must be some out of all of them. But — the costs of executing them make me very, very poor even so — I wouldn’t press the point if people didn’t come, like our friend(?) Tanguy, asking for down payments when the debt is dubious in the extreme. Whatever money you might have at your disposal for this purpose, well, I’d have the greatest possible need of it.
I go without many things — not that I consider that a misfortune, but I consider that my money that I’ll need in future depends to some extent on the vigour of my efforts at present.
They quibbled with me at the post office, saying that the drawings I was sending you were too big to be sent that way.6
I have two large new ones.7 When there are 6 I’ll send them by rail, in a roll.
I say to myself that if the studies are hard to dry here in the heat, they’d be all the harder to dry at your place. And that’s making me delay the consignment.
I’ve scraped off one of the large painted studies. A Garden of Olives — with a blue and orange Christ figure, a yellow angel — a piece of red earth, green and blue hills. Olive trees with purple and crimson trunks, with grey green and blue foliage.8 Sky lemon yellow.  1r:4
I scraped it off because I tell myself it’s wrong to do figures of that importance without a model.
Of course — it would be better in my opinion too if Gauguin came here — for that reason of the coming winter. Still no reply from Russell. That Boch is still staying with MacKnight, and he’s working hard, it seems. But I haven’t seen anything yet. He’s a lad whose outward appearance I like very much. Face like the blade of a razor, green eyes, and distinction with all that. MacKnight seems very coarse beside him.
After what you told me about him, I’m going to see him this afternoon. MacKnight has picked up a chancre from a fat woman where I was going at the same time, just by sheer luck I was careful — but what’s the use of being careful, since you can’t do anything and since after all, all’s always for the best in the best of worlds?9 I read that Bing’s holding a Japanese exhibition and publishing a magazine on Japanese art.10 Have you seen that? At times I find it terrible not to be able to get a whole lot more Japanese prints. Well, we ought to try to do them ourselves instead. Have you read Loti’s book, Madame Chrysanthème?11 Very interesting. I have to tell you exactly the same thing today as last Thursday, the end of the week will be very tight, if you can send the next letter a day or two earlier, so much the better.  2r:5
Have you been able to find that book, A. Cassagne, ABCD du dessin? I really will need it.12
Mourier should definitely buy one for himself. I’ll write to Russell again, while at the same time thinking I’d do better to wait for his reply. But I’ll write this evening anyway, and that’s just why I’ll go and see his friends MacKnight and Boch, to be able to talk about them and have an opportunity to say something to him before he replies to me.
If the other 4 drawings I have in my head are like the first two I have, then you’ll have the epitome of a really beautiful corner of Provence.13
It’s good of Guillaumin to have come to have a look, I’m very sensitive about it, but in short, I’m unhappy with everything I’m doing. Why move around a lot? When I see the orchards again won’t I be more hardened, won’t it be like something new, a new attack, in the new season, on the same subject?  2v:6
And the same throughout the year, for the harvest, for the vineyards, for everything.
I’d like to send you the 30 studies14 at this moment, so that it may perhaps help with the costs to be found in order for Gauguin to come. It’s very good, what Schuffenecker’s done.15 And père Thomas — he really ought to buy from me or from Gauguin for a hundred francs — then we’d be nearly there. What’s Bing’s exhibition like? If you happened to see their manager16 there, tell him I’m here and that I ask him to leave my stock alone, and that if I was there I’d go to more trouble for him. The Lautrecs have just arrived; I find them beautiful.17
More soon, I’ll write to you again in the next few days — but don’t fall for the Tanguy woman’s trick, because it’s not fair and it upsets me that père Tanguy should behave like that. You can be sure that if I owed him I would say so but there are other conditions, such as that I’ll never pay him in money and that he still has NO MORE THAN AN AMICABLE right to the paintings.

Ever yours,
Vincent

Just you watch, Bernard will have the same story with the Tanguys, only worse.
notes
1. In letter 595 Van Gogh had suggested exhibiting some of his Arles paintings in Tanguy’s window.
2. From what follows it appears that this was a study of a bank of the Seine in Asnières. If Tanguy did indeed have the work in his possession, it must have been sold before his death since there was no view of the river in Asnières in the Tanguy sale in 1894, nor does it appear on the list of works returned to Jo van Gogh-Bonger (Van Gogh Museum, Documentation). In the light of the subject and provenance, the following works are candidates: The Seine with moored boats (F 300 / JH 1275) and Bank of the Seine with a boat (F 353 / JH 1271). Cf. also letter 572, n. 5.
a. Read: ‘discuter’.
3. Van Gogh had locked horns with Madame Tanguy before; see letter 571.
4. Van Gogh had had paint from both firms not long before; see letters 634 and 635.
5. The art dealer Siegfried Bing had run a gallery for Chinese and Japanese art at 19 rue Chauchat, Paris, since 1878. In the 1880s he opened branches that traded for varying lengths of time at 22 rue de Provence (adjoining rue Chauchat), 13 rue Bleue (opened in 1881) and 19 rue de la Paix (closed in 1886). In the summer of 1884 he established the firm of S. Bing et Cie, with himself as the major shareholder. See exhib. cat. Richmond 1986 and exhib. cat. Amsterdam 2004-1.
Van Gogh refers on several occasions to his ‘stock’ at Bing’s: prints that he had set aside to buy for his own collection, use as an exchange or sell. It is not clear what the business arrangement with Bing was. Van Gogh himself says here (and in letter 640) that he sometimes sent Bing clients and got a discount in return.
b. Read: ‘c’est ce que je dois à Bing’.
6. See letter 625 for this consignment: They were three large drawings: Farmhouse (F 1478 / JH 1444 ), Haystacks (F 1425 / JH 1441 ) and The harvest (F 1483 / JH 1439 ), which measure 39 x 53.5 cm, 48 x 60 cm and 50 x 62 cm respectively.
7. These were probably The rock of Montmajour with pine trees (F 1447 / JH 1503 ) at 49 x 60 cm and Olive trees, Montmajour (F - / JH add. 3 ) at 48 x 60 cm. Van Gogh did three more and sent all five drawings to Theo by post soon afterwards (see letter 639).
8. Van Gogh could also have meant ‘grey, green and blue’.
c. Read: ‘séjourne’.
9. See for this quotation from Voltaire’s Candide: letter 568, n. 3.
10. The Exposition historique de l’art et de la gravure au Japon, which ran from 28 May 1888 in Bing’s gallery at 22 rue de Provence. See exhib. cat. Richmond 1986, pp. 21 (fig. 7) and 28. In May 1888 Bing started publishing the magazine Le Japon Artistique. Documents d’Art et d’Industrie, which appeared monthly until 1891. Each issue contained a lead article, detailed illustrations, some in colour, and descriptions of works of art, many of them from Bing’s collection.
Van Gogh may have read about the magazine and the exhibition in the July issue of La Revue Indépendante. Félix Fénéon reviewed the first issue of Le Japon Artistique and wrote about the exhibition: ‘A marvellous collection of a hundred and sixty engravings on Bing’s walls’ (Une merveilleuse collection de cent soixante gravures aux murs de Bing). See La Revue Indépendante (July 1888), no. 21 (vol. 8), pp. 148-149, 154-156. In September 1888 Theo sent Vincent several issues of Le Japon Artistique; see letter 686, n. 11.
11. See for Loti’s Madame Chrysanthème: letter 628, n. 20.
12. For Cassagne’s Guide de l’alphabet du dessin see letter 214, n. 2. Van Gogh had mentioned it again in letter 630.
13. See letter 639 for this series of five drawings.
14. In mid-August Van Gogh gave Milliet 36 studies to take to Paris; see letter 660, n. 1.
15. Van Gogh is probably referring here to the mediation of Gauguin’s friend Schuffenecker in the possible purchase of Gauguin’s painting Negresses talking by the banker’s wife Mrs Pouzin, to whom Schuffenecker gave painting lessons. See Correspondance Gauguin, pp. 488-489 (nn. 260, 262). Gauguin had told Theo that he was counting on this sale to enable him to go to Arles (see letter 635, n. 3). In the end, though, Mrs Pouzin did not buy the painting, which Theo had on consignment. Cf. letter 627, n. 6.
16. In letter 676 Van Gogh mentions a man called Lévy, who was one of Bing’s branch managers. This is probably who he means here. This branch manager is mentioned again in letters 640, 642 and 686. Lévy stood in for Bing in his absence. The collector Raymond Koechlin wrote about his first visit to the gallery in 1890: ‘Bing was unwell when I called at rue de Provence, and I was received by Mr Lévy or ‘Father Lévy’, as he was affectionately known’. See Max Put, Plunder and Pleasure. Japanese Art in the West, 1863-1930. Leiden 2000, p. 79.
It may be Nephtalie Lévy; he and Daniel Dubuffet together took over the management in December 1892 when Maison Bing became Dubuffet & Cie (Ancienne Maison Bing et Cie). See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 2004-1, p. 26.
17. Toulouse-Lautrec had done illustrations for the article ‘L’Été à Paris’ by Emile Michelet, published in Paris Illustré 6 (7 July 1888), 3rd series, no. 27, pp. 425-427; they were: The laundress, The omnibus company trace-horse, Horsemen riding in the Bois de Boulogne and First communion day. Ill. 433 , 2186 , 2187 , 2188 .