My dear Theo
I’ve just sent you by post a roll containing 5 large pen drawings.1 You have a 6th of this Montmajour series. A group of very dark pines and the town of Arles in the background.2 Later I hope to add a general view of the ruin (you have a hasty croquis of it among the small drawings).3 Being unable, at this moment when we’re embarking on the partnership with Gauguin, to be of use on the money side, I’ve done all I could to show through work that I take the matter to heart.
As I see it, the two views of the Crau and the countryside along the banks of the Rhône are the best I’ve done with my pen.4 Should Thomas by chance want them?5 He can’t have them for less than 100 francs each. Even if I had to give him the three others as a gift in that case, as we’re in urgent need of money. But we can’t give them for less, that’s what it costs. And not everyone would have the patience to let themselves be eaten up by the mosquitoes, and to struggle against this infuriating nuisance of the constant mistral, not to mention that I’ve spent whole days out of doors with a bit of bread and some milk, it being too far to be going back to town all the time.
I’ve already told you more than once how much the Camargue and the Crau — apart from a difference in colour and the clearness of the atmosphere — make me think of the old Holland of Ruisdael’s day. It seems to me that these two sites in the flat countryside, covered with vines and stubble fields, seen from above, will give you an idea of it.
I assure you that I’m tired out by these drawings; I’ve started a painting too — but no means of doing it with the mistral, absolutely impossible.6
Now about this canvas — I’ve compared Tasset’s new canvas at 4.50 francs with the price for the same quality from Bourgeois — (it’s in his catalogue that I tracked down the price of ordinary canvas, 40 francs per 20 square metres). Ah, well, once again Tasset hasn’t charged any more; it was exactly the same price.7 Follows from that that we also ought to be able to have ordinary canvas at 2 francs per square metre at Tasset’s, and in future we’ll do well to take that, which is certainly good enough for studies.
Please write me a short line straightaway, to know if the drawings have arrived in good condition; they gave me a piece of their mind again at the post office because it was too big, and I’m afraid they’ll perhaps make problems in Paris. All the same, they took them, which pleased me, because after the 14 July holiday8 you’ll perhaps not be unhappy about refreshing your eye on the expanses of this Crau. The appeal that these vast landscapes have for me is very intense. And so I’ve felt no annoyances
1v:3 in spite of some essentially annoying circumstances, the mistral and the mosquitoes. If a view makes one forget those little vexations, there must be something in it.
However, you see there’s no effect, at first sight it’s a map, a strategic plan as far as workmanship goes. Besides, I also went for a walk there with a painter, who said: now there’s something that would be bothersome to paint.9 But it must be 50 times that I’ve been to Montmajour to look at this flat view — am I wrong?
I also went for a walk there with someone who was not a painter, and as I said to him: look, to me that’s as beautiful and infinite as the sea, he replied — and he knows it, the sea — I like that better than the sea because it’s just as infinite and yet you feel it’s inhabited.10
How I’d make a painting of it if there wasn’t this bloody wind! That’s the thing that’s annoying here when you plant your easel somewhere. And it’s definitely for that reason that the painted studies aren’t as finished as the drawings. The canvas shakes all the time.
For drawing it doesn’t bother me.
Have you read Madame Chrysanthème? It really gave me a lot to think about, that the real Japanese have nothing on their walls. The description of the cloister or pagoda where there’s nothing (the drawings, the curiosities, are hidden in drawers). Ah, so that’s how you have to look at a japonaiserie — in a nice bright room, completely bare, open to the landscape.11 Would you like to try it out with these two drawings of the Crau and the banks of the Rhône which don’t look japanese and which are perhaps more so than others, in fact? Look at them in a nice bright café where there’s nothing else in the way of paintings — or out of doors. There should perhaps be a reed frame like a thin strip of wood. Myself, I work here in a bare interior, 4 white walls and red tiles on the floor. If I insist on your looking at these two drawings this way it’s because I would like so much to give you a true idea of the simplicity of nature in these parts. Lastly — because of Gauguin, what if we were to show the drawings, the harvest and the Zouave as well,12 to Thomas?
Handshake, and thank you for the 12 tubes of zinc white that Tasset has just sent.13
I’m curious to know if Mourier will remember the places.