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640 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Sunday, 15 July 1888.

metadata
No. 640 (Brieven 1990 644, Complete Letters 510)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Sunday, 15 July 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. nos. b551 a-b V/1962

Date
The letter was written during the morning of the day Van Gogh wrote letter 642. Since that one dates from Sunday, 15 July 1888, so does this.

Ongoing topics
The prints in stock at Bing’s (637)
Gauguin coming to Arles (602)
The plan to exhibit work by modern artists in Marseille (580)
Theo’s plan to get Willemien and Lies to come and stay with him in Paris (615)
Attempts to sell work through Thomas (639)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
je te remercie beaucoup de ta lettre et du billet de 100 francs qu’elle contenait. Maintenant j’approuve ton idée de régler une fois le compte avec Bing et à cet effet je te renvoie cinquante francs.
Seulement ce serait, il me semble, une erreur “d’en finir” avec Bing – ah non – au contraire je ne serais pas etonné que Gauguin comme moi désirera en avoir ici de ces crepons. Fais donc comme bon te semblera pour lui payer les 90 francs du dépôt en plein et reprendre ensuite pour 100 francs en plein.
Ou bien Bing remplacera la marchandise que représentent les 50 francs ci inclus. Seulement. Si c’etait possible – les crepons qui sont chez nous etant tous beaux – mieux vaudrait reprendre le dépot complet. Nous les avons à si bon marché et nous pouvons faire plaisir à tant d’artistes avec, qu’enfin il faut garder ce que nous avons de faveur chez le père Bing. Moi j’ai été chez lui 3 fois à nouvel an pour regler, alors pour cause d’inventaire probablement j’ai trouvé la maison fermée. Or un mois plus tard avant mon depart je n’avais plus l’argent et j’avais encore donné pas mal de japonaiseries à Bernard alors que j’ai fait les echanges avec lui.1
 1v:2
Seulement prends donc aussi les Hokousaï, 300 vues de la montagne sainte et les Scenes de moeurs.2
Il y a chez Bing un grenier, là il y a un tas de 10 mille crepons, paysages, figures, crepons anciens aussi.3
Il te laissera un dimanche choisir toi-même, alors prends pas mal d’anciennes feuilles aussi.
Il t’en ôtera quelques uns en collationnant mais il t’en laissera.– C’est à ce qui m’a semblé un bien brave homme leur gérant,4 et bon pour les gens qui sérieusement s’interessent à la chôse. Moi je ne comprends pas pourquoi tu ne tiens pas les belles japonaiseries Boulevard Montmartre. Il t’en donnera en depôt des plus belles j’en suis sûr.
Mais enfin cela ne me regarde pas mais à notre depot personel j’y tiens. Fais lui toutefois remarquer que nous n’y gagnons rien, que nous nous donnons du mal pour l’affaire, qu’enfin nous sommes quelquefois cause de lui envoyer des gens.
 1v:3
Moi j’ai toujours espéré etant à Paris avoir une salle d’exposition à moi dans un café, tu sais que cela a raté.
L’exposition de crepons que j’ai eu au Tambourin a influencé Anquetin et Bernard joliment mais cela a été un tel désastre.5 Pour la 2me exposition dans la salle Bd de Clichy je regrette moins la peine.6 Bernard y ayant vendu son premier tableau, Anquetin y ayant vendu une etude,7 moi ayant fait l’échange avec Gauguin,8 tous nous avons eu quelque chôse. Si Gauguin voudrait nous ferions une exposition Marseille tout de même. Mais pour les Marseillais faut pas s’y fier plus que sur Paris.
Mais je t’en prie, gardes le dépot Bing. l’avantage est trop grand. J’y ai plutot perdu que gagné quant à l’argent – bon – mais cela m’a donné occasion de voir beaucoup de japonaiserie tranquillement et longtemps. Et cela doit durer il me semble. Ton apartement ne serait pas ce qu’il est sans les japonaiseries continuellement.9
Maintenant les crepons nous coûtent 3 sous piece. pour 100 francs, si nous payons les 90 francs, en outre que tout ce qu’il y a nous reste,b  1r:4 on aura un nouveau stock de 660 crepons.10 Ou pour les 50 francs ci inclus la moitié.
Je n’avais pas compté ce mois ci sur un billet de 100 dans ceux de 50, te sachant aux prises avec l’affaire Gauguin et la venue des soeurs. Donc je m’en tirerai comme cela ce mois ci.
Je travaille à des dessins pour Bernard pour qu’il m’envoie des siens.11
Je veux volontiers changer à Tanguy ses fleurs contre une nouvelle étude s’il desespère des fleurs. Justement de ces fleurs nous n’en avons plus guère.12 Mais son compte est aussi absurde qu’une facture que je monterais de mon côté dans ces termes ci:

portrait de Tanguy 50
,,
 ,,   Mme ,, 50
,,
ami 50
argent que Tanguy a gagné sur couleurs 50
amitié &c 50
____________
Total fr.
200
le règlement de ce compte n’est pas pressé, toutefois un acompte me serait agréable.13 Donc suffit. Poignee de main.

t. à t.
Vincent

 2r:5
Dites donc pour ce livre de Cassagne: la difficulté d’en trouver l’editeur, si toutefois il y en a, sera vite finie si je te dis que l’a b c d du dessin par A. Cassagne est le texte (se vendant séparement je crois au prix de 5 francs) du Dessin pour tous par Cassagne, les 100 cahiers que tu connais sans aucun doute.
Or j’y ai réflechi que le livre doit etre chez le meme editeur que les cahiers.14
Je t’ai expédié rouleau de dessins.15 Si tu allais voir Thomas avec ceux ci en y ajoutant les (je crois qu’il y en a 4) autres dessins même format,16 peutetre trouverions nous quelques sous chez le père Thomas si tu lui expliques les raisons assez exceptionnelles qu’il y a dans ce moment pour que l’on desire faire une affaire. Encore Thomas pourrait il prendre quelque chose à Gauguin  2v:6 s’il sait la combinaison que nous avons en train.
Si tu payes le premier dépôt en plein pourquoi ne demanderions nous pas 200 francs en commissions au lieu de moins.
En tout cas faut aucunément cesser le dépot.– Tout mon travail est un peu basée sur la japonaiserie et si je me suis tu là-dedansc envers Bing c’est que je crois que après mon voyage dans le midi je pourrai reprendre la chose peutêtre plus serieusement. L’art japonais en decadence dans sa patrie reprend racine dans les artistes Francais impressionistes. C’est ce côté pratique pour les artistes qui m’intéresse nécessairement – plus que le commerce des japonaiseries. Toutefois ce commerce est interessant à plus forte raison à cause de la direction que tend à prendre l’art Français.
Ecris moi un petit mot si les dessins t’arrivent en bon état.

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
I thank you very much for your letter and the 100-franc note it contained. Now, I approve of your idea of settling Bing’s account, and I’m sending you back fifty francs for that purpose.
But it seems to me that it would be a mistake to have done with Bing — oh no — on the contrary I wouldn’t be astonished if Gauguin, like me, will wish to have some of these Japanese prints here. So do what you think best about paying him the full 90 francs for the stock and then taking more for a full 100 francs.
Or else Bing will replace the merchandise represented by the enclosed 50 francs. But. If it was possible — all the Japanese prints we have at home being beautiful — it would be better to take the whole stock back. We’re getting them so cheaply and we can give pleasure to so many artists with them, we should after all keep what favour we have with père Bing. I went to his place myself 3 times at New Year to pay, when I found the shop closed, probably for stocktaking. Then a month later, before I left, I no longer had the money and I’d also given a good many Japanese prints to Bernard, when I made the exchanges with him.1  1v:2
But take the Hokusais as well then, 300 views of the sacred mountain and scenes of manners and customs.2
There’s an attic at Bing’s, and in it there’s a heap of 10 thousand Japanese prints, landscapes, figures, old Japanese prints too.3
One Sunday he’ll let you choose for yourself, so take plenty of old sheets too.
He’ll take some from you when he goes through them, but he’ll leave you some. Their manager’s a very decent fellow,4 as it seemed to me, and good to people who are seriously interested in the subject. I myself don’t understand why you don’t have the fine Japanese prints at boulevard Montmartre. He’ll give you some of the best ones on deposit, I’m sure.
But it’s not my business, after all, but our personal stock, that I do value. In any event, make it clear to him that we’re not making anything on it, that we’re putting ourselves to trouble over the deal, that lastly, we’re sometimes responsible for sending people to him.  1v:3
When I was in Paris I always hoped to have a showroom of my own in a café; you know that that fell through.
The exhibition of Japanese prints that I had at the Tambourin had quite an influence on Anquetin and Bernard, but it was such a disaster.5 For the 2nd exhibition at the showroom on boul. de Clichy, I have fewer regrets about the time and effort.6 Bernard having sold his first painting there, Anquetin having sold a study there,7 and I having made the exchange with Gauguin,8 we all got something. If Gauguin were willing we could do a Marseille exhibition all the same. But better not rely any more on the people of Marseille than on Paris.
But please, keep the Bing stock. The benefit’s too great. As far as money goes, I’ve lost rather than gained on it — fine — but it gave me the opportunity to see a lot of Japanese art, at leisure and over time. And that should last, it seems to me. Your apartment wouldn’t be what it is without the constant presence of Japanese prints.9
Now the Japanese prints cost us 3 sous each. For 100 francs, if we pay the 90 francs, besides all of what we have left,  1r:4 we’ll have a new stock of 660 Japanese prints.10 Or half of them for the 50 francs enclosed.
I hadn’t counted on a 100-franc note among the 50-franc ones this month, knowing that you’re grappling with the Gauguin business and the arrival of our sisters. So I’ll get by somehow this month.
I’m working on some drawings for Bernard so that he’ll send me some of his.11
I’ll happily exchange Tanguy’s flowers for a new study, if he’s given up hope of the flowers. The point is that we have hardly any of the flowers left.12 But his account is as ridiculous as a bill that I would present for my part, in these terms:

portrait of Tanguy
50
,,
,,  Mrs Tanguy
50
,,
,, a friend
50
Money Tanguy has made on colours
50
Friendship &c
50
________________
Total 200 francs
Payment of this bill isn’t urgent, but an advance would nevertheless be agreeable to me.13 So, enough of that. Handshake.

Ever yours,
Vincent

 2r:5
By the way, about this book of Cassagne’s: the difficulty of finding the publisher, always supposing there is one, will soon be over if I tell you that l’a b c d du dessin par A. Cassagne is the text (sold separately, I believe, at a price of 5 francs) of Le dessin pour tous par Cassagne, the 100 instalments with which you’re certainly familiar.
Now, it has occurred to me that the book should be from the same publisher as the instalments.14
I’ve sent you a roll of drawings.15 If you went to see Thomas with these, and added the (I believe there are 4 of them) other drawings in the same format,16 perhaps we’d pick up a few sous from père Thomas if you explain to him the rather exceptional reasons there are at this moment for our wanting to do a deal. Or again, Thomas could buy something from Gauguin  2v:6 if he knows the partnership we have in train.
If you pay for the first stock in full, why don’t we ask 200 francs in commissions instead of less?
Whatever we do, we mustn’t stop holding stock. All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art, and if I’ve said nothing about this to Bing it’s because I think that after my journey in the south I’ll be able to take the subject up again perhaps more seriously. Japanese art, in decline in its own country, is taking new roots among French Impressionist artists. It’s this practical side for artists that necessarily interests me — more than the trade in japonaiseries. However, this trade is all the more interesting because of the direction that French art is tending to take.
Write me a short line to tell me if the drawings reach you in good condition.
notes
1. Van Gogh used the plural ‘échanges’, which means he must have swapped more than one work with Bernard. We know that while he was in Paris he exchanged his Self-portrait with a straw hat (F 526 / JH 1309 ) for Portrait of Bernard’s grandmother (see letter 655, n. 3). The following works by Bernard also come from the Van Gogh brothers’ collection: the paintings Vase of flowers and a cup, 1887, Figure sitting in the grass, 1886 and Ragpicker fishing, 1886-1887, and the drawings Figures in a street and Portrait of his grandmother, 1887 (all Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). It emerges from letter 630 that they also had Bernard’s painting The acrobats .
As well as the Self-portrait with a straw hat (F 526 / JH 1309 ) Bernard had the following paintings from Van Gogh’s Paris period: Reclining female nude (F 330 / JH 1214), Reclining female nude (F 329 / JH 1215), Blue and white grapes, apples, pears and lemons (F 382 / JH 1337), Self-portrait (F 319 / JH 1333), Self-portrait (F 366 / JH 1345), and possibly also Woman with a scarlet bow in her hair (F 207 / JH 979 ), Woman strolling in a garden (F 368 / JH 1262), The Seine with a rowing boat (F 298 / JH 1257) and Factories (F 318 / JH 1288). He may also have owned Old man with an umbrella seen from the back (F 978a / JH 240). See Van Gogh 2007, pp. 366-367. We do not know which of these works were obtained by means of exchange and which ones Bernard bought later.
2. Katsushika Hokusai’s series of colour woodcuts Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji (c. 1831), and/or the second series in black and white A hundred views of Mount Fuji (1833-1834), which were published in three albums. There is a copy of the second album in the estate, but it is not known whether Theo and Vincent bought it or it came into the collection later (inv. no. n561). See cat. Amsterdam 1991, p. 316. Hokusai produced countless genre scenes, so it is not possible to tell which ones Van Gogh means here.
3. This may have been the attic at the back of Bing’s branch at 22 rue de Provence; in 1899 it was converted for use as a workshop for Bing’s craftsmen. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 2004-1.
4. In letter 676 Van Gogh mentions a branch manager called Lévy – this is probably who he means.
5. For Café Le Tambourin, where Van Gogh exhibited his work, see letter 571, nn. 2-3. It is assumed that Van Gogh’s exhibition of Japanese prints took place in February-March 1887 because the portrait of Agostina Segatori (with a Japanese print in the background) is dated to this period. In any event it must have been before the end of April 1887, because that was when Bernard left for Brittany and it is apparent from the present letter that he went to see the exhibition. Japanese graphic art was a major influence on the new style – Cloisonnism – that Anquetin and Bernard developed. Cf. letter 575, n. 7.
6. Read: ‘Avenue’ de Clichy. Van Gogh staged an exhibition of paintings in the Grand Bouillon-Restaurant du Chalet in avenue de Clichy in November-December 1887; see letter 575, n. 9. On the basis of this passage Kōdera assumed that Van Gogh also exhibited Japanese prints there, but there is nothing here that bears this out. Cf. cat. Amsterdam 1991, p. 12.
7. Bernard sold his first painting to the art dealer Georges Thomas, who Van Gogh mentions later in the letter. See exhib. cat. Mannheim 1990, pp. 97, 382. We do not know which work this was. Anquetin’s study is probably Old peasant (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). Thomas bought this one, too (see letter 641, n. 8).
8. In this exchange Gauguin acquired Sunflowers gone to seed (F 375 / JH 1329 ) and Sunflowers gone to seed (F 376 / JH 1331 ): see letter 576, n. 2.
9. Shortly before he left for Arles Vincent had covered the walls of Theo’s apartment with Japanese prints. See Bernard 1994, vol. 1, p. 251.
b. Read: ‘outre qu’il nous reste tout ce qu’il y a’.
10. 3 sous = 0.15 francs, so one could buy 666 prints for 100 francs.
11. See letter 641 for the drawings Van Gogh sent Bernard. Bernard sent Van Gogh several sketches soon afterwards, see letter 649.
12. We do not know which flower painting Tanguy had. According to Bernard, Van Gogh had left a great many flower still lifes with Segatori (letter 571, n. 3); this could be why Vincent and Theo had very few left. See further cat. Amsterdam 2011.
13. Vincent had already drawn up a similar summary in letter 638, in response to Theo’s report that Tanguy had presented a bill (see letter 637). The portrait is Père Tanguy (F 263 / JH 1202 ) or Père Tanguy (F 363 / JH 1351 ). The portrait of Mrs Tanguy is not known; that of their friend is probably Portrait of a man (F 288 / JH 1200 ). Incidentally, Van Gogh made a mistake in his arithmetic.
14. Vincent had asked Theo to let him have the name of the publisher before (see letter 630, n. 9).
Le dessin pour tous, méthode Cassagne, with ‘Cahiers d’exercices progressifs’, consisted of various series made up of a number of instalments of 16 pages each: Étude du paysage, Fleurs et fruits, Figure, Animaux, L’ornement, Genre, Abécédaire du dessin, Marme. In 1881, in other words when Van Gogh was familiar with it, Le dessin pour tous consisted of 61 instalments altogether; L’alphabet du dessin took up 32 instalments (Van Gogh says here that there were 100). At that time, the Guide de l’alphabet du dessin cost six francs, as we learn from an advertisement in Cassagne’s Eléments de perspective. Paris 1881 (cf. letter 214, n. 2).
15. There were five drawings in this batch: The rock of Montmajour with pine trees (F 1447 / JH 1503 ), Olive trees, Montmajour (F - / JH add. 3 ), Hill with the ruins of Montmajour Abbey (F 1446 / JH 1504 ), La Crau seen from Montmajour (F 1420 / JH 1501 ) and Landscape near Montmajour with a train (F 1424 / JH 1502 ).
16. Among the other drawings of the same size was, in any event, View of Arles from a hill (F 1452 / JH 1437 ), which was part of the set of drawings of Montmajour (see letter 639). In the same letter Van Gogh had suggested offering Thomas Seated Zouave (F 1443 / JH 1485 ) and The harvest (F 1483 / JH 1439 ) as well as the drawings he had sent. It is quite possible that he also counted Haystacks (F 1425 / JH 1441 ), mentioned in letter 635, together with this Harvest among the group of drawings for Thomas. All these works measure approx. 50 x 60 cm.
c. Read: ‘là-dessus’.