My dear old Bernard.
Perhaps you’ll be inclined to forgive me for not having replied to your letter straightaway, seeing that I’m attaching a small batch of croquis to this one.1
In the croquis, The garden, there’s perhaps something like ‘the shaggy carpets of flowers and woven greenery’2 of Crivelli or Virelli,3 doesn’t much matter. Ah, well — in any case I wanted to reply to your quotations with my pen, but not by writing words. Today, too, I don’t have much of a head for discussion; I’m up to my ears in work.
Have made large pen drawings — 2 — an immense flat expanse of country — seen in bird’s-eye view from the top of a hill — vineyards, harvested fields of wheat, all of it multiplied endlessly, streaming away like the surface of a sea towards the horizon bounded by the hillocks of La Crau.4
It does not look Japanese, and it’s actually the most Japanese thing that I’ve done.
A microscopic figure of a ploughman, a little train passing through the wheatfields; that’s the only life there is in it. Listen, I passed – a few days after my arrival — that place with a painter friend.5
There’s something that would be boring to do, he said. I said nothing myself, but I found that so astonishing that I didn’t even have the strength to give that idiot a piece of my mind. I go back there, go back, go back again — well, I’ve done two drawings of it — of that flat landscape in which there was nothing but.......... the infinite... eternity.
Well — while I’m drawing along comes a chap who isn’t a painter but a soldier.6 I say, ‘Does it astonish you that I find that as beautiful as the sea?’ Now he knew the sea — that one. ‘No — it doesn’t astonish me’ — he says – ‘that you find that as beautiful as the sea — but I find it
1v:3 even more beautiful than the ocean because it’s inhabited.’ Which of the spectators was more the artist, the first or the second, the painter or the soldier — I myself prefer that soldier’s eye. Isn’t that true?
Now it’s my turn to say to you, reply to me quickly this time by return of post — to let me know if you agree to make me some croquis of your Breton studies. I have a consignment that’s about to go off,7 and before it clears off I want to do at least another half a dozen subjects in pen croquis for you. Having few doubts that you will do it for yours, I’m getting down to work on my side, anyway, without even knowing if you want to do that. Now, I’ll send these croquis to my brother, to urge him to take something from them for our collection.
I’ve already written to him about that, anyway. But we’re working on something that leaves us absolutely without a sou.
The fact is that Gauguin — who has been very ill — is probably going to spend the coming winter with me here in the south. And there’s the fare, which is worrying us. Once here, well, two together spend less than one alone. All the more reason why I’d like to have some things by you here. Once Gauguin’s here, we’ll try to do something together in Marseille, and will probably exhibit there. Now I’d like to have some things by you too, although without making you lose opportunities for selling in Paris. In any case, I don’t believe I’m making you lose them by encouraging you to exchange croquis of painted studies between us. And as soon as I can, we’ll do another piece of business as well, but am quite hard up now. What I’m convinced of is that if we exhibit in Marseille, sooner or later Gauguin and I will encourage you to join us.
Thomas bought Anquetin’s study in the end — the peasant.8
I shake your hand firmly, more soon, and