My dear Theo
You’ll have received my telegram informing you that Second Lieutenant Milliet will arrive in Paris on Friday morning; he arrives at the Gare de Lyon at 5.15 in the morning and from there goes directly to the Cercle Militaire, avenue de l’Opéra.1 It will be easiest for both of you if you go to see him there at 7 sharp in the morning.2
Of course, you could also meet him at the Gare de Lyon itself, but first of all it’s further away, then you’d have to get up quite early.
He has been very kind to me, particularly these past few days. He’ll come back to Paris for a week, but is spending the major part of his holidays in the north.
I’m very glad to see the package sent off, and in this way our sister will see my studies, which isn’t a matter of indifference to me, because in this way she’ll also experience a thing that is after all an essential part of our French life, raw and just as it is.
I mean, she’ll see painting in its rough state.
But do me the great pleasure of showing her one or two studies put back on stretching frames and framed in white. You can take the previous ones off their stretching frames and frames.
And so that they don’t take up too much room, don’t encumber yourself with stretching frames and frames for me. Because the pals will see clearly what it’s like just as it is, and you too, most of all. Later — when we’ve reached the Hundred mark, we’ll choose around twelve or fifteen of them to frame.
Now, I’ve kept the large portrait of the postman,3 and his head enclosed herewith is — a single sitting.4 Well, there you are, there’s my strong point, to do a chap roughly in one sitting. If, my dear brother, I let myself get more carried away, I’d always do that, I’d drink with the first person to come along and I’d paint him — and not in
1v:3 watercolours but in oils, on the spot, like Daumier. If I did a hundred like that there’d be some good ones among them. And I’d be more French and more myself — and more of a drinker. It tempts me so much — not the drink, but painting ruffians. Would I lose as a man what I gained as an artist, doing that? If I had faith in that, I’d be a famous madman — now I’m not a famous one — but you see I don’t have enough ambition for that particular kind of fame to put the match to the powder.
I prefer to wait for the generation to come, which will do in portraits what Claude Monet is doing in landscape, the rich, bold landscape in the style of Guy de Maupassant.
Now I know that I myself am not one of those people, but didn’t the Flauberts and Balzacs make the Zolas and Maupassants?5 So here’s to — not us — but the generation to come.
You’re enough of a judge of painting to see and to appreciate what originality I may have, and you’re also enough of a judge to see the pointlessness of presenting to today’s public what I’m doing, because the others surpass me in more precise brushwork. It has more to do with the wind and circumstances than with what I could do without the mistral, and without these inevitable circumstances of vanished youth and relative poverty. For my part, I’m in no way set on changing my situation, and I actually count myself only too happy to be able to continue as it is.
No reply from our friend Russell, and Gauguin fully deserved one, for sure.6
I’ve added to this consignment a drawing of the painting that I’m working on now; the boats with man unloading sand.7 If some studies weren’t quite dry, it would just be too bad for them; they should be allowed to dry completely, then washed with lots of water and retouched if need be.8 But the damage can’t be serious, and it was a good opportunity to send them.
I shake your hand firmly, and I do hope to have news from you on Friday or Saturday.