My dear Theo,
Thank you a thousand times for your kind letter and the 300 francs it contained1 — after some weeks of worries I’ve just had a much better one. And just as worries don’t come singly, nor do joys, either. Because actually, always bowed down under this money problem with lodging-house keepers, I put up with it cheerfully. I’d given a piece of my mind to the said lodging-house keeper,2 who isn’t a bad man after all, and I’d told him that to get my own back on him for having paid him so much money for nothing, I’d paint his whole filthy old place as a way of getting my money back. Well, to the great delight of the lodging-house keeper, the postman whom I’ve already painted,3 the prowling night-visitors and myself, for 3 nights I stayed up to paint, going to bed during the day. It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly coloured than the day. Now as for recovering the money paid to the landlord through my painting, I’m not making a point of it, because the painting is one of the ugliest I’ve done. It’s the equivalent, though different, of the potato eaters.4
I’ve tried to express the terrible human passions with the red and the green.5
The room is blood-red and dull yellow, a green billiard table in the centre, 4 lemon yellow lamps with an orange and green glow. Everywhere it’s a battle and an antithesis of the most different greens and reds; in the characters of the sleeping ruffians, small in the empty, high6 room, some purple and blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for example, contrast with the little bit of delicate Louis XV green of the counter, where there’s a pink bouquet.
The white clothes of the owner, watching over things from a corner in this furnace, become lemon yellow, pale luminous green.7
I’m making a drawing of it in watercolour tones to send you tomorrow, to give you an idea of it.8
I’ve written to Gauguin and to Bernard this week, but I didn’t talk about anything but paintings, just so as not to quarrel, when there’s probably no reason to. But whether or not Gauguin comes, if I buy furniture, then we have, in
1v:3 a good place or a bad, that’s another question — a pied-à-terre, a home that lifts from the mind this melancholy of being on the street. Which is nothing when you’re a 20-year-old adventurer, but which is bad when you’ve turned 35.
I see in L’Intransigeant today the suicide of Mr Bing Lévy. Not possible, is it, that that could be Bing’s manager, Lévy?? I think it must be somebody else.9
It gives me great pleasure that Pissarro found something in the young girl.10 Did Pissarro say anything about the sower?11
Later on, when I’ve taken those experiments further, the sower will still be the first attempt in that genre.
The night café is a continuation of the sower, as is the head of the old peasant12 and of the poet, if I manage to do the latter painting.13 It’s a colour, then, that isn’t locally true from the realist point of view of trompe l’oeil, but a colour suggesting some emotion, an ardent temperament.14
When Paul Mantz saw Delacroix’s violent and exalted sketch, Christ’s boat, at the exhibition that we saw in the Champs-Elysées, he turned away from it and cried out in his article, ‘I did not know that one could be so terrifying with blue and green’.15
Hokusai makes you cry out the same thing — but in his case with his lines, his drawing, since in your letter you say to yourself: these waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it.16 Ah well, if we made the colour very correct or the drawing very correct, we wouldn’t create those emotions.
Anyway, soon — tomorrow or the day after — I’ll write to you again on this subject and will reply to your letter, sending you croquis of the night café. Tasset’s consignment has arrived; I’ll write to you tomorrow on the subject of this coarse paint.17 Milliet will come to say hello to you one of these days; he writes me that he’s going to come back. Thank you once again for the money sent. If I was first going to look for another place, isn’t it likely that then there would be new expenses in that, at least equivalent to the costs of moving? And moreover, would I find better right away? I’m very glad indeed to be able to furnish my house, and that can only help me get on. So many thanks and good handshake; till tomorrow.