My dear Theo,
Enclosed herewith letter from Gauguin, which arrived at the same time as a letter from Bernard.1 At last, it’s the cry of distress.... my debt is increasing from day to day.
I won’t dwell on what he has to do.
You offer him hospitality here, and you accept the only means of payment he has, his paintings.
But if in addition to and apart from that, he demanded that you pay for his journey, he’s going a bit far, and at least he should very openly offer you some of his paintings, and appeal to you as well as to me in terms less vague than ‘my debt increasing from day to day, my journey is becoming more and more unlikely’.
He would have a better sense of things if he said, I prefer to leave all my paintings in your hands, because you’re kind to me, and to run up debts with you, who are fond of me, rather than living with my landlord.2
But he has a stomach-ache, and when you have a stomach-ache, you don’t have free will.
Now I don’t have a stomach-ache, at present.
And as a result I feel my head freer, and I should hope more lucid.
I find it absolutely unfair that you, who’ve just sent the money that you yourself have had to borrow for furnishing the house,3 should also have to bear the expense of the journey, and especially when this journey is complicated by the payment of the debt.
Unless Gauguin, sharing absolutely everything, were to give you the whole of his work. In such a way that, ceasing to keep count, we’d share absolutely everything. If we shared expenses and made common cause, I myself believe that everyone would profit from it after some years’ working in common.
Because, if the association is created under these conditions, you will feel, I don’t say happier, but more of an artist and more productive than with me alone.
For him, as for me, we’ll feel very clearly that we must succeed, because the honour of all three of us is involved there, and because we’re not working just for ourselves. That seems to me to be the case.
And I say to myself that even if we must tumble into the inevitability of things, we should still do it that way. But increasingly I’m dismissing the idea of that tumble when I think of the serenity that we see on faces in Frans Halses and Rembrandts, as in the portrait of old Six,4 as in his own,5 as in those Frans Halses that we know so well in Haarlem, of old men and old women.6
It’s better to have serenity than to be too fearful.
Why, then, make such a noise on the subject of this affair with Gauguin? If he comes with the two of us he’ll do well, and we really want him to come.
But neither he nor we should be crushed.
Anyway, there’s a beautiful calm in his letter all the same.
Although he leaves his intentions towards us unexplained.
But if we wish to do this thing well, it will require loyalty on his part.
I’m quite curious to know what he’ll write to you himself; I’ll reply to him exactly as I feel, but I don’t want to say melancholy or sad or mean things to so great an artist.
But from the point of view of money, the affair is taking on serious proportions; there’s the journey, there’s the debt, and there’s the fact that the furnishing isn’t complete.
Only it’s already complete enough that if Gauguin were to drop in here unexpectedly there would be a way to manage while waiting to get our breath back.
Gauguin is married, and it’s very important to be aware beforehand that in the long run it’s not certain that different interests will be compatible.
Now that’s why, in the case of some sort of association, we have to have the conditions settled well and clearly, precisely so that we don’t fall out later.
If all goes well for Gauguin, you’ll see at this point that he’ll go back to his wife and children.7 Certainly I’d wish that for him. Ah well, we must therefore have more confidence in the value of his paintings than his landlord does, but he mustn’t calculate them to be so expensive to you that instead of your having some benefit from the association, you’d have nothing but responsibilities and costs.
That must not be, and anyway, will not be. But you must have from him the best of what he has.
I must warn you that I plan to keep several studies here at the studio, instead of sending them to you. I believe that if I very firmly continue this project of turning the house here into something that’s a little bit truly artistic, later on you’ll have a series of studies that will hold together.
Russell replied, by the way — negatively as far as buying a Gauguin is concerned,8 but he invites me to spend some time with him, which would start and finish with costing the money for the journey. I’m not saying, though, that he won’t buy a Gauguin, because he himself will feel that he’s not being very helpful at present. But after all, by building himself a house,9 as long as he puts people up there, he’s doing the very thing that’s needed from the moment our landlords kick us out.
More soon, and good handshake.