My dear Theo,
Yesterday I sent you a telegram to ask you for another twenty francs.1 That’s all I’ll have to feed myself for the whole week, but at least I have my frames and a few stretching frames.2 Only for the next letter, it shouldn’t come later than Sunday, because the siege is hard, very hard, these days. But we’ll sit it out, and I feel quite calm in all this agitation that we’re going through.
At the very moment when I wrote these words to you I received news of the arrival of Tasset’s canvas.3 Perfect!
The walnut frames do well for the studies. And I believe that the next consignment will decide something, and that we’re on the point of selling.
Let’s be prudent, and as we are let’s not move from the idea that not only for ourselves but also in order to make this studio succeed, we must regain the money spent during the unproductive years. With calmness we’ll do all that; besides, it’s our right, and we’ve suffered for it often enough.
But I beg you, try to be reconciled with the Bagues.4 That’s to say, we’re growing too old to struggle against the existing firms, and the best policy will probably be to continue very quietly from day to day. It costs a great deal of money to set up a new firm, and to make use of the existing ones, that costs nothing at all.
So if you see Bague, explain to him that, coming to a countryside that was quite new to me, I began to do studies right and left, of which I’ve sent you two consignments. But that if there are paintings among them, there are 2 or three of them at most.
So, the white orchard, the large pink orchard and the harvest with a ruin in the background.5
At present, though, I’m busy gathering my thoughts. The new things now, ah, they’re costing us dear and we won’t be very accommodating about selling them; they must bring in what they’re worth. Let’s hope we won’t be in too tight a corner; with patience it won’t be too difficult
1v:3 for us to do the same as Mauve or Mesdag, who, being able to wait and keep things a little dearer, still sold.
We’re sparing nothing of what we have, in order to obtain some rich effect of colour. And I believe that the idea of earning something as much for the pals as for ourselves will give us confidence. And in our business dealings, although we have no fixed plan, everything we do will nevertheless be based on that deep sense that we have of the present injustice suffered by the artists whom we know, and of the desire to change it as far as we can. With that idea, we can work with calmness and determination, and in short, we have nothing to fear from anyone. I’m working on a portrait of our mother because the black photograph was making me too impatient.6
Ah, what portraits we could make from life with photography and painting! I always have hopes that a great revolution still awaits us in portraiture.
I’m writing home to have our father’s portrait too. Myself, I don’t want black photographs, and yet I still want to have a portrait. The one of our mother, a no. 8 canvas, will be ashy, on a green background, and her clothes carmine. I don’t know if it will be a good resemblance, but I want an impression of blond colouring, at least. You’ll see it one day, and if you like I’ll do one for you too. It will be in heavy impasto again.
Ah well, my dear Theo, for your next letter, let me have it on Sunday.
Things will go well, I dare believe, because we’re on the point of selling all the same, and what I’m preparing now will put us in a position to show something at the time of the exhibition. It will be a year of hard work, but we’ll have good times afterwards, and even in the meantime. I’m doing a study of a brothel for Bernard, from memory.7 Did you see that my drawing, which I added to the Bernard drawings,8 shows the house? You’ll be able to form an idea of the colour. I have a no. 30 canvas of that drawing.9
Handshake, and many thanks for the canvas; now we’ll be able to join battle once more.
I’ll stick firmly to this, when this decoration on which I’m working is finished, it’ll have to be worth ten thousand, whether it’s easy for me or not; that’s my firm and fixed aim; we’ve spent money and it must come back to us.