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706 To Paul Gauguin. Arles, Wednesday, 17 October 1888.

metadata
No. 706 (Brieven 1990 711, Complete Letters B22)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Paul Gauguin
Date: Arles, Wednesday, 17 October 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
New York, Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum

Date
The letter was written after Van Gogh had heard from Gauguin that he was coming to Arles on 20 October. We have assumed that Van Gogh replied immediately otherwise there would not have been time for the letter to reach Gauguin before he set out. Since it is unlikely that Vincent had received Gauguin’s letter on 16 October – if he had, he would have told Theo about it when he wrote to him that evening (letter 705) – we have dated this letter Wednesday, 17 October 1888. Letter 707 was written the same day; it is not possible to tell which of the two was written first.

Additional
This letter was included in Lettres à Bernard as number 22, and subsequent editions consequently retained this misleading B number. Bernard explained his reason for including it: ‘I did not believe I should omit this interesting letter, decorated with a drawing’ (Je n’ai pas cru devoir omettre cette intéressante missive orné d’un dessin) (Lettres à Bernard 1911, p. 151). Merlhès has suggested that the letter came into Bernard’s possession because it arrived after Gauguin had left Pont-Aven (Merlhès 1989, p. 124). Another possibility is that Gauguin gave it to Bernard.

Ongoing topics
Gauguin coming to Arles (602)
Gauguin’s illness (581)
Decoration of the Yellow House (665)

Sketch

  1. The bedroom (F - / JH 1610), letter sketch

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Gauguin
merci de votre lettre et merci surtout de votre promesse de venir déjà le vingt.1 Certes cette raison que vous dites2 doit ne pas contribuer à faire un voyage d’agrément du trajet en chemin de fer et ce n’est que comme de juste que vous retardiez votre voyage jusqu’à que vous puissiez le faire sans emmerdement. Mais à part cela je vous l’envie presque, ce voyage qui va vous montrer en passant des lieues et des lieues de pays de diverse nature avec les splendeurs d’automne.
J’ai toujours encore présent dans ma mémoire l’emotion que m’a causé le trajet cet hiver de Paris à Arles.3 Comme j’ai guetté “si cela etait déjà du Japon”! Enfantillage quoi.
Dites donc je vous ecrivais l’autre jour, que j’avais la vue etrangement fatiguée.4 Bon je me suis reposé deux jours & demi et puis je me suis remis au travail. Mais n’osant pas encore aller en plein air, j’ai fait toujours pour ma decoration une toile de 30 de ma chambre à coucher5 avec les meubles en bois blanc que vous savez.  1v:2 Eh bien cela m’a enormement amusé de faire cet interieur sans rien.
D’une simplicité à la Seurat.

[sketch A]
A teintes plates mais grossierement brossées en pleine pâte, les murs lilas pâle, le sol d’un rouge rompu & fané, les chaises & le lit jaune de chrome, les oreillers et le drap citron vert très pâle, la couverture rouge sang, la table à toilette orangée, la cuvette bleue, la fenetre verte. J’avais voulu exprimer un repos absolu par tous ces tons très divers vous voyez, et où il n’y a de blanc que la petite note que donne le miroir à cadre noir (pour fourrer encore la quatrième paire de complementaires dedans).
Enfin vous verrez cela avec les autres et nous en causerons. Car je ne sais souvent  1v:3 pas ce que je fais, travaillant presqu’en sonnambule.
Il commence à faire froid surtout les jours de mistral.
J’ai fait mettre le gaz dans l’atelier pour que nous ayons une bonne lumière en hiver.
Peutêtre serez vous desenchanté d’Arles si vous y venez par un temps de mistral mais attendez... C’est à la longue que la poésie d’ici pénètre.
Vous ne trouverez pas encore la maison aussi comfortable que peu à peu nous chercherons à la rendre. Il y a tant de dépenses et cela ne peut pas se faire d’une seule haleine. Enfin je crois qu’une fois ici vous allez comme moi etre pris d’une rage de peindre, dans les intervalles du mistral, les effets d’automne. et que vous comprendrez que j’aie insisté pour que vous veniez maintenant qu’il y a de bien beaux jours. Allons, au revoir.

t. à v.
Vincent

translation
 1r:1
My dear Gauguin,
Thanks for your letter, and thanks most of all for your promise to come as early as the twentieth.1 Agreed, this reason that you give2 won’t help to make a pleasure trip of the train journey, and it’s only right that you should put off your journey until you can do it without it being a bloody nuisance. But that apart, I almost envy you this trip, which will show you, en passant, miles and miles of countryside of different kinds with autumn splendours.
I still have in my memory the feelings that the journey from Paris to Arles gave me this past winter.3 How I watched out to see ‘if it was like Japan yet’! Childish, isn’t it?
Look here, I wrote to you the other day that my vision was strangely tired.4 Well, I rested for two and a half days, and then I got back to work. But not yet daring to go outside, I did, for my decoration once again, a no. 30 canvas of my bedroom5 with the whitewood furniture that you know.  1v:2 Ah, well, it amused me enormously doing this bare interior.
With a simplicity à la Seurat.

[sketch A]

In flat tints, but coarsely brushed in full impasto, the walls pale lilac, the floor in a broken and faded red, the chairs and the bed chrome yellow, the pillows and the sheet very pale lemon green, the bedspread blood-red, the dressing-table orange, the washbasin blue, the window green. I had wished to express utter repose with all these very different tones, you see, among which the only white is the little note given by the mirror with a black frame (to cram in the fourth pair of complementaries as well).
Anyway, you’ll see it with the others, and we’ll talk about it. Because I often don’t  1v:3 know what I’m doing, working almost like a sleepwalker.
It’s beginning to get cold, especially on the days when the mistral blows.
I’ve had gas put in the studio, so that we’ll have good light in winter.
Perhaps you’ll be disillusioned with Arles if you come at a time when the mistral’s blowing, but wait... It’s in the long term that the poetry down here soaks in.
You won’t find the house as comfortable yet as we’ll gradually try to make it. There are so many expenses, and it can’t be done in one go. Anyway, I believe that once here, like me, you’ll be seized with a fury to paint the autumn effects, in between spells of the mistral. And that you’ll understand that I’ve insisted that you come now that there are some very beautiful days. Au revoir, then.

Ever yours,
Vincent
notes
1. Gauguin was to arrive in Arles on Tuesday, 23 October 1888; see letter 712, n. 2. This must be a reference to a new letter from Gauguin, and not the one Van Gogh said that he had received in letter 704, otherwise he would undoubtedly have told Theo then that Gauguin wanted to come on 20 October.
2. Gauguin was still in poor health; see letter 701, n. 1.
3. Van Gogh had made the journey from Paris to Arles on Sunday, 19 and Monday, 20 February 1888 (letter 577).
4. This must have been Van Gogh’s reply to the letter from Gauguin referred to in letter 704. He also wrote about his tired eyes to Theo (see letter 704).
5. The letter sketch The bedroom (F - / JH 1610) is after the painting The bedroom (F 482 / JH 1608 ).