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732 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 7 January 1889.

metadata
No. 732 (Brieven 1990 735, Complete Letters 568)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Monday, 7 January 1889

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. nos. b615 V/1962 (sheet 1) and b616 V/1962 (sheet 2)

Date
Van Gogh says that he has returned home ‘today’ (l. 5). We know from a letter dated 7 January 1889 which Joseph Roulin wrote to Theo (FR b1069), as well as from Roulin’s letter of 8 January 1889 to Willemien (FR b710), that Vincent was released from hospital on 7 January 1889. For this last letter, see Documentation, 8 January 1889.

Arrangement
Vincent wrote to Theo again later the same day. The phrase ‘I’m adding a few words this same evening’ (ll. 99-100) leads us to assume that the sheets were sent at the same time, which is why we consider them part of one letter (formerly letter 737 [569]). The letter from Roulin to Theo, likewise dated 7 January 1889, must have been enclosed with the present letter. Roulin writes, after all: ‘Excuse me if I add my letter to this one from my friend Vincent’ (Excusez-moi si je joins ma lettre à celle de mon ami Vincent) (FR b1069).

Ongoing topics
Vincent’s first crisis and hospitalization (728)
Theo’s journey to Arles (728)
Theo’s engagement and marriage to Jo Bonger (728)
Gauguin’s departure from Arles (728)
De Haan’s stay with Theo (711)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
Peutêtre je ne t’ecrirai pas une bien longue lettre aujourd’hui mais dans tous les cas un mot pour te faire savoir que je suis rentré chez moi aujourd’hui. Combien je regrette que tu te sois dérangé pour si peu de chôse, pardonnez le moi qui en somme en suis probablement la cause première. J’ai pas prévu que cela aurait la conséquence qu’on t’en parlerait. Suffit.
Monsieur Rey est venu voir la peinture avec deux de ses amis médecins1 et eux comprennent au moins bigrement vite ce que c’est que des complémentaires. Maintenant je compte faire le portrait de M. Rey et possible d’autres portraits dès que je me serai un peu réhabitué à la peinture.2
Merci de ta dernière lettre, certes je te sens toujours présent mais de ton côté saches aussi que je travaille à la même chôse que toi-même.
 1v:2
Ah comme je désirerais que tu eusses vu le portrait de Brias par Delacroix et tout le musée de Montpellier où Gauguin m’a mené.3 Comme on a déjà travaillé dans le midi avant nous. Vrai, il m’est assez difficile de croire que nous nous soyons devoyés tant que ça.
Pour ce qui est du pays chaud – ma foi involontairement je songe à un certain pays dont parle Voltaire – et sans compter même les simples chateaux en Espagne.4 Ce sont là les pensées qui me viennent en rentrant chez moi.
Je suis très desireux de savoir comment vont les Bonger et si les rapports avec eux se maintiennent, ce que j’espère.
Si tu le trouves bien – Gauguin parti – nous remettrons le mois à 150 fr. je crois que je verrai  1v:3 encore ici des jours plus calmes que ne l’était l’annee écoulée. Ce dont j’aurai grand besoin pour mon instruction c’est de toutes les reproductions des tableaux de Delacroix que l’on peut encore avoir dans cette maison où l’on vend à je crois 1 franc les lithographies artistes anciens & modernes &c.5 Je ne veux pas les plus chères décidemment.
Comment vont nos amis Hollandais de Haan et Isaacson? Dis leur bien le bonjour de ma part.
Je crois seulement que nous devons encore nous tenir tranquille pour ma peinture à moi. Si tu en veux certes je peux déjà t’en envoyer mais lorsque le calme me reviendra j’espère faire autre chôse.
Toutefois pour les Indépendants6 fais comme bon te semblera et comme feront les autres.
 1r:4
Mais tu n’as pas d’idée combien je regrette que ton voyage en Hollande ne se soit pas encore fait.7 Enfin nous ne pouvons rien changer aux faits mais ratrappe toi par la correspondance ou comme tu pourras autant que possible et dites aux Bonger combien je regrette d’avoir peutêtre involontairement causé du retard. J’ecris à la mère et à Wil de ces jours ci, je dois également écrire à Jet Mauve.8
Ecris moi bientôt et sois tout à fait rassuré sur ma santé, cela me guérira complètement de savoir que cela marche bien pour toi. Que fait Gauguin? Sa famille etant dans le nord,9 lui ayant été invité d’exposer en Belgique et ayant présentement du succes à Paris,10 j’aime à croire qu’il a trouvé sa voie. Bonne poignée de main, je suis quand même passablement heureux que cela soit une chôse passée. Encore une fois vigoureuse poignee de main.

t. à t.
Vincent

 2r:5
Mon cher frère, j’espère que cela ne t’épatera pas trop que tout en t’ayant écrit ce matin j’y ajoute encore quelques mots ce soir même. Car il y a eu plusieurs jours que je n’ai pas pu écrire mais tu vois bien que cela est passé maintenant.
J’ai écrit un mot à la mère et à Wil que j’ai adressé à la soeur dans le seul but de les tranquiliser pour le cas où tu aurais dit un mot de ce que j’avais été malade.11 Dis leur de ton côté simplement que j’ai été un peu malade comme dans le temps lorsque j’ai eu la chaude pisse à la Haye et que je me suis fait soigner à l’hospice.12 Seulement que cela ne vaut pas la peine d’en parler puisque j’en ai été quitte pour la peur et que je n’ai été à l’hospice susdit ou susmentionné que quelques jours. De cette façon tu te trouveras sans doute d’accord avec le petit mot que je leur ai fait avaler là-bas à la maison en Hollande.
 2v:6
Et ainsi faisant il leur sera passablement difficile de se faire du mauvais sang pour cela.– Enfin ils s’imagineront que j’ai presque eu la chaude pisse. J’espère que tu trouveras cet arrangement-là innocent assez.–
Egalement tu pourras voir par là que je n’ai pas encore oublié de blaguer quelquefois.
Je vais me remettre au travail demain, je commencerai à faire une ou deux natures mortes pour retrouver l’habitude de peindre.
Roulin a été excellent pour nous et j’ose croire que cela restera un ami solide dont j’aurai encore assez souvent besoin car il connait bien le pays.
Nous avons diné ensemble aujourd’hui.13
Si jamais tu veux rendre l’interne Rey très heureux voici ce qui lui ferait bien plaisir:  2v:7 il a entendu parler d’un tableau de Rembrandt, la lecon d’anatomie. Je lui ai dit que nous lui en procurerions la gravure pour son cabinet de travail.14 Aussitot que je me sentirai un peu en force j’espère faire son portrait.
Dimanche dernier j’ai rencontré un autre médecin qui au moins theoriquement est au courant de ce qu’est Delacroix, Puvis de Chavannes et qui est très curieux pour connaitre l’impressionisme.
J’ose espérer de faire plus amplement connaissance.15
Je crois que cette gravure de la lecon d’anatomie est du fonds de François Buffa & fils et que le prix net doit etre de 12 à 15 francs. il faudrait la faire encadrer ici pour éviter frais de transport.
Je t’assure que quelques jours à l’hopital étaient tres intéressants et on apprend peutêtre à vivre des malades.
J’espère que je n’ai eu qu’une simple toquade d’artiste et puis beaucoup de fievre à la suite d’une perte de sang tres considérable, une artère ayant été coupée.16
 2r:8
mais l’apetit m’est revenu immediatement, la digestion va bien et le sang se refait de jour en jour et ainsi de jour en jour la serenité me revient pour la tête.
Je te prie donc d’oublier de parti pris deliberé ton triste voyage et ma maladie.
La peinture est le métier que tu sais et bigre nous n’avons peutêtre pas tort de chercher à garder notre coeur humain.
Tu vois que je fais ce que tu m’as demandé, que je t’ecris ce que je sens et ce que je pense. De ton côté poursuis avec calme cette rencontre avec les Bonger, j’espère que cela se maintiendra comme amitie solide et que peutetre c’est même plus.
Si je reste ici c’est parceque pour le moment je ne saurais peutêtre pas me transplanter. Au bout de quelque temps nous pouvons revoir le pour et le contre de la situation et refaire les calculs.
Je te serre bien la main.

t. à t.
Vincent

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
Perhaps I won’t write you a really long letter today, but anyhow a line to let you know that I returned home today. How I regret that you were troubled for such a little thing, forgive me, for I am after all probably the primary cause of it. I hadn’t foreseen that it would lead to you being told about it. Enough.
Mr Rey came to see the painting with two of his doctor friends,1 and they at least understand darned quickly what complementaries are. Now I’m planning to do Mr Rey’s portrait and possibly other portraits as soon as I’ve accustomed myself a little to painting once again.2
Thank you for your last letter, I do indeed always feel your presence, but on your side you should also know that I’m working on the same thing as yourself.  1v:2
Ah, how I wish that you’d seen the portrait of Bruyas by Delacroix and the whole museum at Montpellier where Gauguin took me.3 How people have already worked in the south before us! In truth, it’s quite difficult for me to believe that we’ve gone so far astray as that.
As to it being a hot country — my word, I can’t help but think of a certain country Voltaire speaks of — and without even counting the simple castles in the air.4 Those are the thoughts that come to me as I return home.
I’m very eager to know how the Bongers are, and if relations with them continue to be good, which I hope they do.
If you think it all right — now that Gauguin has left — we’ll go back to 150 francs a month.  1v:3 I think I’ll see calmer days here again than in the course of the past year. What I’ll need very much for my instruction are all the reproductions of Delacroix’s paintings that one can still get in that shop where they sell lithographs of ancient and modern artists &c. for 1 franc, I think.5 I definitely don’t want the most expensive ones.
How are our Dutch friends De Haan and Isaäcson? Give them my warm regards.
I just think that we must still keep calm regarding my own painting. If you want some I can certainly send them to you now, but when calm returns to me I hope to do something else.
In any case, as regards the Independents,6 do what seems best to you and what the others will do.  1r:4
But you’ve no idea how much I regret that your journey to Holland hasn’t already been made.7 Ah well, we can’t change any of the facts, but make up for it as far as possible by correspondence or however you can, and tell the Bongers how much I regret having, perhaps unwittingly, caused a delay. I’ll write to Mother and Wil one of these days, I must also write to Jet Mauve.8
Write to me soon, and be completely reassured as to my health, it will cure me completely to know that things are going well for you. What is Gauguin doing? As his family are in the north,9 and as he’s been invited to exhibit in Belgium and has some success in Paris at the moment,10 I like to think that he’s found his way. Good handshake, I’m quite happy all the same that this is a thing of the past. Another vigorous handshake.

Ever yours,
Vincent

 2r:5
My dear brother,
I hope that it won’t amaze you too much that although I wrote to you this morning I’m adding a few words this same evening. For I’ve been unable to write for several days, but you can clearly see that that’s over now.
I’ve written a line to Mother and to Wil, which I addressed to our sister with the sole aim of reassuring them, should you have happened to mention to them that I had been ill.11 For your part, simply tell them that I’ve been a bit ill like the time when I had the clap in The Hague, and that I got myself treated at the hospital.12 But that it’s not worth the trouble of mentioning, since I got off with a fright and that I was only in the aforesaid or mentioned hospital for a few days. Thus you’ll doubtless find yourself in agreement with the short note that I’ve made them swallow down there at home in Holland.  2v:6
And by so doing it will be pretty difficult for them to get worked up about it. In fact, they’ll imagine that I almost had the clap. I hope that you’ll find this stratagem innocent enough.
Also you’ll see from this that I haven’t yet forgotten how to jest sometimes.
I’m going to get back to work tomorrow, I’ll begin by doing one or two still lifes to get back into the way of painting.
Roulin has been excellent to us, and I dare believe that he’ll remain a staunch friend whom I’ll still need quite often, for he knows the country well.
We dined together today.13
If ever you want to make the house physician Rey very happy, this is what would give him great pleasure:  2v:7 he has heard about a painting by Rembrandt, The anatomy lesson. I told him that we’d get an engraving of it for his study.14 I hope to do his portrait as soon as I feel a little stronger.
Last Sunday I met another doctor who, in theory at least, knows what Delacroix and Puvis de Chavannes are all about, and who’s very curious to know about Impressionism.
I dare hope to get to know him better.15
I think that this engraving of The anatomy lesson is published by François Buffa and Sons, and that the net price should be between 12 and 15 francs. It would be best to frame it here to avoid transportation costs.
I can assure you that a few days in the hospital were very interesting, and that one perhaps learns how to live from the sick.
I hope that I’ve just had a simple artist’s bout of craziness and then a lot of fever following a very considerable loss of blood, as an artery was severed.16  2r:8
But my appetite came back immediately, my digestion is good, and the blood is recovering day by day, and likewise serenity is returning to my mind day by day.
So please deliberately forget your sad journey and my illness.
Painting is the profession you know, and my goodness we’re perhaps not wrong to try to keep our hearts human.
You can see that I’m doing what you asked me to, that I’m writing what I feel and what I think. For your part, follow up this meeting with the Bongers calmly, I hope that it will continue as a solid friendship, and that perhaps it’s even more.
If I remain here it’s because I might not be able to transplant myself for the moment. After a little while we can review the pros and cons of the situation and do the calculations again.
I shake your hand firmly.

Ever yours,
Vincent
notes
1. It is not known which two doctors of Rey’s acquaintance Vincent is referring to. Two chief surgeons (Gay and Duffaut), an assistant surgeon (Talon), two chief physicians (Arnaud en Urpar), an assistant physician (Béraud) and a house physician (Félix Rey) were employed by the hospital. There were also five doctors serving the various parishes, who were connected with the Arles Bureau de bienfaisance: in addition to the previously mentioned Duffaut, Talon and Arnaud, these included Delon and Martin-Raget (L’indicateur marseillais 1889). Cf. also n. 15 below.
2. Van Gogh painted a portrait of Rey in mid-January (F 500 / JH 1659 ); he did not paint any other portraits during this period, apart from self-portraits.
3. Van Gogh and Gauguin had visited the Musée Fabre in Montpellier in mid-December. For Delacroix’s Alfred Bruyas in that museum, in which Vincent saw a resemblance to Theo, see letter 726, n. 2.
4. The land Van Gogh is talking about is ‘El Dorado’, described in Candide. Regarding this novel, see letter 568, n. 3.
5. In letter 726 Van Gogh mentioned a ‘bookshop’ where lithographs were sold; it is not known which shop he was referring to.
6. Evidently Theo had been asked to submit works by Vincent to the fifth exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants, to be held in Paris from 3 September to 4 October 1889. At their 1888 exhibition Van Gogh had exhibited three works; see letter 582, nn. 8 and 9. It is possible that the exhibition, which was usually held in the spring, was postponed to coincide with the World Exhibition (5 May - 5 November). Theo mentioned the exhibition again in May 1889 (see letter 774), and eventually submitted two of Vincent’s works: Starry night over the Rhône (F 474 / JH 1592 ) and Irises (F 608 / JH 1691 ), recorded in the catalogue as ‘Nuit étoilée’ (Starry night) and ‘Étude d’oies’ (Study of geese) [sic]. See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-1, p. 20, cat. nos. 272-273, and cf. letter 799.
7. In contrast to what Vincent assumed, Theo had meanwhile been in the Netherlands to make his engagement to Jo Bonger official. He left on 5 January and returned to Paris on 13 January. See Brief happiness 1999, pp. 83-84.
8. This was letter 733, which was written the same day (see l. 105); Van Gogh had received a letter from Jet Mauve, in which she thanked him for the painting Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394 / JH 1379 ). See letter 719, n. 1.
9. Gauguin was planning to visit his wife and children in Copenhagen; see letter 723, n. 13.
10. Gauguin had been invited to display his work at the sixth exhibition of the artists’ society Les Vingt in Brussels; see letter 723, n. 12. By Gauguin’s success in Paris Vincent is referring to the fact that between 10 November and 4 December Theo had sold works by Gauguin for a total of 1,700 francs. See letter 722, n. 1.
11. Theo had already written in detail about Vincent’s condition to his mother and Willemien; their letters to Theo of 29 and 30 December 1888 reveal their concern. See Documentation, 29 and 30 December 1888, and Jansen et al. 2003-2.
12. Regarding Van Gogh’s spell in hospital in The Hague in June 1882, see letter 237.
13. Roulin had accompanied Van Gogh the first time he was allowed to leave the hospital, on 4 January, and had arranged some practical matters for him, such as paying the rent and cleaning out the house. See letter 730. When Van Gogh was released from hospital, Roulin stayed with him the whole day. See Joseph Roulin to Willemien van Gogh, Documentation, 8 January 1889.
14. A bit further on in the letter Van Gogh mentions the publisher François Buffa. An undated publisher’s catalogue of Buffa lists the etching that C.L. Dake made after Rembrandt’s Anatomy lesson. The large print (64 x 84 cm) was available on various kinds of paper, the most expensive costing 60 guilders (c. 120 francs). See Catalogue des éditions de François Buffa & fils. Fournisseurs de la cour, éditeurs, marchands de Beaux-arts, tableaux, aquarelles, gravures, eau-fortes, encadrements, ouvrages illustrés, restauration et vernissage de tableaux, etc. etc. Exposition permanente. Amsterdam, Kalverstraat 39. The Hague, Noordeinde. n.d. Theo must have sent the print shortly afterwards, since Félix Rey already thanked him on 12 February 1889: ‘I have received the print which you so kindly sent me’ (J’ai reçu la gravure que vous avez eu la bonté de m’envoyer) (FR b1057).
15. In letter 735 Van Gogh reports that this doctor came from Paris, but it is not known to whom he is referring. In any case, it is certain that Albert Delon had worked as a house physician in Paris (below his contributions to L’Homme de Bronze is written ‘former house physician of the hospital in Paris’ (ancien interne des hospices de Paris)). He treated Van Gogh in February 1889. See letter 747, n. 1. Dr Auriol, who had also been trained in Paris, also worked at the hospital as a surgeon (ACA).
16. Particulars regarding Van Gogh’s injury are to be found in Doiteau and Leroy 1939, pp. 8-11.