Paris 8 Dec. 1889
My dear Vincent,
Today we safely received the three rolls of paintings as well as your letter.1 Among the canvases there are some whose harmony is sought in less dazzling tones than generally; there is however a lot of atmosphere.
How I agree with you when you say in your last letter
1v:2 that you want to work like a cobbler,2 certainly that won’t prevent you from doing canvases that hold their own alongside those of the masters. What I consider modern times have done for art is that nowadays each person can do as he intends and he isn’t forced to work according to rules established by a school. This being the case, it’s permissible to do a piece of nature simply as one sees it, without being obliged to cut it like this or like that. The fondness the artist has for certain lines and certain colours will cause his soul to be reflected in them in spite of himself.
At the World Exhibition there was a little painting by Manet, which perhaps you saw earlier at Portier’s. It shows a young woman in a white dress sitting against a green knoll beside a little carriage with a child inside. The father is lying nonchalantly on the grass behind the woman.3 This is certainly one of the paintings that aren’t only the most modern, but also in which there is the highest art. I think that the searches for symbolism, for example, need go no further than this painting, and the symbol isn’t deliberate.
Lately Tanguy has been exhibiting a lot of your canvases, he told me
1r:4 that he hopes to sell the Bench with the ivy.4 It’s a fine choice you’ve made for Brussels. I’ve ordered frames. For the Sunflowers5 I’m leaving the little wooden edge that’s around it, and a white frame around that. For the others,6 white or natural wood frames. You don’t tell me if you want to exhibit drawings. When Maus was here he liked them very much and asked above all for some to be sent. We could perhaps send several of them in a frame.
You often used to say that a book should be published about Monticelli. Well, I’ve seen about twenty very fine lithographs after him done by someone called Lauzet. There will also be text, the artist is to come and see our paintings to see if there are any he wants to reproduce.7 It will be especially good for the English
2r:5 and the Scottish. The lithographs are printed in different tones, and in terms of the process they somewhat resemble etchings on stone, like Marvy made back then;8 the man who did them is a real artist. That friend of Bernard’s called Aurier also came to my place, the one who came to rue Lepic once. He’s very interested in what you’re doing and showed me a little journal he ran in which he talked about Tanguy’s shop, and in which he also mentions your paintings.9 Here we are in the full throes of winter and there’s snow on the roofs. How’s the climate where you are? I’m writing to Mr Peyron
2v:6 to tell him that you’ll probably be obliged to work in a room, and that in that case will he please let you make a fire, the cost of which he can add to my account.
I’m very pleased that you can say that you’re well. For the future, who can say, above all don’t worry yourself more than necessary. One day or another there will indeed be better days for you, and we’ll see each other more often.10 The Corots, Millets etc. didn’t sell their painting for high prices but they nevertheless ended up selling, but one must have patience.
Jo sends her warm regards, we’ve received a whole consignment of little things for the baby from Amsterdam. You’ll do its portrait when it’s here. Wil is probably coming to lend us a hand in January. They’re enjoying themselves in Leiden.
Be of good heart.