1. The letter from Vincent, for which Theo thanks him, is letter 857.
2. Theo had sent Vincent something to read to combat the boredom, as he reported at the beginning of March to their sister Willemien: ‘Wil, many thanks for the plays by Ibsen. I find them more genuine in German than in French. They certainly contain inducement for much that is good. I sent Nora to Vincent, but in his present condition I’d prefer to keep back “Ghosts” for a while’ (FR b941). Theo is referring here to Henrik Ibsen’s plays Nora or A Doll’s House and Ghosts. The latter is considered Ibsen’s darkest and most scandalous family drama. It is a harrowing tale that shows how lies and good intentions can destroy people.
3. The opening of the exhibition had taken place earlier that day (19 March). Theo had already written to Willemien to say how sorry he was that Vincent could not be present: ‘19 of this month opens the exhibition of the Indépendants here, with ten paintings by him. I had hoped that he would be here for the opening, for he would certainly have had success among the public who follow the movement of the younger school. But that is not possible now’ (FR b927, 14 March 1890).
4. Carnot was the French president.
Ravine (F 662 / JH 1804 ). It is possible that Theo did exchange the painting with Gauguin, or perhaps he (or Jo) gave it to him, because in 1905 the painting was in the possession of Amedée Schuffenecker and before that of Chaudet, with whom Gauguin stored his paintings when he went to Tahiti. Provenance information from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
6. Seurat, The Chahut, 1889-1890 (Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum). Ill. 2313 . See exhib. cat. Paris 1890-2, p. 36, cat. no. 726.
7. Guillaumin exhibited eight paintings and two pastels. See exhib. cat. Paris 1890-2, p. 22, cat. nos. 416-425.
8. Toulouse-Lautrec exhibited two works: Mademoiselle Dihau at the piano, 1890 (Albi, Musée Toulouse-Lautrec). Ill. 431 , and the painting, measuring 100 x 150 cm, At the Moulin Rouge: The dance, 1889-1890 (Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Henry P. Mcllhenny Collection in Memory of Frances P. McIlhenny). Ill. 436 .
9. From 25 February to 15 March 1890 Theo organized an exhibition of recent work by Pissarro. There were sixteen canvases, seven distempers and four gouaches on display. See Exposition d’oeuvres récentes de Camille Pissarro. Exhib. cat. Paris (Boussod, Valadon & Cie), Février 1890. Paris 1890. The invitation has been preserved (FR b1498). See also Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts 2005, vol. 1, pp. 218-219, 363.
The following five paintings were sold by Theo in the first months of 1890, for a total of 4,800 francs: Paysage à Auvers (Landscape at Auvers), on 3 January 1890 for 600 francs to Oppenheim; Prairie à St. Charles (Meadow at Saint Charles) 1889 (Girl tending cattle, Saint-Charles, Eragny, private collection), on 4 March 1890 for 1,200 francs to L. Bouglé; L’abreuvoir (The watering place), 1889 (Peasant girl raking hay at Eragny, private collection), on 8 March 1890 for 1,200 francs to Thiébault; Paysanne gardant chèvres (Peasant woman tending goats), on 22 March 1890 for 800 francs to Gallimard; Meules et moutons (Haystacks and sheep), on 28 March 1890 for 1,000 francs to Marcigny. See GRI, Goupil Ledgers, nos. 20005, 20342, 20364, 20405 and 20419; and Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts 2005, vol. 3, pp. 566-567, 572-573, cat. nos. 866, 872. Pissarro was highly pleased. See Correspondance Pissarro 1980-1991, vol. 2, pp. 329-334 and Jampoller 1986, pp. 53, 57-58.
10. Van Gogh’s painting The red vineyard (F 495 / JH 1626 ) had been sold in Brussels for 400 francs; see letter 855, n. 5.
11. The letter from Octave Maus to Theo is not known. The writer of the article ‘L’exposition des XX’ in L’Art Moderne of 26 January 1890 also heaped praise on Van Gogh’s paintings: ‘He’s a strange artist, who tried to express this same symbolic vision of things through the medium of colour. That’s Vincent van Gogh. Visitor, overcome your initial shock at the sight of these loud, sonorous, disorderly paintings, the Sunflowers, the Ivy, and especially the Red vineyard at Montmajour ... And when you open your eyes again, look hard at these three extraordinary paintings and ask yourself if their wild disorder, their wealth of vivid, raw, bleeding, resonant tones does not render with miraculous intensity the scars that the sight of the things themselves has left deeply imprinted in you’. (Il est un artiste bizarre qui a essayé de réaliser cette même vue symbolique des choses, au moyen de la couleur. C’est Vincent Van Gogh. Surmonte, ô visiteur, la première commotion devant ces bruyantes, sonores et désordonnées peintures que sont les Tournesols, le Lierre, et surtout la Vigne rouge au Mont-Major ... Et, rouvrant les yeux, fixe ces trois tableaux extraordinaires et demande-toi si leur fougueux désordre, leur opulence de tons vifs, crus, saignants, sonnants, ne rend pas avec une intensité miraculeuse ce que la vue des réalités a laissé en toi de plus profondément empreint, en cicatrices).