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858 Theo van Gogh to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, Wednesday, 19 March 1890.

metadata
No. 858 (Brieven 1990 858, Complete Letters T29)
From: Theo van Gogh
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Paris, Wednesday, 19 March 1890

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b756 V/1962

Date
Letter headed: ‘Paris le 19 Mars 1890’.

Ongoing topics
Fourth attack in Saint-Rémy (857)
Entry for the 1890 Indépendants exhibition (854)

original text
 1r:1
Paris le 19 Mars 1890

Mon cher Vincent,
Nous étions bien content de recevoir ta dernière lettre mais nous regrettons du fond du coeur que tu ne puis pas nous donner de meilleures nouvelles.1 Il te faudra énormément de patience pour surmonter l’ennui que doit te causer ton état.2 Cependant il y a une tendance à amélioration, ce dont nous devons commencer par nous réjouir. Le temps froid a toujours de l’influence sur toi & il est donc possible que le temps plus doux te remette entièrement,  1v:2 espérons le & ne te fatigue pas de trop.
Comme j’aurais été content si tu avais été là à l’exposition des Indépendants.3 C’était le jour de vernissage où Carnot est venu.4 J’y étais avec Jo. Tes tableaux sont bien placés & font très bien. Il y en a beaucoup qui sont venus pour me prier de te faire leurs compliments. Gauguin disait que tes tableaux sont le clou de l’exposition. Il propose un échange d’une de ses toiles contre celui des Alpines.5 Je lui ai dit que je croyais que tu n’y trouverais pas d’inconvenient, au contraire qu’il te ferait plaisir qu’il aime ton tableau. Moi aussi je l’aime beaucoup, ce tableau, et il fait admirablement bien à l’exposition.
Seurat y a exposé un bien curieux tableau où il y a la recherche d’exprimer  1v:3 des choses par la direction de la ligne.6 Certes il exprime du mouvement, mais cela a un aspect bien curieux & pas très généreux comme idées. Guillaumin expose plusieurs choses parmi lesquelles il y en a de très bonnes,7 de Lautrec a un excellent portrait de femme au piano & un grand tableau qui se tient très bien.8 Malgré son sujet scabreux il y a une grande distinction. En général il est à remarquer que le public commence à s’intéresser de plus en plus aux jeunes impressionnistes, il y a au moins un certain nombre d’amateurs qui commencent à en acheter. L’exposition de Pissarro est fini, il est venu beaucoup de monde & il y en a eu 5 de vendus.9 Pour le moment c’est tout ce que nous espérions. Dimanche prochain Bernard & Aurier doivent venir voir tes dernières  1r:4 toiles. Bernard a été un peu malade mais il va mieux. Sous ce pli tu trouveras une lettre d’Aurier. Il doit venir prochainement pour voir les Gauguin & faire un article sur lui. J’ai reçu de Bruxelles l’argent de ton tableau10 & Maus m’écrit “A l’occasion dites bien à votre frère que j’ai été très heureux de sa participation au Salon des XX où il a trouvé dans la mêlée des discussions, de vives sympathies artistiques”.–11 Veux tu que je t’envois l’argent? je le tiens à ta disposition pour quand tu le voudras. J’espère mon cher frère que tu pourras nous donner bientôt de plus satisfaisantes nouvelles de ta santé. Si tu voyais ton petit filleul tu te sentirais plus heureux. Tâches de savoir du Dr Peyron si quand tu seras remis de cette crise il ne voit pas de danger que tu viennes à Paris. Jo te dit bien bonjour & se joint à moi pour faire les meilleurs voeux pour ta prompte guérison.
bonne poignée de mains.

Theo

translation
 1r:1
Paris, 19 March 1890

My dear Vincent,
We were really pleased to receive your last letter, but we’re sorry from the bottom of our hearts that you can’t give us better news.1 You’ll need an enormous amount of patience to overcome the trouble your condition must cause you.2 However, there’s a tendency to improvement, which we must begin by being extremely glad about. The cold weather always has an influence on you, and so it’s possible that milder weather will cure you entirely,  1v:2 let’s hope so, and don’t tire yourself out too much.
How pleased I would have been if you’d been there at the Independents’ exhibition.3 It was the day of the private viewing when Carnot came.4 I was there with Jo. Your paintings are well placed and look very well. Many people came up to ask me to give you their compliments. Gauguin said that your paintings are the key to the exhibition. He suggests an exchange of one of his canvases for the one of the Alpilles.5 I told him that I didn’t think you’d have any objection, on the contrary that it would please you that he likes your painting. I also like it very much, that painting, and it looks admirably well in the exhibition.
Seurat exhibited a most curious painting there, searching to express  1v:3 things through the direction of the line.6 Certainly he expresses movement, but it has a most curious appearance and not very generous as regards ideas. Guillaumin is exhibiting several things, some very good ones among them,7 De Lautrec has an excellent portrait of a woman at the piano, and a large painting which holds its own very well.8 There’s a great distinction in it, despite the risqué subject. In general it’s noticeable that the public is beginning to be more and more interested in the young Impressionists, there are at least a certain number of art lovers who are beginning to buy them. The Pissarro exhibition is over, lots of people came, and 5 were sold.9 For the moment that’s all we were hoping for. Next Sunday Bernard and Aurier are to come and see your latest  1r:4 canvases. Bernard has been a bit ill but is feeling better. Enclosed with this you’ll find a letter from Aurier. He’s to come shortly to see the Gauguins and do an article on him. I’ve received the money for your painting from Brussels,10 and Maus writes to me: ‘When you have an opportunity please tell your brother that I was very happy that he participated in the Salon of Les Vingt where, in the melée of discussions, he found lively artistic sympathies’.11 Do you want me to send you the money? I’m holding it for you for whenever you want it. I hope, my dear brother, that you can soon give us more satisfactory news of your health. You’d feel happier if you saw your little godson. Try to find out from Dr Peyron if he sees no danger in your coming to Paris when you’ve recovered from this crisis. Jo sends you her warm regards, and joins with me in sending best wishes for your speedy recovery.
Good handshake.

Theo
notes
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 Hendrik 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.
5. 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).