My dear Theo,
During the journey I thought at least as much about you as about the new country I was seeing.1
But I tell myself that you’ll perhaps come here often yourself later on. It seems to me almost impossible to be able to work in Paris, unless you have a refuge in which to recover and regain your peace of mind and self-composure. Without that, you’d be bound to get utterly numbed.
Now I’ll tell you that for a start, there’s been a snowfall of at least 60 centimetres all over, and it’s still snowing.
Arles doesn’t seem any bigger than Breda or Mons to me.2
Before reaching Tarascon3 I noticed some magnificent scenery — huge yellow rocks, oddly jumbled together, with the most imposing shapes.
In the small valleys between these rocks there were  1v:2 rows of little round trees with olive-green or grey-green foliage, which could well be lemon trees.
But here in Arles the land seems flat.
I noticed some magnificent plots of red earth planted with vines, with mountains in the background of the most delicate lilac. And the landscape under the snow with the white peaks against a sky as bright as the snow was just like the winter landscapes the Japanese did.
Here’s my address

Restaurant Carrel
30 rue Cavalerie

So far I’ve taken no more than a little walk round the town, as I was more or less completely done in last night.
I’ll write to you soon — an antique dealer whose shop I went into yesterday in this very street was telling me he knew of a Monticelli.5
With a good handshake to you and the pals.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 579 | CL: 463
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Tuesday, 21 February 1888

1. In a letter written to his sister Willemien on 24 and 26 February 1888, Theo reported that Vincent left for Arles in the south of France ‘last Sunday’; this was therefore Sunday, 19 February. Since Theo also wrote that the journey would take a ‘day and night’, Vincent must have reached Arles on Monday, 20 February (FR b914). In his letter Theo explained Vincent’s motives for going to Arles: he was looking for lighter colours than he could find in the north, and he wanted to recover his physical strength. The stay in Arles was originally intended to be temporary, and Van Gogh was planning to go on to Marseille later. (See Documentation, 24 and 26 February 1888).
2. The provincial town of Breda in Brabant had around 22,000 inhabitants at that time; the mining town of Mons in the Borinage had some 25,500. The commune of Arles, including the surrounding villages, had 23,500 inhabitants in 1888 (ACA). The town itself had a population of about 13,300 in 1888. See Murphy 2016, pp. 38, 265 (n. 10).
3. Van Gogh took the express train from Paris to Marseille (the ‘Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée’) that left at 9.40 p.m. on Sunday 19 February and arrived in Arles at 4.49 p.m. the following day. The train passed through Tarascon, a small town about 20 km to the north of Arles. See Murphy 2016, pp. 25, 36, 263 (n. 33), 264 (n. 3).
4. Between the end of February and early May Van Gogh rented a room from Albert Carrel and Cathérine Carrel-Garcin. Hotel-Restaurant Carrel was at 30 rue Amédée-Pichot, in the northern part of the town. This section of the street was known as rue de la Cavalerie until 1887; Van Gogh was therefore using the old address. The hotel was a ‘two-storey house, small terrace on top and balcony on the first floor’ (maison à deux étages, petite terrasse au-dessus et balcon au premier). See Coquiot 1923, p. 161. In the official deeds the name is spelled ‘Carel’ (ACA and L’indicateur marseillais 1888).
5. Van Gogh wrote that the antique dealer had his premises ‘in this very street’; however the address books do not record any in rue Amédée-Pichot or rue de la Cavalerie. The closest antique dealer was Berthet, 5 rue de la Sous-Préfecture, just off rue Amédée-Pichot.