My dear Theo,
Thanks for your kind letter and the 50-franc note.
So far I’m not finding living here as profitable as I might have hoped,1 but I’ve finished three studies,2 which I would probably not have been able to do in Paris these days.
I was glad the news from Holland was fairly satisfactory. As far as Reid goes, I wouldn’t be very surprised if — (wrongly, however) — he took it badly that I went to the south before him.3 For us to say we’d never have benefited from knowing him would be relatively unfair since, 1, he made us a gift of a very fine painting (which painting, let it be said by the way, we intended to acquire),4 2, Reid made Monticellis go up in value, and since we own 5 of them the result for us is that these paintings have increased in value5 — 3, he was good and pleasant company in the first months.6  1v:2
Now for our part we wanted him to take part in a bigger deal than the Monticelli one, and he pretended not to understand very much about it.7
It seems to me that in order to be even more clearly entitled to stay masters on our own terrain regarding the Impressionists — so that there can be no doubt about our good faith towards Reid — we could leave him alone and let him do as he thinks fit regarding the Marseille Monticellis. Making the point that dead painters are only of indirect interest to us from the monetary point of view.
And if you agree with this, if need be you can tell him on my behalf too that if he intends to come to Marseille to buy Monticellis he has nothing to fear from us, but that we’re entitled to ask him his intentions in this regard, given that we came to this territory before he did.  1v:3
About the Impressionists — it would seem fair to me that they should be introduced into England through you, if not by you in person. And if Reid made a move first, we’d be justified in thinking he had acted in bad faith towards us, all the more so since we’d have left him free regarding the Marseille Monticellis.
You would definitely be doing our friend Koning a favour if you let him stay with you8 — his visit to Rivet must have proved to him that it wasn’t we who advised him badly.9
If you did feel like taking him in — and it seems to me that it would get him out of a mess, you’d just have to get things straight with his father,10 so that you wouldn’t have any responsibilities, even indirect ones.
If you see Bernard tell him that so far I’m having to pay more than at Pont-Aven,11 but that I think if you live here in furnished rooms with middle-class people it must be possible to save money, which I’m trying to do, and as soon as I’ve found out I’ll write and tell him what seem to me the average expenses.
At times it seems to me that my blood is more or  1r:4 less ready to start circulating again, which wasn’t the case lately in Paris, I really couldn’t stand it any more.
I have to buy my colours and canvases from either a grocer or a bookseller,12 who don’t have everything one might wish for. I’ll definitely have to go to Marseille to see what the state of these things is like there. I had hoped to find some beautiful blue &c., and in fact I haven’t given up, seeing that in Marseille you should be able to buy raw materials first hand. And I’d like to be able to do blues like Ziem — which don’t change as much as the others, well, we’ll see.
Don’t worry, and give the pals a handshake for me.

Yours truly,

The studies I have are an old woman of Arles, a landscape with snow, a view of a stretch of pavement with a butcher’s shop.13 The women really are beautiful here, it’s no joke14 — on the other hand, the Arles museum is dreadful and a joke, and fit to be in Tarascon15 — there’s also a museum of antiquities,16 they’re genuine.


Br. 1990: 580 | CL: 464
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Friday, 24 February 1888

1. Van Gogh started out paying 5 francs and later 4 francs a day for board and lodging. From 1 May onwards, when he had his studio in the Yellow House and consequently took up less space, he only paid 3 francs. See letters 587 and 603.
2. See for these studies the postscript and n. 13.
3. In the spring of 1887, the Scottish art dealer Alexander Reid, a friend of Theo and Vincent in Paris, had set up as an ‘agent en chambre’ (a dealer working from home) at 6 place d’Anvers in Paris. Alongside his job at Boussod, Valadon & Cie he also dealt on his own account in work by Puvis de Chavannes and others, and, one of the few people to do so, Monticelli. See Fowle 2000, p. 93.
Fowle thought it likely that Reid had gone to Marseille himself as early as 1886 or 1887 to look for work by Monticelli, or in any event that he had contacts there (Fowle 1993, p. 36). In view of the Van Gogh brothers’ interest in this artist, Reid evidently saw Vincent’s departure for the south of France as a threat to his monopoly in this field.
4. Reid’s gift was probably Monticelli’s Vase of flowers (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). Ill. 306 [306]. Van Gogh mentions this several more times. See also Fowle 2000, p. 94.
5. Van Gogh is referring to the following five works by Monticelli, which are mentioned in the correspondence: Vase of flowers [306] (see n. 4), Woman with a parasol [308] (letter 686, n. 17) and Woman at the well [307](letter 686, n. 16), Italian girl [2302] (letter 830, n. 7) and Arabs and horseman [305] (letter 594, n. 7). See also exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1999, p. 206, n. 13.
[306] [308] [307] [2302] [305]
6. The Van Gogh brothers befriended Reid in February 1887. See Fowle 2010, p. 31, and cf. also n. 3 above.
7. It transpires from the continuation of the letter that Vincent and Theo had plans to sell the work of the French modern artists in England in association with Reid; he, though, proved to have other ideas. To prevent Reid from muscling in on their territory, Vincent suggested leaving the trade in Monticellis in Marseille to him. He pursues the matter in letter 580. From letter 589 it emerges that it had been agreed with Reid that the Van Gogh brothers would help him find paintings for his stock, but that they had since fallen out with him because of the way he treated artists: Vincent accused Reid of being concerned with nothing but making money.
a. Read: ‘l’aurait’.
b. Read: ‘habiter’.
8. The Dutch painter Arnold Koning was in Paris from September 1887 to the end of May 1888. After Vincent went to Arles, Koning stayed with Theo in the apartment in rue Lepic for a short time. See also the letter from Theo to Willemien van Gogh (Documentation, 24 and 26 February 1888). Koning moved in with Theo soon after 14 March (FR b915); he returned to the Netherlands on 30 May 1888 (FR b1077).
9. Louis Rivet was Theo’s doctor in Paris; he had his practice at 6 rue de la Victoire. Koning evidently had health problems; we do not know what his ailments were.
10. Arnold Hendrik Koning, a lawyer in Winschoten.
11. Pont-Aven, a small village in Brittany, was discovered by painters around 1865, and grew to become a well-known artists’ colony. Bernard had been to Pont-Aven in August 1886 and had met Paul Gauguin there. The latter had been staying there again since late January 1888, as he had told Van Gogh (letter 581). The group of artists who worked there in Gauguin’s style is known as the School of Pont-Aven. See exhib. cat. Paris 2003. The cost of living in Brittany and the south of France had evidently been a subject of discussion between Bernard and Van Gogh.
c. Read: ‘habitant’.
12. We do not know which bookshops in Arles sold paint and canvas. Not long afterwards, Van Gogh says that he knows a grocer who sells artists’ supplies; this was probably Jules Armand. See letter 583, n. 8. It may well also have been possible to buy artists’ materials in Bompard fils’ wallpaper (papiers peints) shop at 14 place de la République; it is clear from the local newspapers that work by local artists was regularly displayed in the shop window. On the basis of accounts given by Jeanne Calment, who said she met Van Gogh through her cousin, it has been assumed that Van Gogh bought his canvas in the fabric shop run by Jeanne’s aunt, the Widow Calment. However, there is no evidence of this.
13. These three studies are respectively: An old woman of Arles (F 390 / JH 1357 [2561]), Landscape with snow (F 290 / JH 1360 [2564]) and View of a butcher’s shop (F 389 / JH 1359 [2563]). There is another Landscape with snow (F 391 / JH 1358 [2562]), but that must be the painting referred to in letter 582, where Van Gogh talks about a ‘whitened landscape’.
[2561] [2564] [2563] [2562]
14. The beauty of the women of Arles was legendary and a popular topic in nineteenth-century art, literature and theatre. See exhib. cat. Arles 1999 and Dorn 1990, p. 152. Michelet had also written about it in L’amour, which Van Gogh knew well: ‘In Paris a young man sees a beautiful young girl with regular features. He falls in love. He marries, and is eager to get to know the place his wife comes from, the town of Arles ... He sees a hundred, a thousand young girls who are just as pretty. It is the beauty of a whole population, the beauty of Arles, that he has loved’ (Un jeune homme voit dans Paris une belle demoiselle de traits réguliers. Il est épris. Il épouse, puis est curieux de connaître le pays de sa femme, la ville d’Arles ... Il voit cent filles et mille aussi jolies. C’est la beauté d’un peuple entier, la beauté arlésienne qu’il a aimée). Michelet, L’amour, p. 313.
15. Van Gogh is referring to the Musée Réattu in Arles, in the former Grand-Prieuré. Baedecker describes it as ‘a small collection of paintings, many of them copies, so called after its founder, a painter from Arles’ (une petite collection de tableaux, dont beaucoup de copies, ainsi nommée de son fondateur, un peintre arlésien). Baedeker 1889-2, p. 213. Van Gogh’s sarcastic reference to Tarascon leads us to suppose that he had meanwhile become familiar with the picture of it that Alphonse Daudet sketched in his satirical novel Aventures prodigieuses de Tartarin de Tarascon (1872). It emerges from letter 609 that Van Gogh knew this book, and he must also have read the sequel, Tartarin sur les Alpes (1885), at about this time (see letter 583, n. 9).
16. The Musée Lapidaire was housed in a former church opposite Saint-Trophime at place de la République. The museum was ‘especially rich in ancient and Christian sarcophagi, made of marble and with bas-reliefs, that came from the Alyscamps’ (surtout très riche en sarcophages antiques et chrétiens, en marbre et à bas-reliefs, provenant des Aliscamps). Baedeker 1889-2, p. 212.