My dear Theo
I was very pleased to receive your letter and the rough draft of the letter to Tersteeg and the 50-franc note.
Your letter to Tersteeg is perfectly good in the draft, I hope you didn’t spoil it too much when making a fair copy.
It seems to me that your letter to Tersteeg adds to mine — myself, I regretted the state in which I had posted it. Because you’ll have noticed that the idea of getting Tersteeg to take the initiative in introducing the Impressionists to England only came to me when writing the actual letter, and was only partially expressed in a P.S. added afterwards. While in your letter you explain that idea to him more fully. Will he understand? Indeed — it concerns him.
I’ve had a letter here from Gauguin,1 who says he’s been ill in bed for a fortnight. That he’s broke, since he’s had to pay off some pressing debts. That he’d like to know if you’ve sold anything for him but that he can’t write to you for fear of bothering you. That he’s under so much pressure to earn a little money he’d be determined to reduce the price of his paintings still further.
I can do nothing about this business from my end except write to Russell,2 which I’ll do this very day.  1v:2
And after all, we’ve already tried to get Tersteeg to buy one.3 But what can we do, he must really be hard up. I’m sending you a few lines for him in case you have something to tell him,4 but open letters if any come for me, because you’ll know sooner what’s in them if you do that and that will save me the trouble of telling you what’s in them. This goes once and for all.
Would you risk buying the seascape from him for the firm?5 If that were possible he would be out of difficulties for the time being.
Now it’s very good that you’ve taken in young Koning,6 I’m so glad you won’t be living alone in your apartment. In Paris one is always suffering, like a cab-horse,7 and if on top of that you have to live alone in your stable it would be too much.
About the Independents’ exhibition,8 do whatever you see fit.
What would you say to showing the two large landscapes of the Butte Montmartre there? It’s all much the same to me,  1v:3 I’m inclined to place slightly more hopes in this year’s work.9
There’s a hard frost here, and out in the country there’s still snow — I have a study of a whitened landscape with the town in the background.10 And then 2 little studies of a branch of an almond tree that’s already in flower despite everything.11
Enough for today, I’m writing a note to Koning.12
I’m really very pleased that you’ve written to Tersteeg, and I have hopes that this will be the renewal of your relations in Holland.
With a handshake to you and to any pals you may meet.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 584 | CL: 466
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Friday, 2 March 1888

1. This is letter 581. Vincent was to send it to Theo to read, together with letter 583.
2. Van Gogh wanted to ask John Peter Russell, whom he had got to know in Paris, to buy a painting from Gauguin. He repeatedly returned to this question; Russell, however, was non-committal, as we learn from letters 616, 650 and 679.
3. We do not know which of Gauguin’s works this was, but there is a good chance that it was one of the five paintings that Theo had on commission. See letter 581, n. 2.
4. It emerges from letter 583 that on second thoughts Van Gogh wrote to Gauguin direct rather than enclosing a letter for him.
5. Paul Gauguin, The beach at Dieppe, 1885 (Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek; W178/W166). Ill. 2143 [2143]. This work had been on commission with Boussod, Valadon & Cie since December 1887; see letter 581, n. 2. Theo sent it to the Hague branch in March 1888. See letter 589, n. 4.
6. Koning – Van Gogh refers to him as ‘young’ – was 27 at this time.
7. In his letters Van Gogh repeatedly used the image of a worn-out cab-horse as a metaphor for the hard life of man in general and the artist in particular. See e.g. letters 148, 211, 599 and 611. In the Netherlands he had read the poetry of François Coppée, who had written a poem, ‘Cheval de Renfort’, about it (from the collection Le cahier rouge). See Coppée 1880, p. 163.
8. The fourth exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants was due to be staged in Paris from 22 March to 3 May 1888. This society, founded in 1884 by Odilon Redon, Albert Dubois-Pillet, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Charles Angrand and Henri Edmond Cross, invited artists to exhibit at its alternative Salon, where the works were not adjudicated.
9. These landscapes are Montmartre: behind the Moulin de la Galette (F 316 / JH 1246 [2549]) and Vegetable gardens in Montmartre (F 350 / JH 1245 [2548]). The third work Theo chose was Piles of French novels and roses in a glass (‘Romans parisiens’) (F 359 / JH 1332 [2556]); see letter 584, n. 13. See Société des Artistes Indépendants. Catalogue des Oeuvres exposés. 4e Exposition. Exhib. cat. Paris 1888, p. 42, cat. nos. 658-660.
Theo interpreted Vincent’s offhand attitude towards the selection of the works as a sign that he did not really care about being represented at this exhibition: ‘He himself doesn’t attach much importance to this exhibition, but here, where there are so many painters, it’s essential to make himself known and the exhibition is the best means of doing it’ (FR b915, Theo to Willemien, 14 March 1888).
[2549] [2548] [2556]
10. Landscape with snow (F 391 / JH 1358 [2562]); cf. for this identification: letter 578, n. 13.
11. Sprig of almond blossom in a glass (F 392 / JH 1361 [2565]) and Sprig of almond blossom in a glass (F 393 / JH 1362 [2566]); they both measure 24 x 19 cm.
[2565] [2566]
12. This enclosed letter to Koning is not known. Theo told Willemien about Koning in his letter of 14 March 1888: ‘It still seems strange to me that he [Vincent] has gone, he was so important to me in recent times. Now the studio will soon be occupied again, by a young Dutch painter, but he has by no means as much talent as Vincent, although he’s not bad’ (FR b915).