My dear Theo,
Now at long last, this morning the weather has changed and has turned milder — and I’ve already had an opportunity to find out what this mistral’s1 like too. I’ve been out on several hikes round about here, but that wind always made it impossible to do anything. The sky was a hard blue with a great bright sun that melted just about all the snow — but the wind was so cold and dry it gave you goose-pimples. But even so I’ve seen lots of beautiful things — a ruined abbey on a hill planted with hollies, pines and grey olive trees. We’ll get down to that soon, I hope.2 Now I’ve just finished a study like the one of mine Lucien Pissarro has, but this time it’s of oranges.3 That makes eight studies I have up to now.4 But that doesn’t count, as I haven’t yet been able to work in comfort and in the warm.  1v:2
The letter from Gauguin that I had intended to send you but which for a moment I thought I had burned with some other papers, I later found and enclose herewith.5 But I’ve already written to him direct and I’ve sent him Russell’s address as well as sending Gauguin’s to Russell, so that if they wish they can make direct contact.6 But as for many of us — and surely we’ll be among them ourselves — the future is still difficult. I do believe in a final victory, but will artists benefit from it, and will they see more peaceful days?
I’ve bought some coarse canvas here and I’ve had it prepared for matt effects,7 I can now get everything, more or less, at Paris prices.
On Saturday evening I had a visit from two amateur painters,  1v:3 one of whom is a grocer — and also sells painting materials — and the other a justice of the peace who seems kind and intelligent.8
Unfortunately I’m hardly managing to live more cheaply than in Paris, I need to allow 5 francs a day.
For the moment I haven’t found anything like a boarding-house, but there must surely be some.
If the weather also gets milder in Paris it will do you good. What a winter!
I daren’t roll up my studies yet because they’re hardly dry, and there are some areas of impasto that won’t dry for a while.
I’ve just read Tartarin sur les Alpes, which I greatly enjoyed.9
Has that bloody man Tersteeg written to you? That’ll do us good anyway — don’t worry.
If he doesn’t reply, he’ll hear people talking about us all the same, and we’ll make sure he has nothing to fault in what we do. For example, we’ll send Mrs Mauve a painting in memory of Mauve10 with a letter as well from us both in which, if Tersteeg doesn’t reply, we won’t say a word against  1r:4 him but we’ll make it understood that we don’t deserve to be treated as though we were dead.
In fact, it’s likely that Tersteeg won’t be predisposed against us after all.
That poor Gauguin has no luck, I do fear that in his case convalescence will take longer than the fortnight he had to spend in bed.
For Christ’s sake, when are we going to see a generation of artists with healthy bodies? Sometimes I’m really furious with myself because it isn’t good enough to be iller or less ill than others, the ideal thing would be to have a strong enough constitution to live for 80 years and along with that, blood that was real good blood.
But we could take comfort if we felt that a generation of more fortunate artists was going to come along.
I wanted to write to you straightaway that I’m hopeful winter’s over now and I hope it will be the same in Paris. Handshake.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 585 | CL: 467
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Friday, 9 March 1888

1. The mistral is a cold, dry katabatic wind from the north-west or north, which blows in the Rhône valley and the coastal regions of south-east France.
a. Conflation of the expressions ‘à peu près’ and ‘tant soit peu’, which both mean ‘almost’.
2. The medieval abbey of Montmajour on the plain of La Crau, about five km to the north-east of Arles. Van Gogh often worked in the immediate vicinity of the abbey and depicted it in several works.
3. The study with the oranges is Basket of oranges (F 395 / JH 1363 [2567]). In Paris Van Gogh had exchanged his Basket of apples (F 378 / JH 1340 [2558]) for several wood engravings by Lucien Pissarro (FR b886).
[2567] [2558]
4. These eight studies are: An old woman of Arles (F 390 / JH 1357 [2561]), Landscape with snow (F 290 / JH 1360 [2564]), View of a butcher’s shop (F 389 / JH 1359 [2563]) (see letter 578); an unidentified study (see letter 580); Landscape with snow (F 391 / JH 1358 [2562]), Sprig of almond blossom in a glass (F 392 / JH 1361 [2565]), Sprig of almond blossom in a glass with a book (F 393 / JH 1362 [2566]) (see letter 582); and the Basket of oranges (F 395 / JH 1363 [2567]) referred to above.
[2561] [2564] [2563] [2562] [2565] [2566] [2567]
5. This was letter 581.
6. Van Gogh was trying to persuade Russell to buy a work from Gauguin (see also letter 582). As far as we know, Gauguin and Russell never got in touch. Merlhès suggests that Gauguin was too proud to approach Russell. Correspondance Gauguin 1984, p. 474 (n. 242).
7. Van Gogh means canvas with a ground that absorbs surplus oil, producing a matt effect. See Peres et al. 1991, pp. 26-27. He painted Avenue of plane trees (F 398 / JH 1366 [2569]) and The Gleize bridge with washerwomen (F 396 / JH 1367 [2570]) on this type of canvas.
[2569] [2570]
8. The grocer was Jules Armand, ‘épicier-droguiste’, 30 rue du Quatre-Septembre. Stokvis mentions a Madame J. Armand, the widow of a grocer who was an amateur artist, ‘where Vincent occasionally bought what he needed’. Coquiot calls her ‘the widow of a colourman, where Vincent bought supplies the first few days’. See Stokvis 1929, p. 4, and Coquiot 1923, p. 164.
Jules Armand was the first known owner of Marcelle Roulin (F 440 / JH 1639). In the Museon Arlaten in Arles there is a portrait of an Arlésienne, signed ‘J. Armand 1889’. We know from the local newspapers that he regularly exhibited his work in the window of the Bompard fils’ wallpaper shop at 14 place de la République, under the name Armand-Ronin. The official deeds give his name as Jean Auguste Armand; on the electoral roll and in address books it is Jules Armand; Ronin was the maiden name of his wife Joséphine (ACA).
At this time there were two justices of the peace in Arles: Paul Marre for the western canton, and Eugène Giraud for the eastern canton (L’indicateur marseillais 1888). The one who visited Van Gogh must have been Giraud. In May 1888 Van Gogh went to see him about a dispute with his landlord; see letter 609, n. 1.
9. Alphonse Daudet’s Tartarin sur les Alpes (1885), like Tartarin de Tarascon (1872), is a satirical novel that mocks the men of southern France, and particularly the inhabitants of Tarascon. The central character, Tartarin, a self-proclaimed lion-hunter and the president of the Tarascon mountain climbing association – whose members have never been further than the foothills of the Alpilles – goes to Switzerland to conquer the highest peaks in the Alps and strengthen his position as president before the elections. Tartarin is a know-it-all, who tries to rescue himself from embarrassing situations that he himself has caused.
10. Mauve died on 5 February. Around 30 March, in response to his death, Van Gogh painted Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394 / JH 1379 [2577]) and decided to give it to Mauve’s widow, Jet Mauve-Carbentus. See letter 590.