My dear Theo,
It’s awfully good of you to have sent me the complete order of colours,1 I’ve just received them but haven’t yet had the time to check them. I’m so pleased about it. Today has been a good day too. This morning I worked on an orchard of plum trees in blossom2 — suddenly a tremendous wind began to blow, an effect I’d only ever seen here — and came back again at intervals. In the intervals, sunshine that made all the little white flowers sparkle. It was so beautiful! My friend the Dane3 came to join me, and at risk and peril every moment of seeing the whole lot of it on the ground I carried on painting — in this white effect there’s a lot of yellow with blue and lilac, the sky is white and blue. But as for the execution of what we do out of doors like this, what will they say? Well, let’s wait and see.  1v:2
So, after supper I started on the same painting I intend for Tersteeg, ‘The Langlois bridge’, for you.4 And I’d really like to make a repetition of that one for Jet Mauve too,5 because since I’m spending so much we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we’ve got to try to get some back, of this money that’s quickly slipping away.
Afterwards I was sorry I hadn’t asked for the colours from père Tanguy anyway, although there isn’t the least advantage in that — on the contrary — but he’s such a funny fellow and I still think of him often. Don’t forget to say hello to him for me if you see him, and tell him that if he’d like any paintings for his shop window he can have some from here, and the best.6 Ah, it seems to me more and more that people are the root of everything, and although it remains for ever a melancholy feeling not to find oneself in real life, in the sense that it would be better to work in  1v:3 flesh itself than colour or plaster, in the sense that it would be better to make children than to make paintings or to do business, at the same time you feel you’re living when you consider that you have friends among those who themselves aren’t in real life either.
But precisely because what’s in people’s hearts is also the heart of business, we have to conquer friendships in Holland, or rather, revive them. All the more so since, as far as the cause of Impressionism goes, we have little to fear at the moment of not winning through. And it’s because of this victory that’s almost guaranteed in advance that for our part we have to have good manners and do everything calmly.
I would really like to have seen the embodiment of Marat you spoke about the other day.7 That would certainly interest me very much. Unwittingly, I imagine Marat as the — moral — equivalent (but more powerful) of Xanthippe8 — the woman whose love turned sour. Who nevertheless is still touching — but in the end it’s not as jolly as Guy de Maupassant’s La Maison Tellier.9  1r:4
Has De Lautrec finished his painting of a woman leaning on a little café table?10
If I manage to learn how to work up the studies I’ve done from life on another canvas, we’d gain in terms of possible sales. I hope to succeed in doing it here — and that’s why I’m making a trial effort with the two paintings that will go to Holland,11 and on the other hand, you’ll have them too, and in this way there’s nothing reckless.
You were right to tell Tasset that the geranium lake should be included after all, he sent it, I’ve just checked — all the colours that Impressionism has made fashionable are unstable, all the more reason boldly to use them too raw, time will only soften them too much.12 So the whole order I made up, in other words the 3 chromes (the orange, the yellow, the lemon), the Prussian blue, the emerald, the madder lakes, the Veronese green, the orange lead, all of that is hardly found in the Dutch palette, Maris, Mauve and Israëls.13 But it’s found in that of Delacroix, who had a passion for the two colours most disapproved of, and for the best of reasons, lemon and Prussian blue.14 All the same, I think he did superb things with them, blues and lemon yellows. Handshake to you, to Koning and once again many thanks for the colours.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 598 | CL: 476
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Wednesday, 11 April 1888

1. See letter 593 for Van Gogh’s order from Tasset & Lhote in Paris; he had left it up to Theo to place either a limited or a large order.
2. The white orchard (F 403 / JH 1378 [2576]). Van Gogh also mentioned working on this painting in letter 594.
4. The painting intended for Tersteeg was The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 397 / JH 1368 [2571]); the repetition of this is The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 571 / JH 1392 [2589]). The name Pont de l’Anglais was often used at the time, although the bridge was later usually known as Pont de Langlois. See Martin Bailey, Studio of the South. Van Gogh in Provence. London 2016, pp. 73, 202 (n. 2). Van Gogh also wrote the title ‘Pont de l’Anglais’ on the watercolour The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 1480 / JH 1382 [2580]). The official name was Pont de Réginelle (or Réginal).
[2571] [2589] [2580]
5. Van Gogh painted a repetition of the painting intended for Jet Mauve, Pink peach trees (‘Souvenir de Mauve’) (F 394 / JH 1379 [2577]); this was The pink peach tree (F 404 / JH 1391 [2588]). See letter 597, n. 3.
[2577] [2588]
6. At this time the paint merchant Julien Tanguy had works by Van Gogh in stock. It emerges from a letter of 29 May 1888 from Gustave Geffroy to Theo that the collector Paul Gallimard wanted to buy two works by Van Gogh from Tanguy (FR b1199).
a. Read: ‘non plus ne sont pas’.
7. It is not clear what this remark relates to. There is possibly a link with the legal proceedings that one of Jacques Louis David’s heirs had instituted against someone who had presented a copy of his famous painting of Marat as the original. See Gazette des Beaux-Arts of 10 March 1888. It is not impossible that the reference is in some way an extension of this topical issue.
8. Xantippe was the wife of the Greek philosopher Socrates; her name is synonymous with a spiteful woman or shrew.
9. The novella La Maison Tellier (1881) by Guy de Maupassant describes a day in the life of Madame Tellier, the owner of the brothel Maison Tellier, and her five girls. The ladies set off to attend the first communion of Madame’s niece, they enjoy ordinary everyday life and the festivities, and they go to Mass.
10. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The hangover (Cambridge, Mass., Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University). Ill. 2177 [2177].
11. The paintings intended for Tersteeg and Jet Mauve, see nn. 4 and 5 above.
12. On the discolouration of red pigments in Van Gogh, see Maarten van Bommel, Muriel Geldof and Ella Hendriks, ‘Examination of the use of organic red pigments in paintings by Vincent van Gogh (November 1885 to February 1888)’, Art matters. Netherlands technical studies in art 3 (2005), pp. 111-137.
13. The phrase ‘the Dutch palette’ and the list of painters refer to the artists of the Hague School, which was well known for its muted palette with numerous grey tints. Several technical research projects have demonstrated that most of the pigments that Van Gogh mentions here were indeed used by those painters (with thanks to René Boitelle). In this connection see, among others, W.E. Roelofs Jr, De practijk van het schilderen. Wenken aan collega’s door een kunstschilder. Amsterdam 1919, who also lists the pigments mentioned by Van Gogh, giving them their Dutch names. It should be added that Van Gogh must have known through his contacts with Mauve and other artists whom he met in The Hague that they did indeed use modern, bright pigments.
14. Van Gogh had read about Delacroix’s bold use of lemon yellow and Prussian blue in his Pietà in Silvestre’s Eugène Delacroix. Documents nouveaux who had observed: ‘You had to be Delacroix to dare that, the chrome yellow changing more than gold and turning green with time’ (Il fallait être Delacroix pour oser cela, le jaune de chrôme s’altérant plus que l’or, et verdissant avec le temps). See letter 526, n. 4. His assertion that Prussian blue was ‘disapproved of’ is confirmed by the manuals by Karl Robert and others, who warn against the use of Prussian blue in large quantities or unmixed. See M. Rummens, ‘Van Goghs expressieve onhandigheid’, Jong Holland 10-4 (1994), pp. 32-33. See also cat. Amsterdam 2011.