My dear Theo,
Work occupies me so much, I can’t manage to write. I’d have liked to write to Gauguin again, because I fear he may be iller than he says — his last letter in pencil looked so much that way.
In that case, what’s to be done — I have no reply from Russell yet.1
Yesterday, at sunset, I was on a stony heath where very small, twisted oaks grow, in the background a ruin on the hill,2 and wheatfields in the valley. It was romantic, it couldn’t be more so, à la Monticelli, the sun was pouring its very yellow rays over the bushes and the ground, absolutely a shower of gold. And all the lines were beautiful, the whole scene had a charming nobility. You wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see knights and ladies suddenly appear, returning from hunting with hawks, or to hear the voice of an old Provençal troubadour. The fields seemed purple, the distances blue.  1v:2 And I brought back a study of it too, but it was well below what I’d wished to do.3 Tasset hadn’t sent enough zinc white the other day.4 I get on very well using it, but it has the disadvantage of drying very slowly, so, for example, the studies done at Saintes-Maries aren’t dry yet.5
I’d planned to go to the Camargue, but the vet who ought to have come to pick me up to do his rounds with him left me in the lurch.6 I don’t really mind, as I’m only moderately fond of wild bulls.
It’s to my astonishment that I can already see the bottom of my wallet; it’s true that I had my month’s rent to pay. You must clearly know that if I deduct food and lodging, all the rest of my money still runs away on canvases. In short, they turn out rather expensive, without counting the trouble they cause.  1v:3 However, I dare hope that one day the money we spend will come back in part, and if I had more money I would spend even more trying to find good rich colorations.

Here’s a new subject. A corner of a garden with round bushes and a weeping tree, and in the background, clumps of oleanders. And the lawn that has just been mown, with long wisps of hay drying in the sun. A little corner of blue green sky at the top.7  1r:4
I’m reading Balzac, César Birotteau, I’ll send it to you when I’ve finished it8 — I think I’ll re-read all of Balzac.
When I came here I had hoped it would be possible to create art lovers here — so far, I haven’t made a centimetre’s progress into people’s hearts. Now Marseille? I don’t know, but that could well be nothing but an illusion. In any case, I’ve rather stopped speculating about it. So, many days pass without my saying a word to anyone except to order supper or a coffee. And it’s been like that from the start. But up until now loneliness hasn’t bothered me very much, I’ve found the stronger sunshine and its effect on nature so interesting.
Write to me a day or two earlier if you can; the end of the week will be a bit tight. Handshake.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 639 | CL: 508
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Thursday, 5 July 1888

1. Van Gogh had written to Russell about exchanging work; see letter 635. He had probably also sounded him out again about buying a painting from Gauguin. See also letter 582, n. 2.
2. The ruin was Montmajour Abbey near Arles.
3. Sunset at Montmajour (F - / JH - [3106]). See Van Tilborgh et al. 2013.
4. This relates to the consignment whose receipt was confirmed in letter 635.
5. Van Gogh had painted three studies in Saintes-Maries: Fishing boats at sea (F 415 / JH 1452 [2632]), Fishing boats at sea (F 417 / JH 1453 [2633]) and View of Saintes-Maries (F 416 / JH 1447 [2627]).
[2632] [2633] [2627]
6. See letter 629, n. 14, for this planned expedition to the Camargue.
7. The letter sketch Newly mown lawn with a weeping tree (F - / JH 1500) was done after the painting of the same title F 428 / JH 1499 [0].
8. In Honoré de Balzac’s Histoire de la grandeur et de la décadence de César Birotteau (1837), the character Birotteau owns a perfumery shop that flourishes as a result of his honesty and hard work. His peaceful life is thrown into chaos, however, when he speculates in an attempt to increase his fortune. This brings him to the edge of ruin and it is only after three years of poverty and hard grind that he manages to get back on his feet again.