My dear Theo,
I’m more or less assuming that you went to Holland. From the letter received from our sister I’m somewhat inclined to believe they were expecting you in Holland, also because I haven’t had news from you on this subject.
I’ve received a letter from Gauguin in which he talks about painting and complains about not yet having the money needed to come here — but nothing new or different.
I sent Russell 12 drawings after painted studies,1 and so I’ve had an opportunity to talk about it again.
We’ll soon be at Michaelmas, and I’ve only rented the house until then;2 should I, yes or no, take it again for a half year, that’s what I’d very much like to decide after Gauguin has seen it, and not without him.
I couldn’t pay my rent on the 1st, having a model for the whole week — I have two portraits of the same model on the go, which are more important to me than the rest.3 But it’s on this occasion, when I was putting my chap4 off till next Monday for the month’s rent,  1v:2 that he said something, that he could find another tenant for the house if I hadn’t decided to keep it. Which doesn’t surprise me much, since I’ve had it repaired myself, and so it’s improved.5
In my last letter I forgot to reply to you on the subject of Tasset’s new canvas at 5.50 francs.6
It’s very fine, and quite what I wanted. If I did a portrait or just something that I’m determined should last, he could depend on my using it.
But not much, having just made up my mind to use cheap canvas for the studies.7 If his consignment hasn’t gone off, I’d be very pleased if you would add to it 4 small tubes of geranium lake. If, that is, I haven’t already ordered that colour, but I believe that in fact I didn’t ask for any bright reds except carmine.
So I have two figures on the go now, a head, and a bust with hands, of an old postman in a dark blue uniform. He has a Socratic head that’s interesting to paint.8  1v:3
There’s no better or shorter way to improve my work than to do figures. Also, I always feel confidence when doing portraits, knowing that that work is much more serious — that’s perhaps not the word — but rather is the thing that enables me to cultivate what’s best and most serious in me.
More soon, good handshake.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 658 | CL: 517
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Friday, 3 August 1888

1. These twelve drawings were Fishing boats at sea (F 1433 / JH 1528 [2677]), Lawn with a weeping tree (F 1449 / JH 1534 [2683]), Garden with flowers (F 1454 / JH 1532 [2681]), Joseph Roulin (F 1458 / JH 1536 [2684]), The harvest (F 1486 / JH 1527 [2676]), Wheatfield with sheaves (F 1489 / JH 1530 [2679]), Arles seen from the wheatfields (F 1490/ JH 1529 [2678]), Mousmé (F 1503 / JH 1533 [2682]), Wheat stacks (F 1427 / JH 1525 [2674]), Fishing boats at sea (F 1430a / JH 1526 [2675]), Zouave (F 1482a / JH 1535 [3004]) and The road to Tarascon (F 1502a / JH 1531 [2680]).
[2677] [2683] [2681] [2684] [2676] [2679] [2678] [2682] [2674] [2675] [3004] [2680]
2. Michaelmas, 29 September, was traditionally the day on which leases expired (and commenced) in France. Van Gogh had rented the Yellow House from 1 May, see letter 602, n. 3.
3. These are Joseph Roulin (F 432 / JH 1522 [2672]) and Joseph Roulin (F 433 / JH 1524 [2673]). We know from letters 655 and 662 that Van Gogh painted the bust first, and then the head.
[2672] [2673]
4. Probably Bernard Soulè, the owner's agent; see letter 602, n. 19.
5. Van Gogh had had the Yellow House painted; see letter 614.
6. This relates to the new canvas – Vincent must have received a sample of it. The order eventually arrived in Arles on 9 August (see letter 658).
7. See letter 639 for the cheaper canvas.
8. For the comparison of Roulin with Socrates see letter 652, n. 7.