My dear Theo
Many thanks for your kind letter and for the 100-franc note that was included with it. And you’re very kind to promise Gauguin and me to put us in a position to carry out the partnership project.1 I’ve just received a letter from Bernard, who joined Gauguin, Laval and someone else at Pont-Aven several days ago.2 In this letter, which is very kind by the way, there isn’t, however, a syllable about whether Gauguin intends joining me, nor another syllable, moreover, asking me to go there. All the same, the letter was very friendly. From Gauguin himself, not a word for almost a month.
I personally believe that Gauguin prefers to manage with his friends in the north, and if by good luck he sells a painting, or several, he could have ideas other than those of joining me.
Do I, who have less desire than he does for the battle of Paris,  1v:2 not have the right to do as I please? Look here:
The day when you could, would you — not give me, but lend me 300 francs for a year, all at one go?
Then if I reckon that at present you’re sending me 250 francs a month, you wouldn’t send me more than 200 after that, until the 300 paid out all at once had been paid off. Then I’d buy two good beds, complete, at 100 francs each, and other furniture for 100 francs. That would put me in a position to sleep at home, and to be able to put up Gauguin or another person there as well.
That would give me a saving of 300 francs a year, because it’s still 1 franc a night that I’m paying to the lodging-house keeper.
I’d have the sense of a more permanent home, and really it’s a condition for being able to work.
That wouldn’t increase my outgoings over the year, but it would give me furniture and the possibility of managing to make ends meet.  1v:3
So, if Gauguin comes or not, it’s his business, and from the moment we’re ready to receive him, and his bed, his lodging, is there, it means we’re keeping our promise.
I insist on this: the plan remains as true and as firm whether Gauguin comes or not, as long as our goal doesn’t change, in the sense of aiming to free us, me and another pal, from this cancer that gnaws at our work, the need to live in ruinous guest-houses. Without any benefit to us.
Which is sheer madness.
To be carefree, to hope that one of these days I’ll be freed from pennilessness: pure illusion. I’ll count myself well content to work for an allowance that’s just enough and my peace and quiet in my studio for the rest of my life.
Well, if I repeat once more that I couldn’t be more indifferent as to whether I settled in Pont-Aven or in Arles —  1r:4
I mean to be inflexible on this point of setting up a permanent studio and to sleep there and not at the guest-house.
If you’re kind enough to put us, Gauguin and me, in a position to set ourselves up like that —
I only say this, that if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity to free ourselves from lodging-house keepers, we’re throwing into the water all your money and our possibility of withstanding the siege of pennilessness.
On that my mind is well and truly made up, and I don’t wish to give in on that point.
Under the present circumstances, even while spending, I don’t have what’s barely essential, and I no longer feel in myself the strength to go on very long like that. If Gauguin can find the same opportunity at Pont-Aven, that’s fine, but I tell you the costs here, for which, once this expenditure has been made, plenty of hard work will have been done. The sun down here means a good deal, all the same. As things are, I’m ruining myself and I’m wearing myself out. Now that’s said, I’m not going to Pont-Aven if it means I have to stay at the guest-house there, with those Englishmen and those people from L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, with whom one debates every evening.3 A storm in a wash-basin. Handshake

Ever yours,

Lastly, vis-à-vis Gauguin, however much we appreciate him, I believe we’ll have to behave like the mother of a family, and calculate the actual expenses. If we listened to him, we’d have hopes of something pretty vague for the future, and we’d stay at the guest-house and we’d live as if in a hell with no way out.
I prefer to cloister myself like the monks, free to go to the brothel, just like the monks, or to the wine shop if our heart tells us to.
But our work requires a home.
All in all, Gauguin leaves me absolutely in the dark about Pont-Aven; by his silence toward my letters he accepts my offer to go to him if need be, but he writes me nothing about ways of finding a studio of our own there, or the price that furniture would cost.  2v:6 And that does seem strange to me.
Not that it bothers me, because I know what I want and what I don’t want.
And I’m therefore quite resolved not to go to Pont-Aven, unless there too we were to find a house at the low end of prices (15 francs a month is the price of mine), and unless we were to set ourselves up in it so as to be able to sleep there.
I’ll write to our sister this evening if I find the time. I kiss her affectionately in thought.


Have you received the drawings of the gardens4 and the two figure drawings?5 I believe that the painting of the head of the old peasant6 is as strange in colour as the sower,7 but the sower’s a failure and the head of a peasant, that’s more like it. Ah well, I’ll send that one on its own as soon as it’s dry, and I’ll put a dedication to you on it.8


Br. 1990: 668 | CL: 523
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Sunday, 19 or Monday, 20 August 1888

1. Theo’s promise to make it financially possible for Gauguin to come was perhaps connected to Uncle Vincent’s legacy. See letter 659, n. 12.
2. In letter 655 of about 5 August Van Gogh had answered Bernard’s question as to whether Gauguin was still in Pont-Aven in the affirmative. However, Bernard had already decided to go to Pont-Aven before he received it, as we learn from a letter he wrote to his sister Madeleine on 29 July. His plan was to arrive on 8 or 10 August, and Gauguin wrote to Schuffenecker on 14 August 1888: ‘Young Bernard is here and has brought some interesting things back from St-Briac’ (Le petit Bernard est ici et a rapporté de St-Briac des choses intéressantes) (see Harscoët-Maire 1997, p. 180 and Correspondance Gauguin 1984, p. 210). After Gauguin left for Arles, Bernard went back to Paris at the beginning of November (see exhib. cat. Mannheim 1990, p. 98).
The ‘someone else’ in the company was either Henry Moret, whose studio acted as a meeting place for the group surrounding Gauguin, or Ernest Ponthier de Chamaillard, whom Van Gogh referred to in later letters as ‘the other one’ and ‘the other young one’. In 1906 Chamaillard said in Mercure de France: ‘In 1888, when Gauguin was in Pont-Aven with Laval, Moret and me, he told us of the arrival of a very young painter called Bernard, whose early work he liked and from whom he hoped to see some good art’ (En 1888, alors que Gauguin se trouvait à Pont-Aven avec Laval, Moret et moi, il nous annonça l’arrivée d’un tout jeune peintre nommé Bernard, dont il appréciait les débuts, et de qui il espérait un bel effort d’art.) Quoted from Wildenstein 2001, p. 612. See also Henry Moret, aquarelles et peintures 1856-1913. C. Puget and C. Sauvage. Exhib. cat. Pont-Aven (Musée de Pont-Aven), 1988. Pont-Aven 1988, ‘Biographie’ (not paginated).
a. Read: ‘mettons’.
b. Read: ‘je serai délivré’.
3. This remark about debates with Englishmen and academic artists must have been prompted by Bernard’s letter. In Pont-Aven there was something of a hierarchy among the three hotels where artists stayed: the Americans and British stayed at the Hôtel des Voyageurs, the French and a few less well-off foreigners at the Hôtel du Lion d’Or, and the penniless painters at the Auberge Gloanec. See exhib. cat. Paris 2003, p. 24. Gauguin had written to Van Gogh about his relations with the academic artists in letter 646; he wrote to Schuffenecker on 14 August 1888: ‘All the Americans here are violently against Impressionism. I was obliged to threaten to hit them, and now we have peace’ (Ici tous les Américains sont furieux contre l’impressionisme. J’ai été obligé de menacer de cogner et maintenant nous avons la paix). See Correspondance Gauguin 1984, p. 210.
4. Garden with flowers (F 1456 / JH 1537 [2685]), Garden of a bathhouse (F 1457 / JH 1539 [2687]), and Garden with flowers (F 1455 / JH 1512 [2669]). See letter 657, nn. 3-5.
[2685] [2687] [2669]
5. Patience Escalier (‘The peasant’) (F 1460 / JH 1549 [2695]) and Joseph Roulin (F 1459 / JH 1547 [2693]). See letter 663, nn. 2 and 3.
[2695] [2693]
6. Patience Escalier (‘The peasant’) (F 443 / JH 1548 [2694]).
7. Sower with setting sun (F 422 / JH 1470 [2646]).
8. There are no signs that Van Gogh ever put a dedication on the painting.