My dear Theo,
Thank you for your money order for 50 francs, which I’ve just received.1
I did know that Gauguin had travelled, but I didn’t know he was a real seaman; he’s been through all the difficulties, he was a real topman on the topmast and a real sailor.2 That gives me a tremendous respect for him, and an even more absolute confidence in his personality. He has — if he’s to be compared with something — links with those Icelandic fishermen of Loti’s.3 I believe that it’ll make the same impression on you as on me.
Now we’ve done some work already, of course; he has a negress on the go, and a big landscape of this region.4
What he tells me about Brittany is very interesting, and Pont-Aven is a quite amazing part of the world. Of course, everything there is better, bigger, more beautiful than here. Of a more solemn character, and above all more of a whole and more defined than the small, stunted, scorched countryside of Provence. Be that as it may, he, like me, nevertheless likes what he sees, and is particularly intrigued by the Arlésiennes.  1v:2
This week I did a new study of a sower; the landscape utterly flat, the figure small and blurred.5
Then I did another study of ploughed field with the stump of an old yew. Like this.6

And that’s all. How are you, and did you do anything in Brussels?7
I’m still very glad to know that you’re no longer alone in the apartment.
My brain feels tired and dry again, but I’m better this week than the previous fortnight.
What Gauguin has to say about the tropics  1v:3 seems wonderful to me. There, certainly, is the future of a great renaissance of painting. Just ask your new Dutch friends8 if they’ve ever thought how interesting it would be if a few Dutch painters were to found a colourist school in Java. If they heard Gauguin describe the hot countries they’d certainly feel like doing that straightaway. Not everyone is free and in a position to be able to emigrate. But what things there would be to do!
I regret not being ten or twenty years younger; I’d certainly go.
Now not very likely that I’ll move from the coast, and the little yellow house here in Arles will remain what it is, a halfway house between Africa and the tropics and the people of the north.
It’s now quite likely that Bernard will go to Africa, where he’ll be with Milliet, who greets you warmly and will leave on the 1st November.9  1r:4
In the evening especially, with the gaslight, I like the look of the studio very much.
If you ever find any more Daumiers, don’t forget to get your hands on them.
And I believe that in the evening we’ll bring neighbours and friends here, and that in the evening we’ll work as in the daytime, chatting as we do so.
Portraits of people lit by gaslight — that always seems to me a thing to do.
I shake your hand firmly, and write to us soon.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 719 | CL: 558b
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Saturday, 27 or Sunday, 28 October 1888

1. Theo said on 27 October that he would send this; see letter 713.
2. See letter 616, n. 2, for Gauguin’s seamanship.
3. Pierre Loti’s Pêcheur d’Islande (1886) is a novel about the hard, dangerous life of Breton fishermen, who fished in Icelandic waters. The story centres on the love between the fisherman Yann and the middle-class girl Gaud. At first Yann rejects her, but she remains faithful to him in her thoughts. When it is discovered on her father’s death that he had frittered away his fortune, the gulf between them narrows and they find each other again. They marry six days before Yann goes back to sea for months. It is to be his last voyage, from which he would not return.
Since Theo sent Caroline van Stockum-Haanebeek a copy of this book with such ‘masterly descriptions of nature’ on 10 July 1887 (FR b727), there is a good chance that Vincent also read it at this time.
4. This painting of a negress is not known. Technical research has demonstrated that the ‘big landscape of this region’ was Farmhouse in Arles, 1888 (W315/W308) (Indianapolis Museum of Art. Gift in memory of William Ray Adams). Ill. 2237 [2237]. See exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, pp. 165-166.
5. The letter sketch Sower (F - / JH 1619) is after the painting Sower (F 494 / JH 1617 [2739]).
6. The letter sketch Ploughed field with a tree-trunk (‘The furrows’) (F - / JH 1619) is after the painting of the same title F 573 / JH 1618 [2740].
7. See letter 711, n. 2, for Theo’s trip to Brussels.
9. Milliet was due to go to Guelma in Algeria.