My dear Theo,
Gauguin’s canvas, Breton Children, has arrived, and he’s altered it very, very well.1
But although I quite like this canvas, it’s all the better that it should be sold, since the two he’s going to send you from here are thirty times better.
I’m speaking of the women picking grapes and the woman with the pigs.2 The reason for this is that G. is beginning to overcome his liver or stomach trouble that has bothered him lately.
Now I’m writing to you in reply to what you were telling me, that you would frame a small canvas of a pink peach tree I think, to place it with those gentlemen.3
I don’t want to leave any doubt about what I think of that.
First, if you yourself would like to place either a bad or good thing of mine there, my word if that will make you happier, then of course you have and will have carte blanche either now or later.
But if, on the other hand, it’s either for my pleasure or for my own benefit, I’d be of the opinion that it’s completely unnecessary.
If you were to ask me what would give me pleasure, it’s quite simply one single thing, that you keep for yourself what you like from what I do, in the apartment, and that you don’t sell any of it now.
The rest, the stuff that gets in the way, send it to me here for this good reason, that everything I’ve done from nature is chestnuts pulled out of the fire.  1v:2
Gauguin, in spite of himself and in spite of me, has proved to me a little that it was time for me to vary things a bit – I’m beginning to compose from memory, and all my studies will still be useful to me for that work, as they remind me of former things I’ve seen.
So what does selling any of it matter if we’re not absolutely pressed for money?
For in addition, I’m sure even now that you’ll eventually see things that way.
As for you, you’re with the Goupils, but I certainly am not, after however working there for 6 years4 we were absolutely dissatisfied on both sides with everything, them with me, me with them. It’s an old story, but all the same that’s how it is.
So continue on your way, but as far as the business is concerned it seems to me incompatible with my previous behaviour to come back there with a canvas of such innocence as this little peach tree or some other thing like it. No. If in a year or two I have enough to make an exhibition of my own, let’s say thirty or so no. thirty canvases —  1v:3
And if I said to them, will you do it for me, Boussod would certainly send me packing. Knowing them alas a little too well, I think that I won’t approach them. Not that I’d ever try to ruin anything, on the contrary, you must admit that I urge on all the others there zealously.
But as for me, my word I have an old grudge against them.
Be sure and certain that I consider you, as a seller of Impressionist paintings, to be very independent of the Goupils, that it will therefore always be a pleasure for me to urge artists to go there. But I don’t want Boussod ever to have a chance to say ‘this little canvas isn’t too bad for this young beginner’, as if never before...
On the contrary, I won’t come back to them, I’d prefer never to sell than to enter into it other than very straightforwardly. Now they’re not people to act straightforwardly, so it isn’t worth beginning again.  1r:4
Be assured that the more clear-cut we are about this the more they’ll come to you to see them. You don’t sell them, so in showing my work you aren’t trading outside the firm of Boussod, V. & Cie. Thus you’re acting honestly, and that’s worthy of respect.
If one or the other wants to buy however, fine, all they have to do is approach me directly. But be sure of this: if we can withstand the siege my day will come. I cannot and must not at this moment do anything other than work.
One thing however perhaps, I’m going to reply to Jet Mauve, tell her a whole heap of things about Gauguin &c. &c., send her some croquis, and indirectly Tersteeg will prick up his ears again. Gauguin and I often talk about the need to hold exhibitions in London, and perhaps we’ll send you a letter for Tersteeg to read. The thing is, should Tersteeg have an energetic successor — that day is approaching — the latter won’t be able to work with anything but new paintings.
Handshake — we’ll need some more colours.

I must also tell you that the month with the two of us together is going better on 150 each than I did on 250 just for myself. At the end of a year you’ll notice that this is working after all.
I can’t say anything more yet. I rather regret having the room full of canvases and having nothing to send when Gauguin sends his.
The thing is, regarding the impasto things, Gauguin has told me how to get rid of the grease by washing them from time to time.5
What’s more, when that’s done I must work on them again to retouch them.
If I sent you any of them now, their colour would be duller than it will be later.
They all think that what I’ve sent was done too hastily.6 I wouldn’t deny it, and I’ll make certain changes.
It does me enormous good to have company as intelligent as Gauguin and to see him work.7 You’ll see that certain people are going to reproach G. for no longer doing Impressionism.  2v:6
His two latest canvases which you’re going to see are very firm in the impasto,8 there’s even some work with the knife in them. And that will put his Breton canvases into the shade a little, not all, but some of them.
I hardly have the time to write, otherwise I’d already have written to those Dutchmen.9 I’ve had a letter from Boch, you know that Belgian who has a sister in the Vingtistes. He’s enjoying working up there.10
I really hope that we’ll always remain friends with Gauguin, and in business with him, and if he succeeds in setting up a tropical studio that would be magnificent.
But that will take more money by my calculations than by his.
Guillaumin has written to Gauguin, he seems very hard up but must have done some fine work. He has a child now,11 but he was terrified by the confinement and says he’ll always have ‘the red vision’ of it before his eyes. Only Gauguin has replied to him very well, saying that he, G., had seen it 6 times.12  2v:7
Jet Mauve is in much better health, and as you perhaps know has been living in The Hague since last August, near the Jewish cemetery, so almost in the country.13
You won’t lose anything by waiting a little while for my work, and we’ll calmly leave our dear pals to scorn the present ones.
Fortunately for me I know what I want better than they believe and am, basically, extremely indifferent to the criticism of working hurriedly.
In reply I’ve produced work these last few days even more hurriedly.14
Gauguin was telling me the other day — that he’d seen a painting by Claude Monet of sunflowers in a large Japanese vase, very fine.15 But — he likes mine better.16
I’m not of that opinion — only don’t think that I’m weakening. I regret as always, as you know, the scarcity of models, the thousand obstacles to overcome that difficulty.
If I were a completely different man and if I were wealthier I could force it, at present I’m not giving up and am plodding on quietly.
If at the age of forty I do a painting of figures like the flowers Gauguin was talking about  2r:8 I’ll have a position as an artist alongside anything.
So, perseverance.
In the meantime I can tell you anyway that the last two studies are rather funny. No. 30 canvases, a wooden and straw chair all yellow on red tiles against a wall (daytime).17 Then Gauguin’s armchair, red and green, night effect, on the seat two novels and a candle.18
On sailcloth in thick impasto.19
What I say about sending back studies, there’s no hurry at all, and I’m referring to the bad ones which, however, will serve me as documents — or those that are cluttering up your apartment. As to what I say in general about the studies, I’m set on just one thing: that the position is quite clear. Don’t trade on my behalf outside the firm; as for me, either I’ll never return to the Goupils, which is more than likely, or I’ll return straightforwardly, which is quite impossible.
One more handshake, and thanks for everything you’re doing for me.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 726 | CL: 563
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Monday, 19 November 1888

1. Paul Gauguin, Breton girls dancing, 1888 (W296/W251) (Washington, National Gallery of Art, lent by Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon). Ill. 102 [102]. The canvas was one of Gauguin’s recent paintings from Pont-Aven, which Theo was exhibiting in the gallery (cf. letter 704, n. 1).
Theo had written to Gauguin on 13 November 1888: ‘I shall still be able to sell the dance of the little Breton girls, but there will be a small bit of retouching to be done. The little girl’s hand that comes to the edge of the frame assumes an importance that it does not seem to have when you see just the canvas. The collector would like you to alter the shape of this hand a little, without changing anything else in the painting. It doesn’t seem to me that that will be difficult for you, and and I am therefore sending you the canvas.’ (Je pourrai encore vendre la ronde de petites Bretonnes, mais il y aura une petite retouche à faire. La main de la petite fille qui vient au bord du cadre prend une importance qu’elle ne paraît pas avoir quand on ne voit que la toile. L’amateur voudrait que vous revoyiez un peu la forme de cette main sans autrement modifier quoi que ce soit dans le tableau. Il me semble que cela ne vous sera pas difficile & pour cela je vous envoie la toile). Gauguin answered by return post: ‘I shall deal with the painting to be retouched; the hand that touches the frame obviously assumes great importance, and I believed it was necessary to do it that way in order to balance the dance, which is in the shape of an S. But since these are the whims of a painter and not a collector, I shall try to remedy, or rather, attenuate it.’ (Je vais m’occuper du tableau à retoucher; evidemment la main qui arrive dans le cadre prend beaucoup d’importance et je la croyais necessaire ainsi pour équilibrer la danse qui a la forme d’un S. Mais comme ce sont des toquades de peintre en non d’amateur je tâcherai d’y remedier ou plutôt atténuer.) See Correspondance Gauguin 1984, pp. 280-282. On the changes Gauguin made to the canvas, see Wildenstein 2001, p. 414, cat. no. 296.
The sale did not go through. Theo finally sold the canvas in September 1889. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1999, p. 139.
[2242] [2249]
3. The canvas that Theo had suggested exhibiting at Boussod, Valadon & Cie was probably Small pear tree in blossom (F 405 / JH 1394 [2590]). See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1990, p. 112. Although it is not very small (73 x 46 cm), it is still only half the size of a no. 30 canvas (the format Van Gogh had been using almost exclusively for some time). Admittedly, the picture depicts a pear and not a peach tree – Van Gogh earlier called it a ‘small pear tree’ (see letter 597) – but the words ‘I think’ added to the present letter could indicate that he was not entirely sure which work Theo was talking about. It was probably Theo who called it a peach tree; his wife, Jo, wrote to Vincent in May 1889 about ‘that beautiful flowering peach tree of yours, which looks at me in such a friendly way every morning’ (see letter 771).
a. Read: ‘puisqu’elles’.
4. Vincent had worked for Goupil from 1869 to 1876.
5. Vincent had previously told Theo that he should wash his paintings with lots of water; see letter 662.
6. It is not clear who the critics of Van Gogh’s working method are in this passage, which must be connected with ll. 172-182 below. ‘What I’ve sent’ (l. 131) must refer to the two batches of paintings sent from Arles, which were at Theo’s (see letters 606 and 660). Druick and Zegers assume that this ‘can only be Gauguin, possibly along with anyone else who may have seen the pictures that Vincent sent to Paris in May and August’ (see exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, p. 207). This could not possibly refer to Gauguin, however, because he had not been in Paris since January 1888 and so could not have seen any of the works in those two batches.
Like Pickvance, we assume that Van Gogh means the ‘artists and friends of Theo’s who had seen the paintings he [= Vincent] had sent to Paris’ (see exhib. cat. New York 1984, p. 235). One naturally thinks first of Bernard, who had been back in Paris since about 10 November, and of Camille Pissarro, who had seen work from the first batch (see letter 676). Van Gogh could also be referring to the Paris art dealers Thomas and Bague, to whom he hoped to sell work (see letter 699).
7. Gauguin, by contrast, wrote to Bernard in the second half of November 1888 about his relations with Van Gogh: ‘In general, Vincent and I see eye to eye on very little, especially on painting. He admires Daudet, Daubigny, Ziem and the great Rousseau, all of them people I can’t stand. And on the other hand, he detests Ingres, Raphael, Degas, all of them people whom I admire; I reply, you’re right, soldier, for the sake of a quiet life. He likes my paintings very much, but when I’m doing them he always finds that I’m wrong in this and that. He’s a romantic, and I’m more drawn towards a primitive condition. From the point of view of colour, he sees the possibilities of impasto, as in Monticelli, and I detest manipulated brushwork and so on.’ (Vincent et moi nous sommes bien peu d’accord en général, surtout en peinture. Il admire Daudet, Daubigny, Ziem et le grand Rousseau, tous gens que je ne peux pas sentir. Et par contre il déteste Ingres, Raphaël, Degas, tous gens que j’admire; moi je réponds brigadier vous avez raison pour avoir la tranquillité. Il aime beaucoup mes tableaux mais quand je les fais il trouve toujours que j’ai tort de ceci, de celà. Il est romantique et moi je suis plutôt porté à un état primitif. Au point de vue de la couleur il voit les hasards de la pâte comme chez Monticelli et moi je déteste le tripotage de la facture etc.) See Correspondance Gauguin 1984, p. 284.
8. The last two canvases by Gauguin are the above-mentioned Human miseries [2242] and Woman with pigs [2249] (n. 2).
[2242] [2249]
10. Boch had written to Van Gogh at the beginning of October from the Borinage; see letter 693. Boch’s sister Anna was a member of the artists’ society Les Vingt from 1886 to 1894. Regarding this group, see letter 580, n. 6.
11. On or about 13 November 1888, Gauguin wrote the following to Schuffenecker about Guillaumin’s letter: ‘Guillaumin has written me a distressing letter; he tells me about his wish to exhibit with the Indépendants this year’ (Guillaumin m’a écrit une lettre désolante; il me parle de son désir d’exposer cette année aux Indépendants). See Merlhès 1989, p. 139. A daughter, called Madeleine, had been born to Guillaumin on 14 October.
12. Gauguin had five children; see letter 625, n. 22.
b. Read: ‘habite’.
13. Vincent had asked his sister Willemien in letter 720 to send him Jet Mauve’s address by return post, so he must have received it in the meantime. Jet Mauve lived in The Hague at Riouwstraat 70, at that time on the edge of the city. This street joins Timorstraat, where the Jewish Cemetery is located.
14. In letter 717 Van Gogh reported that he had painted Marie Ginoux (‘The Arlésienne’) (F 489 / JH 1625 [2744]) in just one hour.
15. Claude Monet, Bouquet of sunflowers, 1881 (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). Ill. 300 [300]. Gauguin could have seen the painting at the Monet exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s, who had purchased it in October 1881, and at the exhibition of the Indépendants in 1882. See Wildenstein and Walter 1974-1991, vol. 2, pp. 239-240.
16. Gauguin’s remark undoubtedly referred to the recent paintings of sunflowers from Arles, particularly the two no. 30 canvases that were hanging in his room: Sunflowers in a vase (F 456 / JH 1561 [2703]) and Sunflowers in a vase (F 454 / JH 1562 [2704]). After his departure Gauguin wanted to have the latter canvas. See letter 739.
[2703] [2704]
c. This means something like ‘plough on secretly’.
17. Van Gogh’s chair (F 498 / JH 1635 [2749]).
18. Gauguin’s chair (F 499 / JH 1636 [2750]).
19. F 498 [2749] and F 499 [2750] are painted on the jute that Gauguin had bought; see exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, pp. 354-369.
[2749] [2750]