My dear Vincent,
A few words in haste to thank you for your last letter and to tell you that I don’t consider your going to St-Rémy as a retreat, as you say,1 but simply as a momentary rest so as to come back soon with new strength.
I remember seeing something that struck me greatly a long time ago. In rue des Petits-Carreaux2 I saw a very heavy dray which had to climb that street. The driver struck his four horses harder and harder, but right in the middle the worn-out horses refused to go a step further. So he made them turn round and, when they were back at the bottom of the street, almost without resting them, he turned round  1v:2 again and arrived at the top of the street without difficulty.3 I’d very much like you to tell me how you’re treated in the establishment and what the food is like etc. Mr Salles said many good things about what he had seen. He has been perfect, he wrote me a long letter to give me an account of his visit. As I only know from your telegram that you have gone, I don’t know if he accompanied you as he proposed to do.4 In the Salon there’s a very fine painting by Raffaëlli, two absinthe drinkers.5 I find him strongest when he paints these people who have come down in the world, although the portrait of two young girls in white may perhaps be the best portrait in the Salon.6 Zorn has female bathers at the seaside,7 somewhat in the genre of In Arcady by Harrison, which you remember perhaps.8 There’s a Birth of Christ by Uhde, triptych,9 in which there’s a pretty sentiment. There’s very little of interest in all of this penny bazaar. I’m entirely of your opinion that one mustn’t believe solely in Impressionism,10 but still there must be that individual aspect which is lacking in almost everything there is in the Salon.
More soon and look after yourself. Good handshake.



Br. 1990: 773 | CL: T7
From: Theo van Gogh
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Paris, Wednesday, 8 May 1889

1. Vincent wrote this in letter 768 of 3 May 1889. On 8 May he travelled with the Rev. Salles by train to Saint-Rémy, and was admitted that same day to the asylum.
2. Rue des Petits-Carreaux, a street off rue Réaumur, to the north of Les Halles.
3. Theo repeats this story about the horses in letter 900.
4. Salles’s letter about his preparatory visit to the asylum and Vincent’s telegram have not survived. In a letter dated 10 May 1889, Salles informed Theo about the trip and Vincent’s admission: ‘Our journey to Saint-Rémy was completed under excellent circumstances. Mr Vincent was perfectly calm and explained his case to the director in person, like a man who is fully aware of his situation. He stayed with me until I left, and when I took leave of him, he thanked me warmly, and seemed somewhat moved at the thought of the entirely new life he was about to lead in this establishment’ (Notre voyage à St. Rémy s’est effectué dans d’excellentes conditions. M. Vincent était parfaitement calme et a expliqué lui-même son cas au directeur, comme un homme qui a pleine conscience de sa situation. Il est resté avec moi jusqu’à mon départ et quand j’ai pris congé de lui, il m’a chaleureusement remercié et a paru quelque peu ému à la pensée de la vie toute nouvelle qu’il allait mener dans cette maison). (FR b1052).
5. Jean-François Raffaëlli, The absinthe drinkers, c. 1880-1881 (private collection). Ill. 1230 [1230]. See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-2, p. 169, no. 2231. Jo had gone with Theo to see the exhibition, which she described in detail in a letter to her sister Mien (FR b4287, 11 May 1889).
6. Portraits of Judith and of Gabrielle, 1889 (Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts). Ill. 1233 [1233]. See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-2, p. 169, no. 2230.
7. Zorn’s painting Ute, 1888 (Göteborgs Konstmuseum) was exhibited at the Salon under the title A l’air; – Suède (Out of doors – Sweden). Ill. 1448 [1448]. See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-2, p. 210, no. 2765. This is Theo’s response to Vincent’s question about which of Zorn’s works were exhibited at the Salon (letter 768).
8. Thomas Alexander Harrison, In Arcady, c. 1886 (Paris, Musée d’Orsay). Ill. 922 [922]. It was shown at the 1886 Salon. See exhib. cat. Paris 1886-1, p. 96, no. 1168.
9. The triptych Nativity of Christ by Friedrich von Uhde, which Theo mentions, is actually Holy night (central panel: The nativity of Christ), 1888-1889 (Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Neue Meister). Ill. 438 [438]. See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-2, p. 198, no. 2595.
10. Vincent wrote this in letter 768.