Paris 8 May ’89

Dearest brother,
It’s high time that your new little sister came to chat with you and didn’t always just let Theo convey her regards. When we weren’t married yet I always thought: Well, I don’t really dare to write to Vincent about everything yet, but now we really have become brother and sister, and I would so much like you to know me a little and, if possible, love me a little.
For my part — it’s been the case for a long time — I’ve heard so much about you, both from Wil and from Theo — and here in the house there are masses of things that are reminders of you,  1v:2 when I find a nice little jug or a vase or something, then it’s always: Vincent bought that or V. liked that so much1 — scarcely a day passes when we don’t speak of you.
I still keep talking about ‘our house’ and just can’t get used to saying ‘the apartment’;2 I wish you could see how nice and cosy Theo had already arranged everything before I came. The bedroom, in particular, is so sweet, very light and lots of pink in it — and in bed in the morning I look straight at that beautiful flowering peach tree of yours,3 which looks at me in such a friendly way every morning. There’s also one of your paintings hanging above the piano  1v:3 in our drawing room (we got one from Aunt Cornelie) — a large one which I like very much — it’s a landscape near Arles.4 The dining room is full too, but Theo’s not happy with the arrangement yet, and every Sunday morning is spent rehanging and arranging everything.5 It’s so wonderful when Theo’s home for the whole day on Sundays — I remember that I always loved Sundays so much as a child because they were so very cosy and pleasant at home — (something that most people couldn’t understand) but now even more.  1r:4 So Monday it was a double treat for me when all the businesses were closed for the opening of the exhibition6 — naturally we did not go to the exhibition but amused ourselves in our own way. Paris did look lovely that day — I do so hope that I’ll grow to love it as Theo does — but sometimes I’m afraid that it won’t be the case — it’s so busy and chaotic, and I love quiet so much! So I’m very glad that we live in our quiet quarter — it’s not an aristocratic one but a real, typical neighbourhood — a large artist’s studio over the road  2r:5 and right in front of the house a couple of very tiny little gardens — in each an arbour and a couple of lilacs, which are presently flowering beautifully. What a lot of beautiful flowers there are in Paris — if I had to name something good about P., that would be one of the first things!
A great many of Theo’s acquaintances have already come to see us in the evenings — yesterday evening, for instance, was a whole reunion — Pissarro and his son,7 Isaäcson and young Nibbrig8 (but I don’t know whether you know him) and my brother — who’s been coming to eat with us for some time now because his wife’s gone to Holland.9 I just wish  2v:6 that I spoke rather better French — I can manage on my own, doing the shopping and with the charwoman, but carrying on a conversation, and particularly when Theo’s there — I find that awful. I haven’t dared try to write a letter in French either — even though I actually knew that you’d prefer it, but Wil told me that she always just wrote in Dutch. As soon as I feel a bit of a Parisienne, I’ll start writing in French — is that all right?
Lies and Wil have a little plan to come here together this summer,  2v:7 how I’d like that, particularly having Wil here for a time — how she’d laugh at me — for she’s such a clever little housekeeper herself. She can do everything — and I — I’ll confess honestly — I can’t do anything — I’ve already burnt the rice twice and the plums once — that poor Theo, he just has to swallow everything!
Apart from that we get along very well together — we’ve already been married three weeks today — it seems to me a long and short time ago — and nothing, nothing is strange to us any more — just as if we’ve always been together. The worst thing though is  2r:8 that I don’t yet look anything like a married lady — yesterday I went to pay our baker and the man simply wouldn’t understand that I was Madame van Gogh and kept calling me Mademoiselle, it’s really too bad!
I must see about lunch because Theo will be home in a few minutes — so I’ll say goodbye to you for today — I hope that I haven’t bored you too much — but of late I’ve got so used to writing to both Breda and Amsterdam about all those little things that they so like to know10 that I can’t write a serious letter any more — it will get better again later. With warm regards, and wishing you all the best,

your loving little sister


Br. 1990: 774 | CL: T8
From: Jo van Gogh-Bonger
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Paris, Wednesday, 8 May 1889

1. The collection of the Van Gogh Museum contains a copper vase and an earthenware vase from Theo’s apartment; they were depicted by Vincent in various Paris still lifes (including Vase with Chinese asters and gladioli (F 234 / JH 1168) and Fritillaries in a vase (F 213 / JH 1247)).
2. Theo and Jo’s apartment was at 8 cité Pigalle in Montmartre. See letter 745, n. 16.
3. This was probably Small pear tree in blossom (F 405 / JH 1394 [2590]), which Theo had proposed in November 1888 to exhibit at Boussod, Valadon & Cie. See letter 721, n. 3.
4. It emerges from letter 887 that The harvest (F 412 / JH 1440 [2621]) hung above the piano. The piano was Aunt Cornelie’s wedding present to Theo and Jo (FR b923 and b940).
5. At Theo’s apartment in Paris, works by Vincent must have been shifted around continually. Jo wrote about this on 25 May 1889 to her sister Mien: ‘there are always two or three unframed paintings standing around our place, being tried out here and there’ (FR b4288). For example, after receiving a new consignment of paintings (letter 767), Theo decided to hang La berceuse in the guestroom (FR b2848). In her introduction to the letters, Jo wrote: ‘the blossoming orchards hung in the bedroom, the Potato Eaters in the dining room above the fireplace, the large landscape from Arles and the nocturnal view of the Rhône ... in the sitting room’. See De brieven 1990, vol. 1, p. 36.
6. The World Exhibition, held in Paris from 5 May to 5 November 1889.
8. The Dutch artist Ferdinand Hart Nibbrig was 23 at the time. From October 1888 until July 1889 he was in Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian and in Fernand Cormon’s studio. In a letter to the art critic Albert Plasschaert of 8 January 1904, he wrote: ‘Spent a lot of time in Paris with Theo van Gogh; Vincent was in the South. Saw at Theo’s works by Claude Monet, Pissarro, de Gas etc.’ See J.M. Joosten, ‘Van Gogh publikaties. De eerste kennismaking met het werk van Vincent van Gogh in Nederland’, Museumjournaal 14-3 (June 1969), p. 156.
10. Mrs van Gogh and Willemien lived in Breda; Jo’s parents lived in Amsterdam.