Paris 8 Dec. 1889

My dear Vincent,
Today we safely received the three rolls of paintings as well as your letter.1 Among the canvases there are some whose harmony is sought in less dazzling tones than generally; there is however a lot of atmosphere.
How I agree with you when you say in your last letter  1v:2 that you want to work like a cobbler,2 certainly that won’t prevent you from doing canvases that hold their own alongside those of the masters. What I consider modern times have done for art is that nowadays each person can do as he intends and he isn’t forced to work according to rules established by a school. This being the case, it’s permissible to do a piece of nature simply as one sees it, without being obliged to cut it like this or like that. The fondness the artist has for certain lines and certain colours will cause his soul to be reflected in them in spite of himself.  1v:3
At the World Exhibition there was a little painting by Manet, which perhaps you saw earlier at Portier’s. It shows a young woman in a white dress sitting against a green knoll beside a little carriage with a child inside. The father is lying nonchalantly on the grass behind the woman.3 This is certainly one of the paintings that aren’t only the most modern, but also in which there is the highest art. I think that the searches for symbolism, for example, need go no further than this painting, and the symbol isn’t deliberate.
Lately Tanguy has been exhibiting a lot of your canvases, he told me  1r:4 that he hopes to sell the Bench with the ivy.4 It’s a fine choice you’ve made for Brussels. I’ve ordered frames. For the Sunflowers5 I’m leaving the little wooden edge that’s around it, and a white frame around that. For the others,6 white or natural wood frames. You don’t tell me if you want to exhibit drawings. When Maus was here he liked them very much and asked above all for some to be sent. We could perhaps send several of them in a frame.
You often used to say that a book should be published about Monticelli. Well, I’ve seen about twenty very fine lithographs after him done by someone called Lauzet. There will also be text, the artist is to come and see our paintings to see if there are any he wants to reproduce.7 It will be especially good for the English  2r:5 and the Scottish. The lithographs are printed in different tones, and in terms of the process they somewhat resemble etchings on stone, like Marvy made back then;8 the man who did them is a real artist. That friend of Bernard’s called Aurier also came to my place, the one who came to rue Lepic once. He’s very interested in what you’re doing and showed me a little journal he ran in which he talked about Tanguy’s shop, and in which he also mentions your paintings.9 Here we are in the full throes of winter and there’s snow on the roofs. How’s the climate where you are? I’m writing to Mr Peyron  2v:6 to tell him that you’ll probably be obliged to work in a room, and that in that case will he please let you make a fire, the cost of which he can add to my account.
I’m very pleased that you can say that you’re well. For the future, who can say, above all don’t worry yourself more than necessary. One day or another there will indeed be better days for you, and we’ll see each other more often.10 The Corots, Millets etc. didn’t sell their painting for high prices but they nevertheless ended up selling, but one must have patience.
Jo sends her warm regards, we’ve received a whole consignment of little things for the baby from Amsterdam. You’ll do its portrait when it’s here. Wil is probably coming to lend us a hand in January. They’re enjoying themselves in Leiden.
Be of good heart.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 827 | CL: T21
From: Theo van Gogh
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Paris, Sunday, 8 December 1889

1. This was letter 824.
2. Theo is referring here to letter 823.
3. Edouard Manet, In the garden, 1870 (Shelburne, Vermont, The Shelburne Museum). Ill. 228 [228].
4. Trees with ivy in the garden of the asylum (F 609 / JH 1693 [2789]).
5. Sunflowers in a vase (F 454 / JH 1562 [2704]) and Sunflowers in a vase (F 456 / JH 1561 [2703]). Van Gogh had framed these works himself with strips of wood; see letter 776, n. 6.
[2704] [2703]
6. The other works that Van Gogh eventually exhibited were Orchard in blossom with a view of Arles (F 516 / JH 1685 [2781]), Wheatfield at sunrise (F 737 / JH 1862 [2874]) and The red vineyard (F 495 / JH 1626 [2745]).
[2781] [2874] [2745]
7. This resulted in the publication Adolphe Monticelli. Paris (Boussod, Valadon & Cie) 1890, which appeared in June of that year. The large-format album contains lithographs by Auguste Lauzet after twenty paintings by Monticelli, as well as two portraits of the artist, a ‘biographical and critical study’ by Paul Guigou and ‘an introductory poem’ by Fernand Mazade. Lauzet included two works from the collection of the Van Gogh brothers: no. 4 The Italian girl and no. 15 Woman at a well (both Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). Ill. 309 [309] and 2306 [2306]. For this publication, see Sheon 2000.
[309] [2306]
8. A technique frequently employed by Louis Marvy is that of ‘crayon-manner etching’ with a ‘soft varnish’ (vernis mou) whereby it seems as though the lithographed etchings have been worked up in pencil. This last term was recorded below a number of prints he made in the 1840s. For this technique, see André Béguin, Dictionnaire technique de l’estampe. Paris 1998, pp. 102-104.
9. Luc le Flaneur (the pseudonym of Albert Aurier), ‘En quête de choses d’art’, Le Moderniste Illustré 2 (13 April 1889), p. 14. Aurier was the editor-in-chief of this weekly magazine. He writes: ‘Do you know Tanguy? Yes or no? 14 rue Clauzel; an ugly-looking shop, and so small! But with little caskets, fine ointments. Go in and you’ll see treasures out of the Arabian Nights... This père Tanguy, what an astute spotter of masterpieces! How good he’s been at discovering today’s unknowns, tomorrow’s masters!... But let’s go in with no more ado... Look, here are some incomparable marvels by Cézanne! Look, here are some canvases by Vincent, extraordinarily fiery, intense, sunny’. (Connaissez-vous Tanguy? Oui, non. Rue Clauzel, 14; vilaine boutique et si petite! mais aux petites boëtes, les bons onguents. Entrez et vous verrez des trésors mille-et-une-nuitesques... Ce père Tanguy, quel fin dénicheur de chefs-d’oeuvre! Comme il a su les découvrir les méconnus d’aujourd’hui, les maîtres de demain!... Mais entrons sans plus tarder... Tenez, voici d’incomparables merveilles de Cézane! tenez, voici des toiles de Vincent, formidables de fougue, d’intensité, d’ensoleillement).
In the summer of 1889, Bernard had prepared a short article about Van Gogh for the same magazine and sent it to Aurier. See Van Gogh 2007, pp. 360-365 and exh. cat Mannheim 1990, pp. 381-382.
10. Theo later added ‘& nous ... souvent’.