My dear brother,
Today, as Mr Peyron had come back, I read your kind letters, then the letters from home as well, and that did me an enormous amount of good in giving me back a little energy, or rather the desire to climb back up again from the dejected state I’m in. I thank you very much for the etchings1 – you’ve chosen some of the very ones that I’ve already liked for a long time, the David,2 the Lazarus,3 the Samaritan,4 and the large etching of the wounded man,5 and you’ve added the blind man6 and the other very small etching, the last one so mysterious that I’m afraid of it and dare not wish to know what it is. I didn’t know it, the little goldsmith.7 But the Lazarus! Early this morning I looked at it and I remembered not only what Charles Blanc says of it, but indeed even that he doesn’t say everything about it.8
The unfortunate thing is that the people here are too curious, idle and ignorant about painting for it to be possible for me to practise my profession. This is what one could always observe, that you and I made an effort here in the same direction as some others who weren’t understood either, and were bitterly saddened by circumstances.9  1v:2
If ever you go to Montpellier you would see that what I tell you here is true.10
Now, rather, you propose coming back to the north, and I accept.
I’ve had too hard a life to kick the bucket as a result, or to lose the power to work.
So Gauguin and Guillaumin, the two of them, want to do an exchange for the landscape of the Alpilles.11 Besides, there are two of them, only I think that the one finished last, which I’ve just sent, is done with more determination and is more accurate in expression.12
I’m perhaps going to try to work from the Rembrandts, above all I have an idea to do the man at prayer13 in the range of tones running from bright yellow to violet.
Included is Gauguin’s letter,14 do what you think best as regards the exchange, take the ones you like for yourself; I’m sure that our taste is increasingly becoming the same.
Ah, if I’d been able to work without this bloody illness! How many things I could have done, isolated from the others, according to what the land would tell me. But yes – this journey is well and truly finished. Anyway, what consoles me is the great, the very great desire that I have to see you again, you, your wife and your child,  1v:3 and so many friends who have remembered me in my misfortune, as, for that matter, I don’t stop thinking of them either.
I’m almost sure that I’ll soon get better in the north, at least for quite a long time, while still apprehensive of a relapse in a few years’ time – but not immediately. That’s what I imagine after having observed the other patients here, some of whom are considerably older than I am or, among the young ones, were more or less idlers – students. Anyway, what do we know about it?
Fortunately the letters from our sister and mother were very calm. Our sister writes very well, and describes a landscape or an aspect of the town as if it were a page from a modern novel. I always urge her to busy herself with domestic rather than artistic things, for I know that she’s already too sensitive, and at her age would have difficulty in finding the way to artistic development. I’m really afraid that she too will suffer from a thwarted artistic will. But she’s so energetic that she’ll make up for it. I talked with Mr Peyron about the situation, and told him that it was almost impossible for me to bear my fate here, that not  1r:4 knowing anything very clear regarding the line to take, it seemed preferable to me to return to the north.
If you think this is a good idea, and if you suggest a date when you expect me over there in Paris, I would have someone from here accompany me part of the way, as far as Tarascon or Lyon. Then you would wait for me, or have someone wait for me, at the station in Paris. Do what seems best to you. For the time being I would leave my furniture behind in Arles. It’s with friends,15 and I’m sure they’d send it the day I wanted it. But the carriage and packing would be almost what it’s worth. I consider this as a shipwreck, this journey, well, one can’t do as one wants, and as one ought to either. Once I got out a little into the park I recovered all my clarity for work, I have more ideas in my head than I could ever put into action, but without it dazzling me. The brushstrokes go like a machine. So based on that I dare believe that in the north I would rediscover my confidence once freed from surroundings and circumstances which I neither understand nor wish to understand. It was very kind of Mr Peyron to write to you, he’s writing to you again today,16 I leave him regretting that I have to leave him. Good handshake to you and to Jo, I thank her very much for her letter.17

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 866 | CL: 630
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, on or about Thursday, 1 May 1890

1. The etchings were a present for Vincent’s birthday. See letter 860, n. 6.
3. The estate contains a heliogravure of The raising of Lazarus (ill. 357 [357]), published by Amand-Durand in the series Eaux-fortes et gravures des maîtres anciens, an engraving and a reproduction (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. nos. t574, t476 and p991, respectively). The heliogravure is a reproduction of the fifth state of Rembrandt’s etching (B73), which was in the Dutuit Collection in Paris. Van Gogh’s painting The raising of Lazarus (after a detail from an etching by Rembrandt) (F 677 / JH 1672) was based on the heliogravure; cf. the sketch in letter 866.
[357] [979]
4. There are two etchings by Rembrandt of the Samaritan woman: The Samaritan woman, 1658 (B70) and The Samaritan woman or At the ruins, 1634 (B71) (Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet). Ill. 368 [368] and Ill. 2311 [2311]. The etching referred to here is presumably the latter, a reproduction of which is preserved in the estate (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. p110).
[368] [2311]
5. Rembrandt, The Good Samaritan, 1633 (B90); it measures 25.7 x 20.8 cm (Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet). Ill. 338 [338]. The estate contains a somewhat smaller reproduction of it, measuring 25.2 x 20.4 cm (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, t*1443).
6. ‘The blind man’ could be The blind Tobit [1826] [1827] (see letter 116, n. 9), though he could also be the Blind man playing the violin, 1631 (B138) (Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet). Ill. 341 [341].
[1826] [341]
7. Van Gogh must be referring to The little goldsmith (B123); this etching measures 7.8 x 5.6 cm (Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet). Ill. 343 [343]. There is an reproduction of it in the estate (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. p108).
8. In L’Oeuvre complet de Rembrandt, Charles Blanc discusses in detail the small and large Raising of Lazarus (B72 and B73). The second, of which Van Gogh had an reproduction (see n. 3 above), is the better known. See Paris 1859-1861, vol. 1, pp. 164-171, nos. 47-48. Van Gogh read the book in May 1877; see letter 115, n. 24.
9. Van Gogh later added ‘qui ... circonstances’ (who weren’t ... by circumstances).
10. Van Gogh thought that the Maecenas Alfred Bruyas had been of great importance to the painting of the South, and that Theo and Vincent himself were carrying on the work of Bruyas. Vincent had seen Bruyas’s collection in December 1888 at the Musée Fabre in Montpellier (see letter 726). Cf. letters 735, 743 and 765.
11. Gauguin had suggested exchanging Ravine (F 662 / JH 1804 [2853]) for a painting of his, to be chosen by Van Gogh. See letter 858, n. 5. It is not clear why Van Gogh thought that Guillaumin was also interested in the painting. According to Gauguin, Guillaumin was one of the few who had shown indifference to Van Gogh’s work (see letter 859).
12. Ravine (F 661 / JH 1871 [2881]). Vincent had sent it in the last consignment to Theo (see letter 863).
13. ‘The man at prayer’ refers to the previously mentioned etching David in prayer [1853] (see n. 2 above). Apart from The raising of Lazarus, Van Gogh did not make any paintings after the above-mentioned etchings by Rembrandt.
14. This was Gauguin’s letter 859, in which the exchange was mentioned.
a. Read: ‘Peyron’.
16. For Peyron’s previous letter to Theo, see letter 862, n. 2. Peyron’s letter of ‘today’ is not known.
17. This refers to letter 861.