Vincent van Gogh - The Poet's Garden 1888

The Poet's Garden  1888
The Poet's Garden
Oil on canvas 73.0 x 91.2 cm. Arles: September, 1888
Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Tuesday, 3 April 1888.
My dear Theo,
I’m in a fury of work as the trees are in blossom and I wanted to do a Provence orchard of tremendous gaiety — writing to you in a calm frame of mind presents serious difficulties, yesterday I wrote some letters that I later destroyed. I continue every day to feel that we’re obliged to do something in Holland — that we need to launch it with all the fervour of the sansculottes, with a French gaiety worthy of the cause we’re pleading.
So here’s a plan of attack that will cost us some of the best paintings we’ve made together, definitely worth let’s say a pundle off tousand-vrenc pills, well anyway they’ll have cost us money and a good slice out of our lives.
But it would be a loud and clear reply to certain muffled insinuations treating us more or less as if we were already dead, and a revenge for your trip last year when the welcome they gave you was lacking in warmth &c. Enough.
Let’s suppose, then, that first of all we gave Jet Mauve the Souvenir de Mauve.
Let’s suppose I dedicate a study to Breitner (I have one exactly like the study I exchanged with L. Pissarro and Reid’s one, oranges, foreground white, background blue).
Let’s suppose we also gave our sister some study or other.

Let’s suppose we gave the modern museum in The Hague, since we have so many memories in The Hague, the 2 Montmartre landscapes exhibited at the Independents’.
There’s one more thing that’s not at all easy. With Tersteeg having written to you ‘send me some Impressionists, but only paintings you yourself think are among the best’, and you having for your part included one of my paintings in this consignment, I’m in the uncomfortable position of convincing Tersteeg I really am an Impressionist of the Petit Boulevard and that I expect to retain that position. Ah well, he’ll have one of my paintings in his own collection — I’ve been thinking about it these past few days and I’ve found a funny thing of a kind I’m not going to do every day.
It’s the drawbridge with a little yellow carriage and group of washerwomen, a study in which the fields are a bright orange, the grass very green, the sky and the water blue. It just needs a frame designed specially for it, in royal blue and gold like this, the flat part blue, the outer strip gold. If necessary, the frame can be of blue plush, but it would be better to paint it.
I think I can assure you that what I’m making here is better than my campaign in Asnières last spring.
Nothing is absolutely decided in the whole plan except for the dedication in memory of Mauve and the dedication to Tersteeg. I haven’t yet managed to get a line written to tell him, but I’ll manage it, as the painting’s done it’ll come to me all by itself, but you’re well aware that we have the power in us to oblige them to talk about us if it so pleases us, and we can carry on the work of introducing the Impressionists there with the greatest calmness and self-assurance.
If you see Reid again it would be a good idea to tell him we don’t have much confidence in the success of ambitious people and that we prefer to do good work, that we were surprised at his ways of behaving, which in the end were inexplicable, and that since then we no longer know what to think of him. I think Russell is trying to make peace between Reid and me, and that he wrote the letter precisely with that in mind. I’ll certainly write to Russell saying I told Reid bluntly that I was sure it was a mistake on his part and crazy to like paintings that are dead and to have no regard for living artists. That in any case I hoped to see him change in that respect.
As soon as I received the letter I had to spend almost everything on colours and canvases, and I’d be very pleased if it were possible for you to send me something extra in the next few days. The painting of the garden with lovers is at the Théâtre Libre. Boyer, the framer, still has a lithograph, the old man with a bald head.
I’d like you to get the consignment that I’m going to make for you before Tersteeg arrives in Paris, and you can put the apple trees in blossom in the room. I’m really glad it’s going well with Koning and that you aren’t living alone. What a bad business with Vignon, no doubt Mr Gendre was involved, I wish Mr Gendre nothing but ill, he does too much of it to other people. It’s a sad end for père Martin. I still can’t manage a letter to you of the kind I’d like, work is absorbing me completely. Well, first and foremost it’s to tell you I’d like to do some studies intended for Holland, and after that leave Holland alone for ever. Thinking of Mauve, J.H. Weissenbruch, Tersteeg, our mother and Wil, in the past few days, I’ve felt more emotion than perhaps reasonable, and it calms me down to say to myself that we’ll do some paintings for there. And after that I’ll forget them and I’ll probably think only about the Petit Boulevard.
Rest assured that Tersteeg won’t refuse the painting, and that it’s a firm decision that that one and the one for Jet Mauve will go to Holland.
For my part I won’t write to Tersteeg direct, if I say something to him I’ll send the letter to you with the painting.