To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 9 April 1888.
My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter and for the 100-franc note it contained. I’ve sent you croquis of the paintings intended for Holland. Goes without saying that the painted studies are more brilliant in colour. Am hard at work again, still orchards in blossom.
The air here is definitely doing me good, I could wish you deep lungfuls of it. One of its effects is quite funny, one small glass of cognac goes to my head down here, so without having recourse to stimulants to get my blood circulating, my constitution won’t be taxed so much all the same.
But I’ve had a terribly weak stomach since I’ve been here, well, that’s probably a matter of a lot of patience.
I hope to make real progress this year, which I really need to do too.
I’ve got a new orchard that’s as good as the pink peach trees -– some very pale pink apricot trees. At present I’m working on some yellow-white plum trees with thousands of black branches.
I’m using vast quantities of canvases and colours but all the same I hope not to waste money.
Out of 4 canvases perhaps there’ll scarcely be one that would make a painting like Tersteeg’s or Mauve’s, but we’ll be able to use the studies for exchanges, I hope. When will I be able to send you something? I’d so much like to do two of Tersteeg’s, because it’s better than the Asnières studies.
Yesterday I saw a bullfight where five men were working the ox with banderillas and rosettes. A toreador crushed one of his balls jumping over the barrier. He was a blond man with grey eyes and a lot of sang-froid, they said he’d feel it for a long time. He was dressed in sky-blue and gold, just like the little horseman in our Monticelli with the 3 figures in a wood. The bullring looks so beautiful when there’s sunshine and a crowd.
Bravo for Pissarro, he’s right, I think. I hope he’ll do an exchange with us one day.
The same for Seurat, it would be a good thing to have a painted study by him.
Anyway, I’m working hard, hoping we’ll be able to do things of this kind.
The month will be hard for you and me, but nevertheless, if you can manage it, it’s to our advantage to do as many orchards in blossom as we can. I’m now well under way and I need 10 more, I think, same subject.
You know I’m changeable in my work, and this rage to paint orchards won’t last for ever. After that it may be bullrings. And I have an ENORMOUS amount of drawing to do, because I’d like to do drawings in the style of Japanese prints. I can’t do anything but strike while the iron’s hot. Will be worn out after the orchards, because they’re no. 25 and 30 and 20 canvases.
We wouldn’t have too many if I could knock off twice the number. Because I believe that could perhaps melt the ice in Holland once and for all. Mauve’s death was a rude shock for me. You’ll easily see that the pink peach trees were painted with a certain passion. I also need a starry night with Cypresses or — perhaps above a field of ripe wheat, there are some really beautiful nights here. I have a constant fever for work.
Am quite curious to know what the results will be after a year, I hope by then I’ll be less troubled by fits of faintness. At the moment I suffer a lot some days, but that doesn’t worry me in the least because it’s nothing but the reaction to this past winter, which wasn’t normal. And the blood’s restoring itself, that’s the main thing.
We must reach the point where my paintings are worth what I spend and even exceed that, seeing that so much has been spent already. Ah well, we’ll get there. Not everything I do is a success, of course, but the work’s getting along. Up to now you haven’t complained about what I spend here, but let me warn you that if I continue my work at the same rate I’ll find it hard to manage. But the work’s excessive.
If a month or a fortnight comes when you feel hard up let me know — then I’ll turn my hand to doing drawings and that will cost us less. This is to tell you that you shouldn’t force yourself for no reason — there’s so much to do here, all sorts of studies, that it’s not the same as in Paris, where you can’t sit down wherever you please.
If it’s possible to manage a bit of a steep month, so much the better, because orchards in blossom are subjects we have a chance of selling or exchanging. But I thought about the fact that you’ll have the rent to pay, and that’s why you must let me know if you’re too hard up.
I’m still going about with the Danish painter, but he’s going home soon. He’s an intelligent boy, and fine as far as loyalty and manners go, but his painting is still very poor. You’ll probably see him when he passes through Paris.
It was kind of you to go and see Bernard. If he does his service in Algeria, who knows, perhaps I’ll go and keep him company.
Has winter come to an end in Paris at long last? I think what Kahn says is quite true, that I haven’t paid enough attention to values, but it’ll be quite another thing they’ll say later — and no less true.
It’s not possible to do both values and colour.
Théodore Rousseau has done it better than anyone else, by mixing his colours the darkness caused by time has increased, and now his paintings are hardly recognizable.
You can’t be at the pole and the equator at the same time. You have to choose. And I have high hopes of doing that, too, and it will probably be colour.
More soon, handshake from me to you, to Koning and to the pals.