Paul-Eugène Milliet was a 2nd Lieutenant at the 3rd Zouave Regiment which had quarters at the Caserne Calvin located on Boulevard des Lices in Arles. Vincent van Gogh gave him drawing lessons, and in return Milliet took a roll of paintings by Van Gogh to Paris, when in mid August he was passing the French capital on his way to the North, where Milliet spent his holidays. On his return to Arles, at the end of September 1888, Milliet handed over a batch of Ukiyo-e woodcuts and other prints selected by Vincent's brother Theo from their collection. In the days that followed Vincent executed this portrait of Milliet.
In the first version of Van Gogh's Bedroom, executed in October 1888, Milliet's portrait is shown hanging to the right of the portrait of Eugène Boch.
Decades later, when Milliet had retired to the 7th arrondissement in Paris, his memories of Van Gogh were recorded by Pierre Weiller, at this time living on lease in a building owned by Milliet, and published in 1955, after Milliet's death.
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Friday, 13 April 1888.
My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter containing the samples of absorbent canvas. Will be very glad to receive — but it’s not at all urgent — 3 metres of the sort at 6 francs. As for his consignment of colours, there were only 4 large tubes of white in it, while all the other tubes were half-size (of white). If he has charged for them in the same proportions, that’s very good, but pay attention to that.
4 tubes of white at 1 franc, but the rest should only be half the price. I find his Prussian blue poor, and his cinnabar. The rest is good.
Now I’ll tell you that I’m working on the 2 paintings of which I wanted to make repetitions. The pink peach tree is giving me the most trouble.
You can see from the four squares on the other side that the three orchards go together, more or less. I now also have a small pear tree, vertical, also flanked by two other horizontal canvases. That will make 6 canvases of orchards in blossom.
At the moment I’m trying to finish them a little every day, and to make them go together.
I dare hope for 3 more, also going together, but those are still only in the state of embryos or foetuses.
I’d really like to do this group of 9 canvases.
You understand that we’re free to consider the 9 canvases as the initial idea for a much larger, definitive decoration (this one consists of no. 25 and no. 12 canvases), which would be done after exactly the same subjects, at the same time next year.
Here’s the other middle piece of the no. 12 canvases.
The ground purple — in the background a wall, with straight poplars — and a very blue sky.
The small pear tree has a purple trunk and white flowers, a large yellow butterfly on one of the clumps.
On the left, in the corner, a little garden with a border of yellow reeds and green bushes and a flowerbed. A small pink house.
So there are the details of the decoration of orchards in blossom, which I was intending for you.
But the last 3 canvases exist only in a provisional state, and are supposed to represent a very large orchard with a border of cypresses and large pear trees and apple trees. The ‘Pont de Langlois’ for you is going well, and will be better than the study, I think.
Am in a real hurry to get back to work. As for the Guillaumin, if it’s possible, it’s certainly a good deal to buy it. But since they’re talking about a new method for fixing pastel, would perhaps be wise to ask him to fix it in this way, in case of purchase. Handshake to you and to Koning.
I’ve had a letter from Bernard with some sonnets that he’s made, some of which are successful; he’ll succeed in making a good sonnet, for which I almost envy him.
As soon as the Langlois bridge and the repetition of the other painting (the pink peach tree) are dry, will make a consignment.