To John Peter Russell. Arles, Thursday, 19 April 1888.
My dear Russell,
I ought to have answered your letter ever so long ago but working pretty hard every day, at night I feel so often too weary to write. As it rains to day I avail myself of the opportunity. Last Sunday I have met Macknight and a Danish painter and I intend to go and see him at Fontvieille next Monday. I feel sure I’ll prefer him as an artist to what he is as an art critic, his views as such being so narrow that they make me smile.
I heartily hope for you that you will be able to leave Paris for good soon and no doubt leaving Paris will do you a world of good in all respects. As for me I remain enraptured with the scenery here, am working at a series of blooming orchards. And unvoluntarily thought often of you because you did the same in Sicily. I wished you would one day or another, when I shall send over some work to Paris, exchange a Sicilian study with me – in case you should have one to spare.
You know I thought and think such a deal of those of yours. I don’t gainsay that your portraits are more serious and higher art but I think it meritory in you and a rare quality that together with a perfection as appeared to me the Fabian and MacKnight portraits, you are at the same time able to give a Scherzo, the adagio con espressione, the gay note in one word, together with more manly conceptions of a higher order. And I so heartily hope that you will continue to give us simultanément both the grave and elaborate works and those aforesaid scherzos. Then let them say if they like that you are not always serious or that you have done work of a lighter sort. So much the worse for the critics and the better for you.
I have heard nothing of our friend Mr Reid. I felt rather anxious on his account because I feel sure that he was on a false track. My brother has received a letter of him but pretty unsatisfactory.
I was very much taken in bya him during the first 6 weeks or 2 months but after that period he was in pecuniary difficulties and in the same acted in a way that made on me the impression that he had lost his wits.
Which I still think was the case and consequently he’s not responsable even if his doings then were pretty unfair. He is very nervous – as we all are – and can’t help being so. He is prompted to act in his crisis of nerves to make money – – – whilst painters would make pictures.....
So much to say that I consider the dealer stronger in him than THE ARTIST though there be a battle in his conscience concerning this – of the which battle I do not yet know the result. So much – for your informationb – as I had the pleasure of introducing him to you, feel bound to warn you with the same sympathy however for him because I found him artistic in pleading the Monticelli cause. In the which I took and take my part. Witnessing the very scenery which inspired Monticelli I maintain this artists rights to public though too late appreciation.
Surely Monticelli gives us not, neither pretends to give us, local colour or even local truth. But gives us something passionate and eternal – the rich coulour and rich sun of the glorious south in a true colourists way parralel with Delacroix’ conception of the south. Viz. that the south be represented now by contraste simultané of colours and their derivations and harmonies, and not by forms or lines in themselves as the ancient artists did formerly, by pure form greeks and Michelangelo, or by pure line or delineation Raphael, Mantegna, Venetian primitifs. (Botticelli, Cimabue, Giotto, Bellini.) Contrariwise the thing undertaken by P. Veronese and Titian – Colour. The thing undertaken by Velázquez and Goya to be continued and – more fully or rather more universally done by the more universal knowledge we have and possess of the colours of the prism and their proprieties.
Hoping to write to you again and to hear of you pretty soon,
Yours very truly,