To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Friday, 20 April 1888.
My dear Theo,
Thanks for today’s letter and for the 100-franc note it contained. About the previous letter containing 50 francs, I received it as well, and I also wrote telling you that the day before or two days before I sent the two drawings. These drawings are done with a reed cut the same way as you’d cut a goose quill. I plan to do a series like that. And I hope to do better than the first two. It’s a process I already tried in Holland in the past, but I didn’t have as good reeds there as here.
Have had a letter from Koning for which please thank him — I’ll be very glad to exchange the two drawings with him for a study of his that you will choose and keep in the collection. I’ll write to him to explain the process to him, and will send him some cut reeds so that he can make some too. Now that was an important piece of news about your trip to Brussels.
You’ll be in a position to judge how the old and highly priced merchandise is doing over there. But what a business. Because it’s indeed likely that those gentlemen are up to something. Do you remember, we had a chat about it before I left, that with the World Exhibition coming, Bouguereau, Lefebvre, Benjamin C., the whole clique would go to Boussod to grumble and to insist on their determination that the house of B. (the world’s leader) remain pure and faithful to the principles of the art that is truly the most civilized and the most agreeable, namely their own paintings. Be that as it may, it certainly gives you a hell of a lot to think about. And the situation would be serious if you were to fall out with those gentlemen.
I won’t hide from you that it would be a rude shock for you, not immediately, but let’s say 6 months later, because of the change it would bring about in your life.
When a man comes out of prison after having spent a long time there, there are times when he even misses prison, because he feels disoriented once he’s at liberty, probably so called because the exhausting daily task of earning one’s living leaves one hardly any liberty. But you know all that. You’ll certainly regret some things without choosing to, even while you gain others.
I have 10 orchards now, not counting three small studies and a large one of a cherry tree that I worked to death.
When will you be back, and what to do about the definitive consignment? Because now I have to change subjects, the orchards having mostly lost their blossom. So these orchards with the Langlois bridge form a first series.
If you prefer them to continue to dry here, that’s not bad perhaps. At the moment they’re on a covered terrace to dry.
Tell me, isn’t Daumier on show at the Beaux-Arts, and Gavarni? Bravo as far as Daumier’s concerned, not the Beaux-Arts.
Croquis here of an orchard that I had especially intended for you to mark the first of May. It’s entirely bright and done entirely in one go, a riot of impastos barely tinged with yellow and lilac in the first white clump. You’ll probably be in Holland then, and over there you’ll perhaps see the same trees in blossom on that day.
What a pity about Cor, let’s hope it’s nothing serious.
I’m very pleased to hear you’ve taken lessons in eating from young Koning, he’s very clever at that, and it’s entertaining to eat with that young sprig of an artist.
I’m very glad you have his study of a negro woman. Well, anyway, it will do you good to eat breakfast. I’ve done the same thing here by the way, eating 2 eggs in the morning. My stomach’s very weak but I hope I can get it back to normal, it’ll take time and patience. In any case I’m in fact already much better than in Paris.
Anyway, it seems you don’t exactly need a vast amount of food here, and on this occasion I also really wanted to tell you that I’m increasingly doubtful about the truth of the legend of Monticelli’s absorbing huge quantities of absinthe. When I think of his work it doesn’t seem possible to me that a man who’s jittery from drink could have done it.
Perhaps that woman from the Limousin, the Roquette lady, has after all put in a bit of her spiteful gossip to plant this legend.
Well then, I’m writing to you in haste, that way you’ll have my letter before you leave if it’s this coming Sunday you plan to go.
While I feel this visit won’t delight you so much if it’s mainly paintings from Delort & Co. that make up the collection intended for the virtuous Belgians, it doesn’t stop me saying that I wish you good health and bon voyage, and above all, good luck.
I saw Bernard’s still life when he was working on it, and I thought it superb.
Handshake to you and to Koning.