Vincent van Gogh - Public Garden with Couple and Blue Fir Tree: The Poet's Garden III 1888

Public Garden with Couple and Blue Fir Tree: The Poet's Garden III 1888
Public Garden with Couple and Blue Fir Tree: The Poet's Garden III
Oil on canvas 73.0 x 92.0 cm. Arles: October, 1888
Private collection

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Friday, 4 May 1888.
My dear Theo,
Yesterday I went to visit some furniture dealers to see if I could rent a bed, &c. Unfortunately they do not rent, and even refused to sell on terms of paying so much per month. This is rather awkward. Now I’ve thought that perhaps — if Koning were to leave after seeing the Salon, as I believe was his original intention, after he left you could send me the bed he’s occupying now.
We have to consider that if I sleep at the studio, that makes a difference after all of around 300 francs at the end of a year, which is otherwise spent at the hotel. I’m quite aware that it’s not possible to say in advance: I’ll stay here for such or such a length of time; however, I have many reasons to believe that a long stay here is likely.
Yesterday I was at Fontvieille, at MacKnight’s — he had a good pastel — a pink tree — two watercolours under way, and I found him working on a head of an old woman in charcoal. He’s at the stage when the new colour theories are tormenting him, and while they prevent him from doing things according to the old system, he hasn’t sufficiently mastered his new palette to be able to succeed this way. He seemed very embarrassed to show them to me, so I had to go there specially and tell him I very much wanted to see his work, and now it’s not impossible that he may come to stay with me here for a while. Then we would benefit, I think, on both sides.

I very often think of Renoir here and his pure, clean drawing. That’s just the way objects or figures are here, in the clear light.
We have a tremendous amount of wind and mistral here, 3 days out of four at the moment, always with sunshine, though, but then it’s difficult to work out of doors.
I think something could be done here in the way of portraits. People may be crassly ignorant as far as painting goes, but in general they’re much more artistic than in the north in their own appearance and their own lives. I’ve seen figures here as lovely as those of Goya and Velázquez. They know how to stick a touch of pink on a black suit, or make a white, yellow, pink or green and pink, or blue and yellow outfit, in which nothing needs to be changed from the artistic point of view. Seurat would find some very picturesque figures of men here, despite their modern suits.
Now I dare say these people here would jump at portraits. But, before daring to take the risk of throwing myself into that, I want my nervous system to calm down first, and then I want to be settled in such a way that we can receive people at the studio. And if I have to mention the big subject, by my calculations to be in good health and be acclimatized here once and for all I’ll need a year, and to establish myself I’ll need a good thousand francs. If in the first year — the current one — I spent 100 francs to live and 100 francs for this establishment per month, you can see there wouldn’t be a sou left in this budget for painting. But by the end of this year I’m inclined to believe I’d have gained both my quite decent establishment and my health. And my occupation while waiting would above all be to spend every day drawing, with two or three paintings a month in addition.
In — the establishment — I thus also count a complete renewal of all my linen and clothes and shoes.
And I would be a different man by the end of the year.
I’d have a home and I’d have my peace of mind about my health. And so I can hope not to collapse out of breath before my time, here.
Monticelli was physically more vigorous than I am, I think, and if I had the strength I would live like him, one day at a time.
But if he became paralyzed, and without being that much of a drinker — all the more reason why I couldn’t withstand it.
I was certainly well on the way to catching a paralysis when I left Paris. It caught up with me afterwards, right enough! When I stopped drinking, when I stopped smoking so much, when I started reflecting on things again instead of trying not to think — my God, what melancholias and what dejection. Working in this magnificent nature kept up my morale, but there too, after a certain amount of effort I didn’t have the strength.
Ah well, that’s why when I was writing to you the other day I said that if you left the Goupils you would probably feel better in terms of morale but the recovery would be very painful. While the sickness itself, you don’t feel it.
My poor friend, our neurosis &c. surely also comes from our rather too artistic way of life — but it’s also a fatal inheritance, since in civilization we go on becoming weaker from generation to generation.
Take our sister Wil, she has neither drunk nor led a wild life, and yet we know a photograph of her in which she has the look of a madwoman. Isn’t that proof enough that if we want to look the true state of our temperament in the face we have to range ourselves among those who suffer from a neurosis that goes back a good long way.
I think Gruby’s in the right in these cases: eat well, live well, see few women, in a word live in anticipation just as though one already had a brain disease and a disease of the marrow, not to mention neurosis, which really does exist.
Certainly that’s taking the bull by the horns, which isn’t a bad policy.
And Degas — does that and is successful. All the same, don’t you feel, as I do, it’s awfully hard?
And in short doesn’t it do us a tremendous amount of good to listen to the wise advice of Rivet and Pangloss, those splendid optimists of the true and jovial Gallic race who leave you your self-esteem? Yet, if we want to live and work, we must be very careful and look after ourselves. Cold water, air, good simple food, wear the right clothes, sleep in a good bed and don’t have worries. And not letting yourself go with the women and real life to the extent you might like to.

I’m not set on sleeping at the studio but if I went to sleep there, it would be if I could see the possibility of establishing myself more or less for good and for a long period of time. Having no need at all now of space at the hotel, since I have the studio elsewhere, I’ll tell the people it’s 3 francs a day, take it or leave it. And consequently there’s nothing pressing. But if it’s all the same to you, send me 100 francs anyway next time, as I’d also like to have some drawers made, the way I had shirts and shoes made, and as I have to have almost all my clothes cleaned and mended. Then they’ll still be perfectly good. This is urgent, in case I’d have to go to Marseille or see people here. With all these precautions we’re taking now we can be more certain of being able to hold out in the long term and of putting our work in order.
There are about ten canvases, for which I’m looking for a crate and which I’ll send you in the next few days.
I shake your hand firmly, and Koning’s too. I had a postcard from Koning to say he’d received a letter to collect the paintings from the Independents. But of course he just had to collect them, what can I do about it?
Ever yours,

(It goes without saying that if at your home there were canvases that were taking up too much space you could send them here by goods train and I’d keep them in the studio here. If that isn’t yet the case it will be later, so I keep quite a few studies here that don’t seem good enough to me to be sent to you.)