To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Tuesday, 5 June 1888.
My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your kind letter and the 50-franc note that was enclosed with it.
We’ll still have to write to Gauguin. The problem is this bloody journey, since we urge him to make it, and afterwards we’d be in an awkward position if it doesn’t suit him. I think I’ll write to him today and will send you the letter.
Now that I’ve seen the sea here I really feel the importance there is in staying in the south and feeling — if the colour has to be even more exaggerated — Africa not far away from one.
I’m sending you by same post some drawings of Saintes-Maries. I did the drawing of the boats as I was leaving, very early in the morning, and I’m working on the painting, a no. 30 canvas with more sea and sky on the right.
It was before the boats cleared off; I’d watched it all the other mornings, but as they leave very early, hadn’t had time to do it.
I have another 3 drawings of huts that I still need and which will follow; these ones of the huts are a bit harsh, but I have some more carefully drawn ones. I’ll make you a consignment of rolled-up paintings as soon as the seascapes are dry.
Do you see the cheek of these idiots in Dordrecht, do you see that self-importance, they’re very happy to condescend to Degas and Pissarro — of whose work they’ve seen nothing, by the way, any more than of the others.
But it’s a very good sign that the young ones are furious, perhaps it proves that there are some old ones who’ve spoken well of it.
About staying in the south, even if it’s more expensive — Look, we love Japanese painting, we’ve experienced its influence — all the Impressionists have that in common — and we wouldn’t go to Japan, in other words, to what is the equivalent of Japan, the south? So I believe that the future of the new art still lies in the south after all.
But it’s bad policy to live there alone when two or three could help each other to live on little.
I’d like you to spend some time here, you’d feel it — after some time your vision changes, you see with a more Japanese eye, you feel colour differently. I’m also convinced that it’s precisely through a long stay here that I’ll bring out my personality. The Japanese draws quickly, very quickly, like a flash of lightning, because his nerves are finer, his feeling simpler. I’ve been here only a few months but — tell me, in Paris would I have drawn in an hour the drawing of the boats? Not even with the frame. Now this was done without measuring, letting the pen go. So I tell myself that gradually the expenses will be balanced by work. I’d like us to earn a lot of money to bring good artists here who too often get despondent in the mud on the Petit Boulevard. Fortunately it’s extremely easy to sell the right sort of paintings in the right sort of place to the right sort of gentleman. Since the distinguished Albert gave us the formula, all our difficulties have disappeared by magic. You only have to go down rue de la Paix — there strolls, just for that purpose — the good art lover.
If Gauguin came here, he and I could perhaps accompany Bernard to Africa when he goes there to do his service.
What have you decided about our two sisters?
Anquetin and Lautrec — I think — won’t like what I’m doing. Apparently an article on Anquetin has appeared in the Revue Indépendante in which he seems to have been called the leader of a new movement in which Japonism was even more marked, &c. I haven’t read it, but after all — the leader of the Petit Boulevard is without any doubt Seurat, and young Bernard has perhaps gone further than Anquetin in the Japanese style. Tell them I have a painting of boats, that and the Langlois bridge could suit Anquetin. What Pissarro says is true — the effects colours produce through their harmonies or discords should be boldly exaggerated. It’s the same as in drawing — the precise drawing, the right colour — is not perhaps the essential element we should look for — because the reflection of reality in the mirror, if it was possible to fix it with colour and everything — would in no way be a painting, any more than a photograph.
More soon, handshake.