To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Monday, 25 June 1888.
My dear Theo,
If we take a whole piece of ordinary canvas, this is the net price, which I’ve just found out by chance:
Ordinary rough yellow canvas, No. 0
Width two metres
Whole piece 10 metres long
Price 40 francs
The discount is definitely 25%;
probably the price from the factory —
at first hand — 33 1/3%.
So here’s an opportunity to check Tasset’s prices. Leaving aside, or not, the 5 metres that I’d requested, the best thing would be to take a whole piece.
Having recently bought some canvases from which I’ll keep the stretching frames, it’s a big saving.
To do a no. 30 canvas — not counting the stretching frame, which I have — the canvas doesn’t cost me 1.50 (at the price quoted above) and at present, with the stretching frame, 4 francs. Count 1 franc for the stretching frame — which costs less; on every no. 30 canvas that makes a difference of 1.50, and more. This extra goes for carriage, which will be 5 francs.
See — if you can — what Tasset says when you ask him the price by the piece, but what I’m telling you about the price by the piece is just so, and you’ll be able to compare. Do you remember among the small drawings a wooden bridge with a washing-place — a view of a town in the background? I’ve just painted that subject in large format.
I must warn you that everyone will find that I work too quickly.
Don’t you believe a word of it.
Isn’t it the emotion, the sincerity of our feeling for nature, that leads us and — if these emotions are sometimes so strong that we work — without feeling that we’re working — when sometimes the brushstrokes come in a sequence and in relation one to another like the words in a speech or a letter — then we have to remember that it hasn’t always been like that, and that in the future there will also be quite a few heavy days without inspiration. So we have to strike while the iron’s hot and lay aside the bars we forge.
I don’t yet have half of the 50 canvases fit to be presented in public, and I need all of them by the end of this year.
I know in advance that they’ll be criticized as hasty.
I also know that I very much hope to stick to my argument of the past winter, when we talked about an association of artists.
Not that I still have a great desire or hope to bring it about, but as it was a serious argument, we have to retain our seriousness and retain the right to come back to it, to this question.
If Gauguin weren’t to come to work with me, then I have no other resources to balance my expenses but my work. This prospect only mildly frightens me. If my health doesn’t let me down I’ll do a whole heap of my canvases and out of that lot there’ll be some that will do.
I’m almost reconciled with the orchard, which wasn’t on a stretching frame, and its pendant with the stippling. Out of the whole lot, they’ll do. But I’m working with less trouble in the full heat than back in the spring.
Soon I’ll send you some rolled canvases, and the rest as and when it’s possible to roll them up.
I’d very much like to double the order for the zinc whites. This zinc white is part of the reason why everything dries so slowly, but it has other advantages in the mixtures. Wasn’t it pleasant at Guillaumin’s last winter — finding the landing and even the stairs, not to mention the studio — chock-full of canvases? You understand since then that I have a certain ambition, not about the number of canvases, but that these canvases as a whole should, after all, represent a real labour on your part as well as mine.
The wheatfields — that has been an opportunity to work, like the orchards in blossom.
And I only just have time to prepare myself for the new campaign, the one on the vineyards.
And between the two I’d like to do some more seascapes.
The orchards represented pink and white,
the wheatfields yellow,
the seascapes blue.
Perhaps now I’ll have a try at doing greens. Now autumn — that gives you the whole range of tones.
I’m quite curious to know what Gauguin will do — the main thing is not to discourage him — I still think his whole plan was just a whim.
Do you know what I’d like to tell you once again — this — that my personal desires are subordinate to the interests of a number of people, and that it always seems to me that another person could benefit from the money I spend by myself. Either Vignon, or Gauguin, or Bernard, or someone else.
And that for these arrangements, even if they’d involve my moving, I’m prepared. Two people who get along don’t spend — and even three — much more than one. No more on colours, either.
So — without counting the surplus of finished works — there would be the satisfaction for you of providing for two or three people instead of one. This for sooner or later. And as long as I’m as strong as the others. You can be sure of this, that it would be hard for us to be deceived, seeing that if they make difficulties about working, I know those difficulties too. And I’d perhaps know what it was all about.
Now, we’d have a perfect right — and perhaps even a duty — to urge them to work.
And that’s what we have to do.
If I’m alone, my word, I can’t do anything about that — then I have less need for company than for frantic work, and that’s why I’m boldly ordering canvas and paints. And so I only feel life when I’m working at full stretch.
And in company I’d feel a bit less need to do that, or rather, I’d work on more complicated things.
But in isolation I can count only on my excitement at certain moments, and then I let myself run to extravagances.
And so the canvases I bought here really not so long ago are almost all covered. When I send you the rolled up canvases you could perhaps take quite a few unimportant things off their stretching frames.
So as to be able, at the end of the year, let’s say, to show 50 of them to Pissarro and the others. And the rest, it’s studies, which will be a source of information, and being thoroughly dried, we can keep them in a portfolio or in a cupboard without their taking up a lot of space.
Handshake to you, and to the pals if you see any of them.