From the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France:
On 23 October 1888, Paul Gauguin met up again with Vincent Van Gogh in Arles. The two men dreamt of founding a "studio of the Midi" together, in the South of France. But their enthusiasm rapidly waned. Van Gogh's overbearing presence came up against Gauguin's fierce independence. However, towards mid-December, they started working together again during a temporary improvement in their relationship.
The two great works created during these few days of renewed collaboration are The Arlésiennes (Mistral) (Chicago, The Art Institute), by Gauguin, and The Dance Hall in Arles by Van Gogh. This painting seems to show an evening at the Folies-Arlésiennes, a dance hall on Boulevard des Lices. Gauguin's influence is clear as Van Gogh scrupulously applies the principles of synthesism and cloisonnism developed by his friend at Pont-Aven. The reference to Japanese art is also evident, with the unusual elevation of the horizon, and in the strange, decorative foreground where the curves and counter curves of the hair are dominant.
The multitude of characters, the variety of their style of clothes and the way they overlap, skilfully portray a feeling of crowdedness and saturation. The portrait of Madame Roulin on the right, who alone turns to look at the spectator, seems to express a claustrophobic terror. In Gauguin's Arlésiennes, two female characters also express anxiety and anguish.
To escape this latent anxiety, the two men went to Montpellier on 16th or 17th December to visit the Musée Fabre. The arguments that followed highlighted their aesthetic disagreements more than ever. As a result of this day out, their separation became inevitable, and Gauguin prepared to leave.
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Thursday, 5 July 1888.
My dear Theo,
Work occupies me so much, I can’t manage to write. I’d have liked to write to Gauguin again, because I fear he may be iller than he says — his last letter in pencil looked so much that way.
In that case, what’s to be done — I have no reply from Russell yet.
Yesterday, at sunset, I was on a stony heath where very small, twisted oaks grow, in the background a ruin on the hill, and wheatfields in the valley. It was romantic, it couldn’t be more so, à la Monticelli, the sun was pouring its very yellow rays over the bushes and the ground, absolutely a shower of gold. And all the lines were beautiful, the whole scene had a charming nobility. You wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see knights and ladies suddenly appear, returning from hunting with hawks, or to hear the voice of an old Provençal troubadour. The fields seemed purple, the distances blue. And I brought back a study of it too, but it was well below what I’d wished to do. Tasset hadn’t sent enough zinc white the other day. I get on very well using it, but it has the disadvantage of drying very slowly, so, for example, the studies done at Saintes-Maries aren’t dry yet. I’d planned to go to the Camargue, but the vet who ought to have come to pick me up to do his rounds with him left me in the lurch. I don’t really mind, as I’m only moderately fond of wild bulls.
It’s to my astonishment that I can already see the bottom of my wallet; it’s true that I had my month’s rent to pay. You must clearly know that if I deduct food and lodging, all the rest of my money still runs away on canvases. In short, they turn out rather expensive, without counting the trouble they cause.
However, I dare hope that one day the money we spend will come back in part, and if I had more money I would spend even more trying to find good rich colorations.
Here’s a new subject. A corner of a garden with round bushes and a weeping tree, and in the background, clumps of oleanders. And the lawn that has just been mown, with long wisps of hay drying in the sun. A little corner of blue green sky at the top.
I’m reading Balzac, César Birotteau, I’ll send it to you when I’ve finished it — I think I’ll re-read all of Balzac.
When I came here I had hoped it would be possible to create art lovers here — so far, I haven’t made a centimetre’s progress into people’s hearts. Now Marseille? I don’t know, but that could well be nothing but an illusion. In any case, I’ve rather stopped speculating about it. So, many days pass without my saying a word to anyone except to order supper or a coffee. And it’s been like that from the start. But up until now loneliness hasn’t bothered me very much, I’ve found the stronger sunshine and its effect on nature so interesting. Write to me a day or two earlier if you can; the end of the week will be a bit tight. Handshake.