Vincent van Gogh - Clumps of Grass 1889

Clumps of Grass 1889
Clumps of Grass
Oil on canvas 44.5 x 49.0 cm. Arles: April, 1889
Hakone: Pola Museum of Art

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Sunday, 19 or Monday, 20 August 1888.
My dear Theo
Many thanks for your kind letter and for the 100-franc note that was included with it. And you’re very kind to promise Gauguin and me to put us in a position to carry out the partnership project. I’ve just received a letter from Bernard, who joined Gauguin, Laval and someone else at Pont-Aven several days ago. In this letter, which is very kind by the way, there isn’t, however, a syllable about whether Gauguin intends joining me, nor another syllable, moreover, asking me to go there. All the same, the letter was very friendly. From Gauguin himself, not a word for almost a month.
I personally believe that Gauguin prefers to manage with his friends in the north, and if by good luck he sells a painting, or several, he could have ideas other than those of joining me.

Do I, who have less desire than he does for the battle of Paris, not have the right to do as I please? Look here:
The day when you could, would you — not give me, but lend me 300 francs for a year, all at one go?
Then if I reckon that at present you’re sending me 250 francs a month, you wouldn’t send me more than 200 after that, until the 300 paid out all at once had been paid off. Then I’d buy two good beds, complete, at 100 francs each, and other furniture for 100 francs. That would put me in a position to sleep at home, and to be able to put up Gauguin or another person there as well.
That would give me a saving of 300 francs a year, because it’s still 1 franc a night that I’m paying to the lodging-house keeper.
I’d have the sense of a more permanent home, and really it’s a condition for being able to work.
That wouldn’t increase my outgoings over the year, but it would give me furniture and the possibility of managing to make ends meet.
So, if Gauguin comes or not, it’s his business, and from the moment we’re ready to receive him, and his bed, his lodging, is there, it means we’re keeping our promise.
I insist on this: the plan remains as true and as firm whether Gauguin comes or not, as long as our goal doesn’t change, in the sense of aiming to free us, me and another pal, from this cancer that gnaws at our work, the need to live in ruinous guest-houses. Without any benefit to us.
Which is sheer madness.
To be carefree, to hope that one of these days I’ll be freed from pennilessness: pure illusion. I’ll count myself well content to work for an allowance that’s just enough and my peace and quiet in my studio for the rest of my life.
Well, if I repeat once more that I couldn’t be more indifferent as to whether I settled in Pont-Aven or in Arles — I mean to be inflexible on this point of setting up a permanent studio and to sleep there and not at the guest-house.
If you’re kind enough to put us, Gauguin and me, in a position to set ourselves up like that — I only say this, that if we don’t take advantage of this opportunity to free ourselves from lodging-house keepers, we’re throwing into the water all your money and our possibility of withstanding the siege of pennilessness.
On that my mind is well and truly made up, and I don’t wish to give in on that point.
Under the present circumstances, even while spending, I don’t have what’s barely essential, and I no longer feel in myself the strength to go on very long like that. If Gauguin can find the same opportunity at Pont-Aven, that’s fine, but I tell you the costs here, for which, once this expenditure has been made, plenty of hard work will have been done. The sun down here means a good deal, all the same. As things are, I’m ruining myself and I’m wearing myself out. Now that’s said, I’m not going to Pont-Aven if it means I have to stay at the guest-house there, with those Englishmen and those people from L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, with whom one debates every evening. A storm in a wash-basin. Handshake
Ever yours,

Lastly, vis-à-vis Gauguin, however much we appreciate him, I believe we’ll have to behave like the mother of a family, and calculate the actual expenses. If we listened to him, we’d have hopes of something pretty vague for the future, and we’d stay at the guest-house and we’d live as if in a hell with no way out.
I prefer to cloister myself like the monks, free to go to the brothel, just like the monks, or to the wine shop if our heart tells us to.
But our work requires a home.
All in all, Gauguin leaves me absolutely in the dark about Pont-Aven; by his silence toward my letters he accepts my offer to go to him if need be, but he writes me nothing about ways of finding a studio of our own there, or the price that furniture would cost. And that does seem strange to me.
Not that it bothers me, because I know what I want and what I don’t want.
And I’m therefore quite resolved not to go to Pont-Aven, unless there too we were to find a house at the low end of prices (15 francs a month is the price of mine), and unless we were to set ourselves up in it so as to be able to sleep there.
I’ll write to our sister this evening if I find the time. I kiss her affectionately in thought.
Have you received the drawings of the gardens4 and the two figure drawings? I believe that the painting of the head of the old peasant is as strange in colour as the sower, but the sower’s a failure and the head of a peasant, that’s more like it. Ah well, I’ll send that one on its own as soon as it’s dry, and I’ll put a dedication to you on it.