To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 21 or Wednesday, 22 August 1888.
My dear Theo,
I’m writing to you in great haste, but to tell you that I’ve just received a line from Gauguin, who says that he hasn’t written because he was doing a great deal of work, but says he’s still ready to come to the south as soon as chance permits.
They’re having a fine time, painting, debating, quarrelling with the virtuous Englishmen; he says many good things about Bernard’s work, and Bernard says many good things about Gauguin’s work.
I’m painting with the gusto of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won’t surprise you when it’s a question of painting large Sunflowers.
I have 3 canvases on the go, 1) 3 large flowers in a green vase, light background (no. 15 canvas), 2) 3 flowers, one flower that’s gone to seed and lost its petals and a bud on a royal blue background (no. 25 canvas), 3) twelve flowers and buds in a yellow vase (no. 30 canvas). So the last one is light on light, and will be the best, I hope. I’ll probably not stop there. In the hope of living in a studio of our own with Gauguin, I’d like to do a decoration for the studio. Nothing but large Sunflowers.
Next door to your shop, in the restaurant, as you know, there’s such a beautiful decoration of flowers there; I still remember the big sunflower in the window. Well, if I carry out this plan there’ll be a dozen or so panels. The whole thing will therefore be a symphony in blue and yellow. I work on it all these mornings, from sunrise. Because the flowers wilt quickly and it’s a matter of doing the whole thing in one go.
You did well to tell Tasset that he must give us some tubes of paint for the 15 francs’ carriage on the two unstamped consignments. When I’ve finished these sunflowers I’ll perhaps be short of yellow and blue, so I’ll make a small order to that effect. Tasset ordinary canvas, which at 50 centimes was dearer than Bourgeois’s, is very much to my liking and is very well prepared.
I’m very glad that Gauguin is well. I’m beginning to like the south more and more.
I have another study on the go, of dusty thistles with an innumerable swarm of white and yellow butterflies.
I’ve again missed some models that I hoped to have these past few days.
Koning has written that he’s going to stay in The Hague; he intends to send you some studies.
I have a whole heap of ideas for new canvases. Today I saw that same coal-boat again, with workers unloading it, that I’ve already told you about; in the same place as the sand-boats, of which I’ve sent you a drawing. It would be a grand subject. Only I’m beginning more and more to look for a simple technique that perhaps isn’t Impressionist. I’d like to paint in such a way that if it comes to it, everyone who has eyes could understand it. I’m writing in haste but wanted to send a line to our sister enclosed herewith. Handshake, I must get back to work.
Gauguin said that Bernard had made an album of croquis of mine, and that he’d shown it to him.