Vincent van Gogh - Portrait of Patience Escalier 1888

Portrait of Patience Escalier 1888
Portrait of Patience Escalier
Oil on canvas 69.0 x 56.0 cm. Arles: August, 1888
Collection Niarchos

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Horace Mann Livens, Paris, September or October 1886.
My dear Mr Livens,
Since I am here in Paris I have very often thought of your self and work. You will remember that I liked your colour, your ideas on art and litterature and I add, most of all, your personality.
I have already before now thought that I ought to let you know what I was doing, where I was.
But what refrained me was that I find living in Paris is much dearer than in Antwerp and not knowing what your circumstances are I dare not say Come over to Paris, without warning you that it costs one dearer than Antwerp and that if poor, one has to suffer many things. As you may imagine. But on the other hand there is more chance of selling.
There is also a good chance of exchanging pictures with other artists.

In one word, with much energy, with a sincere personal feeling of colour in nature I would say an artist can get on here notwithstanding the many obstructions. And I intend remaining here still longer. There is much to be seen here – for instance Delacroix to name only one master.
In Antwerp I did not even know what the Impressionists were, now I have seen them and though not being one of the club, yet I have much admired certain Impressionist pictures – degas, nude figure – Claude Monet, landscape.
And now for what regards what I myself have been doing, I have lacked money for paying models, else I had entirely given myself to figure painting but I have made a series of colour studies in painting simply flowers, red poppies, blue corn flowers and myosotys. White and rose roses, yellow chrysantemums – seeking oppositions of blue with orange, red and green, yellow and violet, seeking THE BROKEN AND NEUTRAL TONESa to harmonise brutal extremes.
Trying to render intense COLOUR and not a grey harmony.
Now after these gymnastics I lately did two heads which I dare say are better in light and colour than those I did before.
So as we said at the time in COLOUR seeking life, the true drawing is modelling with colour.
I did a dozen landscapes too, frankly green, frankly blue.
And so I am struggling for life and progress in art.
Now I would very much like to know what you are doing and whether you ever think of going to Paris.
If ever you did come here, write to me before and I will, if you like, share my lodgings and studio with you so long as I have any. In spring – say February or even sooner – I may be going to the south of France, the land of the blue tones and gay colours.
And look here, if I knew you had longings for the same we might combine. I felt sure at the time that you are a thorough colourist and since I saw the Impressionists I assure you that neither your colour nor mine as it is developping itself, is exactly the same as their theories but so much dare I say, we have a chance and a good one of finding friends. I hope your health is all right. I was rather low down in health when in Antwerp but got better here.
Write to me, in any case remember me to Allan, Briët, Rink, Durand, but I have not so often thought on any of them as I did think of you – almost daily.
Shaking hands cordially.
Yours truly,
My present adress is
Mr Vincent van Gogh
54 Rue Lepic

What regards my chances of sale, look here, they are certainly not much but still I do have a beginning.
At this present moment I have found four dealers who have exhibited studies of mine. And I have exchanged studies with several artists.

Now the prices are 50 francs. Certainly not much but – as far as I can see one must sell cheap to rise, and even at costing price. And mind my dear fellow, Paris is Paris, there is but one Paris and however hard living may be here and if it became worse and harder even – the french air clears up the brain and does one good – a world of good.
I have been in Cormons studio for three or four months but did not find that as useful as I had expected it to be. It may be my fault however, any how I left there too as I left Antwerp and since I worked alone, and fancy that since I feel my own self more.
Trade is slow here, the great dealers sell Millet, Delacroix, Corot, Daubigny, Dupré, a few other masters at exorbitant prices. They do little or nothing for young artists. The second class dealers contrariwise sell those but at very low prices. If I asked more I would do nothing, I fancy. However I have faith in colour, even what regards the price the public will pay for it in the longer run.
But for the present things are awfully hard, therefore let anyone who risks to go over here consider there is no laying on roses at all.
What is to be gained is progress and, what the deuce, that it is to be found here I dare ascertain. Anyone who has a solid position elsewhere, let him stay where he is but for adventurers as myself I think they lose nothing in risking more. Especially as in my case I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate and feeling nowhere so much myself a stranger as in my family and country.
Kindly remember me to your landlady Mrs Roosmaelen and say her that if she will exhibit something of my work I will send her a small picture of mine.