To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Friday, 24 February 1888.
My dear Theo,
Thanks for your kind letter and the 50-franc note.
So far I’m not finding living here as profitable as I might have hoped, but I’ve finished three studies, which I would probably not have been able to do in Paris these days. I was glad the news from Holland was fairly satisfactory. As far as Reid goes, I wouldn’t be very surprised if — (wrongly, however) — he took it badly that I went to the south before him. For us to say we’d never have benefited from knowing him would be relatively unfair since, 1, he made us a gift of a very fine painting (which painting, let it be said by the way, we intended to acquire), 2, Reid made Monticellis go up in value, and since we own 5 of them the result for us is that these paintings have increased in value — 3, he was good and pleasant company in the first months.
Now for our part we wanted him to take part in a bigger deal than the Monticelli one, and he pretended not to understand very much about it.
It seems to me that in order to be even more clearly entitled to stay masters on our own terrain regarding the Impressionists — so that there can be no doubt about our good faith towards Reid — we could leave him alone and let him do as he thinks fit regarding the Marseille Monticellis. Making the point that dead painters are only of indirect interest to us from the monetary point of view.
And if you agree with this, if need be you can tell him on my behalf too that if he intends to come to Marseille to buy Monticellis he has nothing to fear from us, but that we’re entitled to ask him his intentions in this regard, given that we came to this territory before he did.
About the Impressionists — it would seem fair to me that they should be introduced into England through you, if not by you in person. And if Reid made a move first, we’d be justified in thinking he had acted in bad faith towards us, all the more so since we’d have left him free regarding the Marseille Monticellis.
You would definitely be doing our friend Koning a favour if you let him stay with you — his visit to Rivet must have proved to him that it wasn’t we who advised him badly.
If you did feel like taking him in — and it seems to me that it would get him out of a mess, you’d just have to get things straight with his father, so that you wouldn’t have any responsibilities, even indirect ones.
If you see Bernard tell him that so far I’m having to pay more than at Pont-Aven, but that I think if you live here in furnished rooms with middle-class people it must be possible to save money, which I’m trying to do, and as soon as I’ve found out I’ll write and tell him what seem to me the average expenses.
At times it seems to me that my blood is more or less ready to start circulating again, which wasn’t the case lately in Paris, I really couldn’t stand it any more.
I have to buy my colours and canvases from either a grocer or a bookseller, who don’t have everything one might wish for. I’ll definitely have to go to Marseille to see what the state of these things is like there. I had hoped to find some beautiful blue &c., and in fact I haven’t given up, seeing that in Marseille you should be able to buy raw materials first hand. And I’d like to be able to do blues like Ziem — which don’t change as much as the others, well, we’ll see.
Don’t worry, and give the pals a handshake for me.
The studies I have are an old woman of Arles, a landscape with snow, a view of a stretch of pavement with a butcher’s shop. The women really are beautiful here, it’s no joke — on the other hand, the Arles museum is dreadful and a joke, and fit to be in Tarascon — there’s also a museum of antiquities,16 they’re genuine.