Paul Gauguin to Vincent van Gogh. Le Pouldu, on or about Friday, 17 January 1890.
My dear Vincent
Life is very long and very sad. Since your last letter I’ve been so deep in the doldrums that I couldn’t write, in the daytime wishing to see the evening, and at night awaiting the morning. Once the land is ploughed, the man casts the seed, and each day defending himself against the vagaries of the bad weather he manages to harvest. But what of us poor artists? Where does the seed we plant go, and when does the harvest come? In the 3 months I’ve been at Le Pouldu I’ve had 30 francs in my pocket; it’s obviously pointless my putting energy into it, I can’t carry on painting.
Apart from these money troubles I’ve had other causes for sorrow. I almost lost one of my children, who fell from the 3rd floor into the street. You will understand that in Copenhagen the household was overwhelmed, and that the expenses occasioned by this accident are throwing things into chaos (chaos which I’m powerless to remedy at the moment). All of this makes me sick with spleen, and I dare neither paint nor write. And why paint?
I very much like the 2 drawings you sent me, especially the one of the women who are picking olives.
I’m pleased that you’ve exhibited in Brussels; have you any news of this exhibition. Let me know.
Like us you have winter at the moment, and I know that for you it’s a harsh time to get through. You’re probably awaiting the heat with impatience so that you can work out of doors. I’m doing everything I can at the moment to leave for Tonkin at government expense, but it isn’t easy, especially because I’m an artist and people don’t believe that they have any capacity for business. In the colonies there’s something for us westerners to do, and I hope to learn something new there in art at the same time as being relieved of financial worries for a time.
De Haan is still working here with me and making serious progress, but doesn’t want to return to Holland until he feels strong enough to silence his compatriots; they’re going to say harsh words to him about his transformation. These new questions of colour had greatly tormented him, but today, when he’s beginning to see clearly in this new way, he’s full of ardour.
Excuse my delay in writing, and believe me always
Ever yours cordially,