Vincent van Gogh - Self-Portrait in Front of the Easel 1888

Self-Portrait in Front of the Easel 1888
Self-Portrait in Front of the Easel
Oil on canvas 65.5 x 50.5 cm. Paris: early 1888
Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, on or about Friday, 28 November 1884.
Dear brother,
Thanks for your letter and the money.
Assuming that what you say is true, that you started to write to me repeatedly but didn’t get round to finishing the letter before — I’m in the same position, since I’ve already thrown what I wrote to you into the stove twice — because I found it either too bitter or too tame. What shall I say to you? — your letter sounds very correct to me, and has a tone like that of a good Minister for Fine Arts, say.
But — that doesn’t alter the fact that it isn’t much good to me and it doesn’t satisfy me — and above all your ‘perhaps later, once you have expressed yourself more clearly, we’ll perhaps also find something in your present work — and then not act as we do now’.... fine promise — but — a ministerial fata Morgana — in the eyes of someone like me, who would rather find an outlet at a lower level provided it was in the present.

There you have it — that outlet in the present, with 3rd-rate dealers if necessary (not from choice) — is something I can’t ask of you in your position — so be it — but you can’t ask me to acquiesce in a ministerial fata Morgana, I’m too practical for that, after all. Please appreciate that I call you a good minister — and know only too well how damned bad the people above the ground floor are as a rule, so I’m very willing to treasure a few bright spots, even in the ministerial sphere. Which isn’t intransigent, and it’s for that reason that I herewith certainly piss on the sacred shrine of the intransigents — as I often do — on sacred shrines in general.
To business, though — have you ever realized that I presently have more than two guilders in expenses daily — reckon 1 for the model, 1 for canvas, paint — it can’t come out any cheaper.
I still have bills to pay — and — I must go to Antwerp. My position here is rather too strained, I’m not comfortable at the moment and I have enough trouble sticking it out and ‘possessing my soul in patience’, as they say.
At home, after all — although there are no real rows — they don’t find the prospect of my staying here too long a pleasant one. Which I can well understand. And yet I can’t leave — either altogether — or partly (partly if I keep my studio on, which is my plan) unless I make a whole lot more studies and — find something new to settle me in Antwerp. Will you please bear this in mind? And if you’d do your best to make it rather easier for me financially, I believe that then there would be a real chance of keeping the peace later, albeit it far from concord. Which I wish for myself and also for others, that calmness.
What is not can yet come, you say, regarding my work — and I, regarding the perception of something other than a fata Morgana in your saying ‘later we’ll etc. — (see above)’: Today — it’s a fata Morgana to me and I wish, in any event, to try Antwerp. Regards, with a handshake.
Yours truly,