To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Wednesday, 26 September 1888.
My dear Theo,
I’m well aware that I wrote to you only yesterday, but the day has been so beautiful again. My great sorrow is that you can’t see what I see here. From 7 o’clock in the morning I sat in front of what was, after all, nothing special — a round cedar or cypress bush — planted in grass. You know this round bush already, since you already have a study of the garden. By the way, included herewith a croquis of my canvas — a square no. 30 again.
The bush is a variegated green, slightly tinged with bronze, the grass is very, very green, Veronese tinged with lemon, the sky is very, very blue.
The line of bushes in the background are all raving mad oleanders. These bloody plants flower in such a way that they could surely catch locomotor ataxia! They’re covered in fresh blooms, and then in masses of faded blooms; their foliage also keeps on putting out strong new shoots, apparently inexhaustibly.
A funereal cypress, completely black, stands above them and a number of small coloured figures are strolling along a pink path.
It makes a pendant for another no. 30 canvas of the same place, only from a quite different viewpoint, in which the whole garden is coloured in very different greens under a pale lemon yellow sky. But isn’t it true that this garden has a funny sort of style that means that you can very well imagine the Renaissance poets, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, strolling among these bushes on the flowery grass? Now it’s true that I’ve left out some trees, but what I’ve kept in the composition is really like that. Only they’ve overcrowded it with a number of bushes that aren’t in character; and so to find this truer and more fundamental character, this is the third time I’m painting the same spot.
Now that’s the garden that’s right in front of my house, after all.
But this corner of a garden is a good example of what I was telling you, that to find the real character of things here, you have to look at them and paint them for a very long time.
Because perhaps you’ll see from the sketch alone that the line is now simple.
Again, this painting is heavily impasted, like its pendant with yellow sky.
Tomorrow I hope to work with Milliet again. Today I worked again from 7 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock in the evening without moving except to eat a bite a stone’s throw away. And that’s why the work’s going fast.
But what will you say about it — how will it seem to me, too, some time from now? At the moment I have a clear head, or a lover’s blindness toward my work. Because being surrounded by colour like this is quite new to me, and excites me extraordinarily. Fatigue doesn’t come into it; I could do another painting tonight, even, and I could bring it home.
If I tell you that it’s very urgent that I receive
then it’s to be deducted from yesterday’s order. Also 5 metres of canvas.
I can’t help it, I feel in a clear frame of mind and I want as far as possible to make sure that I have enough paintings to maintain my position when the others will also be making a great effort for the year ’89. Seurat has enough, with 2 or 3 of his enormous canvases, to exhibit all by himself; Signac, who’s a good worker, also has enough, Gauguin too, and Guillaumin. So I’d like, myself, to have by that time — whether we were to exhibit it or not — the series of studies:
That way we’ll be entirely original, because the others won’t be able to find us pretentious when that’s all we have.
But be assured that I’ll try to give it a style.
Milliet was pleased today that I’d done the ploughed field; usually he doesn’t like what I do, but because the clods of earth were soft in colour, like a pair of clogs, it didn’t offend him — with the forget-me-not sky with its flecks of white cloud. If he posed better he would please me greatly, and he would have a smarter portrait than I’ll be able do now, although the subject itself is beautiful: his face with its pale, matt complexion, the red képi against an emerald background.
Ah, how I’d like you to see everything that I see these days! With so many beautiful things before me, I can’t help letting myself go. Especially because I feel that it’ll turn out a little better than the last consignment. But the last consignment was of studies that made me ready to be able to work with confidence these days that are windless. Why is it that our good père Thomas isn’t willing to lend me something on my studies? He’d be wrong not to do it — and I hope that he will do it. I’m fearful of overburdening you, and yet I’d like to order a good two hundred francs worth of colours and canvases and brushes. It’s not for something else, it’s for that. The whole autumn may be good, and if I knock out a no. 30 canvas every two or three days, I’ll earn blenty of thousand-frenk pills. I have a concentrated strength still, which asks for nothing but to be used up in work. But I’ll inevitably begin to use up a quantity of colours, and that’s why we’d need Thomas.
If I continue working as I am these days, I’ll have my study full of really sound studies, the way it is at Guillaumin’s. Guillaumin must have some fine new things, of course, I don’t doubt it and I’d very much like to see them.
The present studies actually consist of a single flow of impasto. The brushstroke isn’t greatly divided, and the tones are often broken. And in the end, without intending to, I’m forced to lay the paint on thickly, à la Monticelli. Sometimes I really believe I’m continuing that man’s work, only I haven’t yet done figures of lovers, like him. And it’s probable that I won’t do it, either, before some serious studies from life. But that’s not urgent; now I’m determined to work hard until I’ve surmounted it. If I want this letter to go off, I must hurry.
Have you any news of Gauguin? I expect a letter from Bernard at any moment, which will follow the croquis, probably.
Gauguin must have another partnership in mind; I’ve felt that for weeks and yet more weeks. He’s certainly free to do so.
Being alone won’t bother me for the time being, and later on we’ll find some company anyway, and perhaps more than we’ll want. Only I believe that we mustn’t say anything unpleasant to Gauguin if he were to change his mind, and take the thing entirely in good part. Because if he joins up with Laval, that’s only fair, since Laval’s his pupil and they’ve already kept house together.
If it came to it, well, they could both come here and we’d find a way of putting them up.
As for the furnishing, if I’d known in advance that Gauguin wasn’t coming, I’d still have wanted to have two beds in case I had to put someone up. So he’s definitely quite free. There will always be those who have a wish to see the south. What has Vignon been doing?? Ah well, if it all turns out for the best everyone will be sure to make great progress, and me too. If you can’t see the beautiful days here, you’ll still see the paintings of them. And I’m trying to make them better than the others. Handshake and