From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA:
In May 1890, just before his release from the asylum at Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh painted four bouquets of spring flowers: two of roses, and two of irises, in contrasting formats and color schemes. Owing to his use of a fugitive red pigment, the "harmonious and soft" effect that he had sought in the Museum’s painting of Irises has been altered by the fading of the once pink background to almost white. Another still life from this series, Roses, is on view in the adjacent gallery. Both were owned by the artist’s mother, who kept them until her death in 1907.
To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Tuesday, 31 December 1889 or Wednesday, 1 January 1890.
My dear brother,
Thanks very much for your letter of 22 Dec. containing a 50-franc note; first I wish you and Jo a happy New Year and am sorry for having perhaps made you anxious, quite unwittingly nonetheless, for Mr Peyron must have written to you that my mind has once again been very disturbed.
At the moment of writing to you I haven’t yet seen Mr Peyron, so I don’t know if he’s written anything to you about my paintings. He came to tell me while I was ill that he’d received news from you, and if I wanted to exhibit my paintings, yes or no. So I told him that I’d much rather not exhibit them. Which had no justification, and so I hope that they’ve gone off all the same. But anyway, I regret not having been able to see Mr P. today to find out what he wrote to you. Anyway, this doesn’t appear very important to me on the whole, since you say that they only go off on 3 January, you’ll still receive this in time.
What a misfortune for Gauguin, that child falling out of the window and he unable to be there, I often think of him, what troubles that one has, despite his energy and so many matchless qualities.
I consider it perfect that our sister is coming to help you when Jo has her confinement. May it go well – I think a great deal of you both, I can assure you.
Now what you say about my work certainly is agreeable to me, but I still think of this bloody profession in which one is caught as if in a net and in which one becomes less practical than others. Anyway, useless alas to fret about this – and one must do as one can. Odd that I’d worked perfectly calmly on canvases that you’ll soon see, and that all at once, without any reason, the confusion took hold of me again.
If Gauguin was in too much of a fix I think I’d again suggest to him going to live together where he’s staying, as we’d be able to feed the two of us on what it costs here for myself alone.
I don’t know what Mr Peyron is going to advise me to do, but while taking account of what he’ll tell me I think that he’ll dare less than ever to pronounce on the possibility of me living like before. It’s to be feared that these crises will recur. But it’s not at all a reason for not trying a to distract oneself a little.
For the crowding together of all these lunatics in this old cloister is, I believe, becoming a dangerous thing in which one risks losing all the good sense one might still have retained. Not that I’m set on this or that by preference, I’ve become used to life here, but mustn’t forget to try the opposite a little. Whatever the case, you can see that I’m writing to you with relative calm.
Very interesting what you write about Mr Lauzet’s visit. I think that when I send you the canvases that are still here he’ll certainly come back once more, and if I were there I think I’d also start doing lithographs.
Perhaps the canvases in question would fit the bill for Reid.
Above all I mustn’t waste my time, I’m going to set to work again as soon as Mr Peyron will allow it, and if he doesn’t allow it then I’ll make a clean break with here. It’s that that keeps me still relatively balanced, and again I have a whole lot of ideas for new paintings.
Ah, while I was ill, damp, melting snow was falling, I got up in the night to look at the landscape – never, never has nature appeared so touching and so sensitive to me.
The relatively superstitious ideas people have here about painting make me more melancholy than I could tell you sometimes, because there’s always basically some truth in it that as a man a painter is too absorbed by what his eyes see and doesn’t have enough mastery of the rest of his life.
If you saw the letter Gauguin wrote me last time you’d be touched by how upright his thoughts are, and for such a strong man to be almost immobilized is an unhappy thing. And Pissarro too, Guillaumin the same. What a business, what a business.
I’ve just received a letter from Mother, and from Wil too.
In the next few days you’ll have many anxieties with Jo at times, and a bad time to get through. But these are things without which life wouldn’t be life, and that makes one solemn. It’s a really good idea that Wil’s going to be there.
As for me, don’t worry too much. I’m calmly defending myself against the illness, and I think that I’ll be able to get back to work one of these days.
And this will be another lesson to me to try and work straightforwardly and without too many reservations that trouble the consciousness. A painting, a book, these mustn’t be despised, and if it’s my duty to do this, I mustn’t wish for something else.
It’s time for this letter to go off, thanks again for yours, and good handshake to you and Jo, believe me