To Theo van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Friday, 3 January 1890.
My dear Theo,
Yesterday I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from Mr Salles who, I believe, had had a letter from you. I was completely well when he came so we were able to talk calmly. But I’m most confused that he should have put himself out for me, the more so because I hope that I’ve regained my presence of mind for a while. For the moment it seems to me that the best thing will be to carry on here. I’ll see what Mr Peyron says when I have a chance to speak to him; he’ll probably say that he absolutely cannot guarantee anything in advance, which seems quite right to me.
Today I’m dispatching a few canvases, the following:
Ploughed field with background of mountains it´s the same field of the reaper from this summer and can be a pendant to it; I think that one will set off the other.
The ravine. This is the study done on a day when the mistral was blowing I had wedged my easel in place with large stones the painting of this isn´t dry, it´s in a tauter drawing style, and there´s more suppressed passion and it has more colour.
This can go with another study of mountains, summer effect, with a road in the foreground and a black hovel.
Women picking olives – I´d intended this painting for our mother and sister so that they might have something a little studied. I also have a repetition of it for you, and the study (more coloured with more solemn tones) from nature.
The fields. Fields of young wheat with background of lilac mountains and yellowish sky.
Olive trees. Orange and green sunset sky (there´s also a variant of it here with figures). ditto, neutral effect.
ditto ,, ,,.
The tall plane trees, the main street or boulevard of St-Rémy, study from nature I have a repetition of it here which is perhaps more finished.
Copy after Millet , The diggers. ditto The evening.
I was forgetting the rain.
Please don’t look at them without putting them on stretching frames and framing them in white.
That’s to say, you’ll remove the nails from other canvases and mount these on the stretching frames, one by one if you like, to appreciate the effect. For the colourings absolutely need to be set off by the white frame to judge the ensemble. Thus the rain, the grey olive trees, one can scarcely see them without the frame.
This will somewhat fill the hole left by the canvases that have gone off to the Vingtistes – you must ask Tanguy to remove the nails from other canvases and to mount these on stretching frames so that they dry all the way through.
In your previous letter you talk of Hugo’s drawings – I’ve just seen a volume of Michelet’s (illustrated) Histoire de France. I saw admirable drawings in it by Vierge which were completely like something by Victor Hugo, astonishing things. Do you know that? When you see Mr Lauzet ask him if he knows them, there’s also a resemblance with Hervier’s talent, but more complete, with more dramatic figures and effects – it also resembles the illustrations for The life of Frederick the Great by Menzel. Most curious.
I think that Vierge has also gone to Charenton, but how that fellow has worked. At one time Boggs had a magnificent wood engraving of his, probably published by L’Illustration, Sea-bathing – a crowd of men and women – drawing in the manner of Doré, who one day did precisely the same subject very well on a page also published by L’Illustration – but then with Vierge there’s Daumier’s rich execution in full.
I hope that Jo’s health and yours are good, and that you no longer have any anxiety on my account.
Write to me if you can soon after receiving the canvases. Good handshake in thought to you and your wife.