To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Saturday, 13 October 1888.
My dear Theo,
I had hardly dared hope so soon for your new 50-franc money order, for which I thank you very much.
I have many expenses, and it sometimes distresses me greatly when I increasingly come to realize that painting is a craft that is probably practised by extremely poor people, since it costs a lot of money.
But the autumn still continues to be so fine! What a funny part of the country, this homeland of Tartarin’s! Yes, I’m happy with my lot; it isn’t a superb and sublime country, it’s all something out of Daumier come to life. Have you re-read the Tartarins yet? Ah, don’t forget to! Do you remember in Tartarin the lament of the old Tarascon diligence — that wonderful page? Well, I’ve just painted that red and green carriage in the yard of the inn. You’ll see.
This hasty croquis gives you its composition.
Simple foreground of grey sand.
Background very simple too, pink and yellow walls with windows with green louvred shutters, corner of blue sky.
The two carriages very colourful: green, red, wheels yellow, black, blue, orange. A no. 30 canvas once again. The carriages are painted in the style of Monticelli, with impastos. You once had a very beautiful Claude Monet, of 4 colourful boats on a beach. Well, here it’s carriages, but the composition is of the same kind.
Now imagine a huge green-blue fir tree spreading its horizontal branches over a very green lawn and sand dappled with light and shade.
This very simple corner of a garden is enlivened by beds of orange lead geraniums in the background areas, under the black branches. Two figures of lovers stand in the shade of the big tree. No. 30 canvas.
And then two more no. 30 canvases, the Trinquetaille bridge and another bridge; the railway goes over the road.
That canvas is a little like a Bosboom in coloration.
Lastly, the Trinquetaille bridge with all its steps is a canvas done on a grey morning, the stones, the asphalt, the cobblestones are grey, the sky a pale blue, the small figures colourful, a puny tree with yellow foliage. Two canvases, then, in grey, broken tones, and two highly coloured canvases.
Forgive these very poor croquis.
I’m knocked out from painting this Tarascon diligence, and I can see that I haven’t a head fit for drawing. I’m off to have supper, and I’ll write to you again this evening. But this decoration is coming along a bit, and I believe that it will broaden my way of seeing and doing things.
It will be open to a thousand criticisms; very well, but never mind, as long as I manage to put some spirit into it.
But yes, good old Tartarin’s country, I’m enjoying myself there more and more, and it will become like a new homeland for us. I don’t forget Holland, though; it’s precisely the contrasts that make me think of it a lot. I’ll get back to this letter shortly. Now I’m getting back to this letter again. How I’d like to be able to show you the work that’s in progress!
I’m really so tired that I can see that my writing isn’t up to much.
I’ll write to you better another time, because it’s beginning to take shape now, this idea of the decoration.
I wrote to Gauguin again the day before yesterday, to say once again that he would probably recover much more quickly here.
And he’ll do such fine things here.
He’ll need time to recover. I assure you that I believe that if ideas for work are coming to me more clearly and more abundantly at present, then eating good food has a lot to do with it. And that’s what everybody in painting should have.
How many things that still have to change! Isn’t it true that all painters ought to live like manual workers? A carpenter, a blacksmith, normally produces infinitely more than they do. In painting too, there should be large studios where each person would work more steadily. I’m really falling asleep standing up, and I can’t see any longer, my eyes are so tired.
More soon, because I still had lots of things to say, and I should make you some better croquis. Probable that I’ll do it tomorrow.
Thank you many times again for your money order. I shake your hand firmly.
It’s 5 canvases that I’ve started on this week; that brings, I believe, to 15 the number of these no. 30 canvases for the decoration.
2 canvases of sunflowers
3 ,, poet’s garden
2 ,, other garden
1 ,, Night café
1 ,, Trinquetaille bridge
1 ,, Railway bridge
1 ,, the house
1 ,, the Tarascon diligence
1 ,, the starry night
1 ,, the furrows
1 ,, The vineyard.