To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Tuesday, 16 October 1888.
My dear Theo —
At last I’m sending you a little croquis to give you at least an idea of the direction the work is taking. Because today I’ve gone back to it.
My eyes are still tired, but anyway I had a new idea in mind, and here’s the croquis of it. No. 30 canvas once again.
This time it’s simply my bedroom, but the colour has to do the job here, and through its being simplified by giving a grander style to things, to be suggestive here of rest or of sleep in general. In short, looking at the painting should rest the mind, or rather, the imagination.
The walls are of a pale violet. The floor — is of red tiles.
The bedstead and the chairs are fresh butter yellow.
The sheet and the pillows very bright lemon green.
The bedspread scarlet red.
The window green.
The dressing table orange, the basin blue.
The doors lilac.
And that’s all — nothing in this bedroom, with its shutters closed.
The solidity of the furniture should also now express unshakeable repose.
Portraits on the wall, and a mirror and a hand-towel and some clothes.
The frame — as there’s no white in the painting — will be white.
This to take my revenge for the enforced rest that I was obliged to take.
I’ll work on it again all day tomorrow, but you can see how simple the idea is. The shadows and cast shadows are removed; it’s coloured in flat, plain tints like Japanese prints. It will contrast, for example, with the Tarascon diligence and the night café.
I won’t write to you at length, because I’m going to start very early tomorrow with the fresh morning light, to finish my canvas.
How are your pains? Don’t forget to give me news about them.
I hope you’ll write in the next few days.
One day I’ll do you some croquis of the other rooms as well.
I shake your hand firmly.
To Paul Gauguin. Arles, Wednesday, 17 October 1888.
My dear Gauguin,
Thanks for your letter, and thanks most of all for your promise to come as early as the twentieth. Agreed, this reason that you give won’t help to make a pleasure trip of the train journey, and it’s only right that you should put off your journey until you can do it without it being a bloody nuisance. But that apart, I almost envy you this trip, which will show you, en passant, miles and miles of countryside of different kinds with autumn splendours.
I still have in my memory the feelings that the journey from Paris to Arles gave me this past winter. How I watched out to see ‘if it was like Japan yet’! Childish, isn’t it? Look here, I wrote to you the other day that my vision was strangely tired. Well, I rested for two and a half days, and then I got back to work. But not yet daring to go outside, I did, for my decoration once again, a no. 30 canvas of my bedroom with the whitewood furniture that you know.
Ah, well, it amused me enormously doing this bare interior.
With a simplicity à la Seurat.
In flat tints, but coarsely brushed in full impasto, the walls pale lilac, the floor in a broken and faded red, the chairs and the bed chrome yellow, the pillows and the sheet very pale lemon green, the bedspread blood-red, the dressing-table orange, the washbasin blue, the window green. I had wished to express utter repose with all these very different tones, you see, among which the only white is the little note given by the mirror with a black frame (to cram in the fourth pair of complementaries as well).
Anyway, you’ll see it with the others, and we’ll talk about it. Because I often don’t know what I’m doing, working almost like a sleepwalker.
It’s beginning to get cold, especially on the days when the mistral blows.
I’ve had gas put in the studio, so that we’ll have good light in winter.
Perhaps you’ll be disillusioned with Arles if you come at a time when the mistral’s blowing, but wait... It’s in the long term that the poetry down here soaks in. You won’t find the house as comfortable yet as we’ll gradually try to make it. There are so many expenses, and it can’t be done in one go. Anyway, I believe that once here, like me, you’ll be seized with a fury to paint the autumn effects, in between spells of the mistral. And that you’ll understand that I’ve insisted that you come now that there are some very beautiful days. Au revoir, then.