From the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London:
This was painted in September 1889, when Van Gogh was in the St-Rémy mental asylum, near Arles, where he was a patient from May 1889 until May 1890. It is one of three almost identical versions of the composition. Another painting of the cypresses (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art) was painted earlier in July 1889, and was probably painted directly in front of the subject.
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 22 October 1888.
My dear Theo
I have another no. 30 canvas, autumn garden, two bottle-green and bottle-shaped cypresses, three little chestnut trees with tobacco-coloured and orange foliage. A small yew with pale lemon foliage, with purple trunk. Two small bushes with blood-red and scarlet purple foliage. A little sand, a little lawn, a little blue sky.
There you are, and yet I’d sworn not to work! But it’s like that every day, sometimes in passing I find such beautiful things that in the end you have to try to do them anyway. Ah well, the money that you give me and which, besides, I’m asking from you more than ever, I’ll return it to you in work, and not only the present but the past as well.
But let me work as long as it isn’t absolutely impossible.
Because if I don’t take advantage of the opportunities, it would be even worse.
Ah, my dear brother, if I could do such a thing, or if Gauguin and I together could do such things that Seurat would join us! But in my opinion, at the very least we must reckon his large paintings of the models and the Grande Jatte but — let’s see — at 5,000 each, shall we say... Ah well, if we were to join together, Gauguin and I should each also be capable of a nominal contribution of 10 thousand.
Once again that falls right in line with what I was telling you, that I wished absolutely absolutely to do 10 thousand francs worth of painting for the house. Well, it’s funny, although I don’t calculate in figures but in feelings, I so often happen upon the same results while starting from totally divergent standpoints.
I daren’t dream about it, I daren’t say any more about this Seurat partnership. First I must try to get to know Gauguin better. With whom one can’t go wrong, no matter what. And listen to this. As soon as you can, and even right away if the thing were possible, I need another 10 metres of canvas at 2.50 francs.
Then large tubes like the silver white and zinc white.
zinc white 20 of the largest tubes
Silver ,, 10 ,, ,, ,, ,,
Chrome Yellow I 10 ,, ,, ,, ,,
,, ,, 2 5 ,, ,, ,, ,,
Prussian Blue 5
Geranium Lake 10 medium tubes
Veronese Green 10 largest tubes
Ah well, I must say nevertheless that it would absolutely astonish me if we weren’t able to overcome NO MATTER WHAT difficulties of production.
But the present ones all the more so. If it went wrong we’d have to have deliberations as soon as Gauguin arrived, which I hope will be any day now.
I believe it possible that things could get jolly lively at the ’89 exhibition. It might be better if they didn’t get lively, but after all, we’ll just have to take things as they come.
By the way, have you ever read Les frères Zemganno, by the De Goncourts? If not, read it. If I hadn’t read it I would perhaps be more daring. And even after reading it, the ONLY fear that I have is of asking you for too much money. If myself I were to break myself down in the effort, it would mean absolutely nothing to me. I still have resources for that eventuality, because I would either go into the business or I would write, but as long as I’m in painting I see nothing but the association of several people, and the communal life.
The leaves are starting to fall; the trees are visibly yellowing, the yellow increasing every day.
It’s at least as beautiful as the orchards in blossom, and as for the work that we may do, I dare believe that indeed far from losing by it, we could gain by it. But anyway.
In any case, would you please send me some more money (50 if possible, and otherwise less) by return of post and certainly no later. And if you didn’t have time to write, I’d ask you please to send it by money order, whether it’s more, or less, as you were able. I shake your hand firmly.