Theo van Gogh to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, Tuesday, 23 October 1888.
My dear Vincent,
It pains me to learn that you’re not well. You must have worked too much and that way forgotten to take care of your body as one should. I’m glad that your letter came today and no later, because I would soon have left for Brussels, and you’d have had to wait another two days, at least. What a financier you are! What distresses me is that even so, you’re still in poverty, because you can’t stop yourself doing things for others. I’d be very glad to see you more selfish until you’re on an even keel. You understand that père Thomas has sent me packing; it should have been you — who took the initiative, and even then. Now let’s try to get ourselves out of it anyway; others will come looking for us of their own accord. What will please you is that I’ve sold Gauguin’s large painting, the Breton women, which had been deposited with Diot. I’m sending him 500 francs for it and so he’ll be solvent for the moment, but will he come to join you? This week De Haan is coming to live with me, which I’m delighted about, because it’s likely that some time from now it will be he who will form the nucleus of the group of young people here. In your previous letter you seem to believe that these people have the edge in questions of art in the manner of the Dutch, but it’s my fault if you had this impression. When I told you that they knew how to analyze a painting by taking account of the sentiment, technique, etc., I didn’t want to go so far as to say that they separate these qualities, but rather I wanted to tell you the unusual clarity of mind that they have in not confusing things. Isaäcson, especially, strikes me as a real scholar. They’ve received paintings and studies made in Holland; very good, but a bit dark. They intend to stay in Paris for the winter and to leave for the country as soon as the weather’s good enough for working outside.
I expect to be back from Brussels on Friday or Saturday, and I’ll write to you shortly at greater leisure. I hope that what’s wrong with you isn’t serious and that you won’t lose heart, even if Gauguin didn’t come.
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Thursday, 25 October 1888.
My dear Theo
Thank you for your letter and for the 50-franc note. As you learned from my telegram, Gauguin arrived in good health. He even gave me the impression of being in better shape than me. He’s naturally very pleased with the sale that you made, and I no less, since that way certain other expenses absolutely necessary for moving in needn’t wait nor will fall on your shoulders alone. G. will certainly write to you today. He’s very, very interesting as a man, and I have every confidence that with him we’ll do a great many things. He’ll probably produce a great deal here, and perhaps I shall too, I hope.
And then I dare believe that for you the burden will be a little less heavy, and I dare believe much less heavy.
I myself feel, to the point of being mentally crushed and physically drained, the need to produce, precisely because in short I have no other means, none, none, of ever recouping our outlay. I can do nothing about it if my paintings don’t sell.
The day will come, though, when people will see that they’re worth more than the cost of the paint and my subsistence, very meagre in fact, that we put into them.
I have no other wish nor other concern regarding money or finances than in the first place not to have debts.
But my dear brother, my debt is so great that when I’ve paid it, which I think I’ll succeed in doing, the hardship of producing paintings will, however, have taken my entire life, and it will seem to me that I haven’t lived. The only thing is that perhaps the production of paintings will become a little more difficult for me, and as far as the number goes, there won’t always be as many.
The fact that they don’t sell now makes me anxious that you’re suffering too, but it would be of little concern to me if you didn’t become too hard up by my bringing nothing in. But in money matters it’s enough for me to feel this truth, that a man who lives for 50 years and spends two thousand a year spends a hundred thousand francs, and that he must bring a hundred thousand in, too. To make a thousand paintings at a hundred francs during one’s life as an artist is very, very, very hard, but when the painting is at a hundred francs...... and again.... our task is very heavy at times. But nothing about that can be altered.
We’ll let Tasset down completely, probably, because to a large extent at least, we’ll use less expensive colours, both Gauguin and I. As for canvas, we’ll also prepare it ourselves. For a time I had the slight feeling that I was going to be ill, but Gauguin’s arrival has so taken my mind off it that I’m sure it will pass. I mustn’t neglect my diet for a while, and that’s all. And absolutely all.
And after a time you’ll have some work.
Gauguin has brought a magnificent canvas that he exchanged with Bernard, Breton women in a green meadow. White, black, green and a red note, and the matt tones of the flesh.
Anyway, let’s all be of good heart.
I believe that the day will come when I’ll sell too, but I’m so far behind with you, and while I spend I bring nothing in.
That feeling sometimes makes me sad.
I’m very, very happy at what you write, that one of the Dutchmen will come and live with you, and that that way you won’t be alone any more, either. It’s perfectly, perfectly good, especially as we’ll soon have winter.
Anyway, I’m in a hurry, and have to go out to get back to work on another no. thirty canvas.
Soon, when Gauguin writes to you, I’ll add another letter to his.
Of course, I don’t know in advance what Gauguin will say about this part of the world and about our life, but in any case he’s very happy with the good sale that you made for him. More soon, and I shake your hand firmly.