Van Gogh made twenty-one paintings in Saint-Rémy that were "translations" of the work of Jean-François Millet. Van Gogh did not intend for his works to be literal copies of the originals. Speaking specifically of the works after Millet, he explained, "it's not copying pure and simple that one would be doing. It is rather translating into another language, the one of colors, the impressions of chiaroscuro and white and black."
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Monday, 29 October 1888.
My dear Theo,
As for ill, I already told you I didn’t think I was, but I would have become so if my expenses had had to continue.
Since I was in a state of terrible anxiety about making you make an effort beyond your strength.
On the one hand, I felt that I couldn’t do better than push to complete what we started, to urge Gauguin to join us, and on the other hand, as you may know from experience, when you furnish a house or move in, it’s the case that it’s more difficult than you think. Now I dare breathe at last, as we’ve all had a stroke of darned good fortune with the sale you were able to make for Gauguin. One way or another, all three of us, he, you and I, will still be able to pull ourselves together a bit, in order to calmly take in what we’ve just done.
Have no fear that I may have money worries.
Now that Gauguin has come, the goal has been achieved for the time being. By combining our expenses, he and I, the two of us won’t even spend what living here was costing me just on my own. He’ll even be able to put some money aside, the more he sells. Which, in a year, let’s say, he can use to settle in Martinique, and which he couldn’t put aside otherwise. You’ll have my work, and a painting by him in addition, every month. And I’ll do the same work without having so much trouble, and without running up so many expenses. But in the past it seemed to me that the partnership that we’ve just entered into was a good policy. The house is going very, very well and is becoming not only comfortable but also an artists’ house. So have no fears for me, nor for yourself, either.
I had, in fact, a terrible feeling of anxiety for you, because if Gauguin hadn’t had the same ideas, I would have caused you some rather heavy expenses for nothing. But Gauguin is astonishing as a man; he doesn’t get worked up, and he’ll wait here, very calmly, while at the same time working hard, for the right moment to take a huge step forward.
He needed rest as much as I did. With the money that he’s just earned, he would have been able to pay for rest in Brittany, too, of course, but as things are now, he’s sure to be able to wait without falling into the inevitable debt again. We won’t spend more than 250 a month between the two of us.
And will spend much less on paint, since we’re going to make it ourselves.
So have no worries about us on your part, and catch your breath, too, which you’ll darned well need.
For my part, I’d wish just to ask you too that I’m asking for no more than to continue at a very ordinary sum per month of 150 (and the same for Gauguin). Which in any case reduces my personal spending. While his paintings will certainly go up.
Later, then, if you keep my paintings for yourself, either in Paris or here, I’ll be much happier to be able to say bluntly that you prefer to keep my work for us than to sell it, than to have to get involved in the struggle for money at this moment. Most certainly.
Besides, if what I do is good, then we’ll lose nothing by it, in terms of money, because, like wine that you would have in the cellar, it would quietly ferment. On the other hand, it’s only fair that I give myself a little trouble to make a painting such that even from the point of view of the money, it was preferable that it should be on my canvas rather than in the tubes.
Now in closing I dare hope that in 6 months’ time Gauguin, you and I, we’ll see that we’ve founded a little studio that will last and that will continue to be an essential stopping-off point or station, useful at least to all those who’ll wish to see the south. I shake your hand very firmly.
I don’t yet know what Gauguin thinks about my decoration in general; I only know that there are some studies that he really does like, namely, the Sower, the Sunflowers, the Bedroom.
And the whole thing, I don’t know anything about it myself yet, because I need more canvases of the other seasons.
Gauguin has already just about found his Arlésienne, and I could wish that I too had got as far. But for my part, I find the landscape here very easily, and quite varied. So at last my little work potters along.
I dare believe that you’ll like the new Sower.
I’m writing in haste, we have heaps of work. He and I plan to go to the brothels a lot, but only to study them.