From Letter to Theo, Saint-Rémy 7/8 September 1889
I have done a portrait of the attendant, and I have a duplicate of it for you. This makes a rather curious contrast with the portrait I have done of myself, in which the look is vague and veiled, whereas he has something military in his small quick black eyes.
I have made him a present of it and I shall do his wife too if she wants to sit. She is a faded woman, an unhappy, resigned creature of small account, so insignificant that I have a great longing to paint that dusty blade of grass. I have talked to her sometimes when doing some olive trees behind their little house, and she told me then that she did not believe I was ill--and indeed, you would say the same thing yourself now if you could see me working, my brain so clear and my fingers so sure that I have drawn that "Pieta" by Delacroix without taking a single measurement.
To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Wednesday, 21 November 1888.
My dear Theo,
Thanks for your kind letter and for the 100-franc note it contained. Am very happy that Gauguin’s success as regards selling continues. If in a year’s time he could have made enough to carry out his plan of going and setting himself up in Martinique, I’d think that his fortune would be made. Only, to my mind he shouldn’t risk going back there before he has 5 thousand put aside, according to him he would need 2,000. But then to my mind he wouldn’t leave alone but with one other or several others, and would found a lasting studio there.
Anyhow, a lot more water will flow under the bridge before then.
What you write about the Dutchmen interests me greatly. I hope one day to get to know both of them personally. How old are they? I dare to believe that in the final reckoning they’ll feel their coming to France was a good thing.
The trouble they’re having with colour — my goodness — that doesn’t surprise me. May De Haan never lose touch with the serious study of Rembrandt, to which the two drawings of his that I’m currently looking at testify!
Have they read Silvestre’s book on E. Delacroix, and the article on colour in C. Blanc’s Grammaire des arts du dessin?
So ask them that on my behalf, and if they haven’t read it they should. As for me, I think more about Rembrandt than may appear from my studies.
Here’s a croquis of the latest canvas I’m working on, another sower. Immense lemon yellow disc for the sun. Green-yellow sky with pink clouds. The field is violet, the sower and the tree Prussian Blue. No. 30 canvas. Let’s calmly wait to exhibit until I have around thirty no. 30 canvases.
Then we’ll exhibit them once in your apartment for the friends, and not exerting any pressure even then.
And let’s not do anything else.
There are lots of reasons for not stirring now. Besides, it won’t take long, I think I’ll be able to send it to you at the time of the exhibition or a little later. In the meantime it will dry thoroughly here, and I can go over all the canvases again once they’re thoroughly dry, even the impasted areas.
If at the age of forty I do a painting of figures or portraits the way I feel it, I think that will be worth more than a more or less serious success now.
Have you seen the studies that Bernard brought back from Brittany? Gauguin has told me many things about them. He himself has one which is simply masterly. I think that buying one from him, from Bernard, would be doing him a service, and that he really deserves it.
Only we mustn’t forget that either at New Year or in March, Gauguin will have to be repaid the money he may have laid out, for example for sheets or things that would remain in the studio.
For on both sides I think we’ll find it best to change nothing, absolutely nothing, in the financial arrangement we’ve established.8 If at the end of a year we continue to find it satisfactory, time will tell. Gauguin’s working on a very beautiful painting of washerwomen, and also a big still life of an orange pumpkin and some apples and white linen on a yellow background and foreground.
The weather here is cold, but we see some really beautiful things all the same. Such as yesterday evening, a sickly lemon yellow sunset, mysterious, of extraordinary beauty — Prussian blue cypresses, trees with dead leaves in every broken tone against that, not half bad.
You couldn’t imagine how pleased I am that you have painters with you and aren’t staying alone in the apartment, just as I too am very pleased to have such good company as Gauguin’s. More soon, and thanks once again for your kind letter.
What do De Haan and Isaäcson say about Monticelli? Have they seen any of his paintings other than the ones at your place? You know that I still lay claim to continuing the job that Monticelli began here.