To Theo van Gogh. Arles, Friday, 21 September 1888.
My dear Theo
Many thanks for your letter and for the 100-franc note it contained. Milliet came this morning too, bringing me the parcel of Japanese prints and others. Among them I love the café-concert on two sheets, with a line of purple female musicians against the yellow-lit wall; I didn’t know that sheet, what’s more there are several others that were unknown to me; there’s one — a head of a woman — that must have a good pedigree.
At present I’ve also bought a dressing-table with all the necessaries, and my own little bedroom is furnished.
In the other one — Gauguin’s or another lodger’s — we’ll still need a dressing-table and a chest of drawers, and downstairs I’ll need a large stove and a cupboard.
None of that’s at all urgent, and as a result I can already see the goal, to have the means of having a roof over my head for a good long time.
You wouldn’t believe how much that calms me; I have such a passion to make — an artist’s house — but a practical one and not the usual studio full of curios. I’m also thinking of planting two oleanders outside the door, in tubs.
Anyway, on this studio we’re probably spending several hundred francs less than Russell, for example, who spends thousands. And actually, even if I had the choice between the two, for my part I’d prefer the few-hundred-francs method, as long as each piece of furniture was four-square and substantial. But still, the room in which I’ll put up those who pass through here will be like a boudoir, and when it’s finished you’ll see that it’s not a haphazard creation, but a job done that way deliberately.
Bing’s text on Japan is a bit dry and leaves something to be desired — he says, there’s a great, typical art, but while he gives a few scraps of it; he doesn’t do a very good job of making you feel the character of this art. Have you read Madame Chrysanthème yet? The great peace of mind that the house brings me is above all this, that from now on I feel that I’m working by providing for the future; after me another painter will find an enterprise under way. I’ll need time, but my mind is set on making a decoration for the house that will be worth the money I spent in the years during which I didn’t produce.
The portrait of our mother gave me great pleasure because you can see that she’s well and that she still has a very lively expression. Only I don’t like it at all as a real likeness; I’ve just painted my own portrait, and I have the same ashy coloration, and unless they do us in colour they’ll give an idea of us that’s not very lifelike. Precisely because I’d gone to terrible trouble to find the combination of ashy tones and grey pink, I cannot enjoy the likeness in black. Would Germinie Lacerteux be Germinie Lacerteux without colour? Obviously not. How I’d like to have painted portraits in our family!
For the second time I’ve scraped off a study of a Christ with the angel in the Garden of Olives. Because here I see real olive trees.
But I can’t, or rather, I don’t wish, to paint it without models. But I have it in my mind with colour — the starry night, the figure of Christ blue, the strongest blues, and the angel broken lemon yellow.
And all the purples from a blood-red purple to ash in the landscape.
I’ve been to get five no. 30 stretching frames, so I have even more intentions. I’m having the paintings that stay here framed in oak and in walnut. I’ll need time, but you’ll see it later. I hope you’ll give me details of your visit to Maurin. I like the drawing of the two women in the cart enormously.
If it took some time before anybody came here with me, it still wouldn’t make me change my mind that it was urgent to take this step, and that in time it will be useful. We feel that the art in which we’re working has a long future yet to come, and so we have to be established like those who are tranquil, and not live like the decadents. Here I’ll have more and more the existence of a Japanese painter, living close to nature like a petit bourgeois. So you can easily tell that it’s less gloomy than the decadents. If I manage to live to quite an old age I’ll be something like père Tanguy. Ah well, as for our personal future, in fact we know nothing about it, but we nevertheless feel that Impressionism will last. More soon, and many, many thanks for all your kindnesses. I think I’ll put the Japanese prints downstairs in the studio.