Joseph Roulin to Vincent van Gogh. Marseille, Monday, 13 May 1889.
If I have delayed in writing to you, I thought I could use my day off to go and see you; as I was not able to come to Arles, I come to ask you for news of your health, are you well recovered since our last conversation? You seemed to me disposed to begin your work in earnest again, the countryside is beautiful, you cannot lack for models. You would give me great pleasure if you did me the honour of a reply.
Have you received news of your esteemed brother? As for me, my health is very good. I received a letter from my wife telling me that she is very well, as are Marcelle, Armand and Camille. They join me in sending you their respects, and hope that my letter finds you in good health. If you have the occasion to see Mr and Mrs Ginoux and the friends Mr and Mrs Bressy, Pelissier and all the friends who are interested in me, give them my best regards, or tell Mr Ginoux to do it for you.
My dear Mr Vincent, accept the regards of he who declares himself to be your entirely devoted friend
Roulin, Railway Postman
57, rue Breteuil, 57.
c/o Mrs Delpal
(Bouches du Rhône)
Theo van Gogh to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, Tuesday, 21 May 1889.
My dear Vincent,
Thank you very much for your letter, Jo was also very pleased with the one you wrote to her. We were pleased to learn that your journey to St-Rémy went well, and that you feel calmer there than in Arles. All the same, I hope that your stay will only be for a short length of time, for having these mad people as your neighbours can’t be agreeable. What I would like is that we could discover some people somewhere who would take care of you while allowing you your entire freedom. That must be possible to find. If you didn’t fear returning to Paris or its surroundings, I would try to find somewhere like that for you to board.
Tell us in your next letter what the establishment you’re now in is like. How are you treated, is the food sufficient, and how are the people with whom you have to deal? Do you see something of the country? Above all, don’t wear yourself out, for it’s better that at present you do all you can to regain your strength. The work will come afterwards. A few days ago I received your consignment, which is very important, there are some superb things in it. Everything arrived in good order and undamaged. The Berceuse, the portrait of Roulin, the little sower, with the tree, the baby, the starry night, the sunflowers and the chair with the pipe and the tobacco8 are the ones I like best up to now.
The first two, in particular, are most curious. Certainly it’s not the beautiful that is taught there, but there’s something in them that’s so striking and so close to the truth. Who tells us that we’re more right than the simple people who buy images in loud colours? Or rather, isn’t the charm they see in them as much a sensation evoked as when pretentious people look at the paintings in museums? Now in your canvases there’s a vigour which one certainly doesn’t find in chromos, in time that will become very fine as impasto, and certainly they’ll be appreciated one day. If we see that Pissarros, Gauguins, Renoirs, Guillaumins don’t sell, one must be almost pleased not to have the public’s favour, since those who have it now won’t always have it, and the times could well change very soon. If you saw how weak the Salon and the World Exhibition are from the point of view of the paintings, you would, I think, be of the opinion that they won’t hold out for much longer. The Dutch school is doing very well there. There are two watercolours by J. H. Weissenbruch which I like most particularly, also some W. and J. Maris and Bosboom, Israëls and Breitner. One of the Weissenbruchs is a windmill beside a canal, blue sky with a little cloud which hides the sun. The other is a canal with boats one moonlit evening. He’s a forceful artist, that one, but Tersteeg says that he isn’t saleable. Lately I saw Gauguin, who is currently working on some sculpture. He wants to leave shortly for Pont-Aven, where De Haan is already. It appears that soon there will be an exhibition of the Independents, I would very much like to know what you think of that, and which canvases you think are the best to be exhibited. I’ve heard tell that everyone can exhibit 4 canvases, since there’s no room to admit any more. More soon, and write to us also when you feel like it. Good handshake
and ever yours,
Warm regards from Jo.