To Willemien van Gogh. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Sunday, 16 June 1889.
My dear sister,
If I didn’t write to you quickly this Sunday morning while the canvases I’ve begun are drying a little in the sun, I would wait even longer to answer your kind letter.
I hope that you’re well, and Mother too, I think of you two very often, I was scarcely able to foresee, when I went from Nuenen to Antwerp, that the course of events would keep me away for so long and at such a distance. That’s perhaps why my thoughts often still stray involuntarily to those parts, and it seems to me then that I’m continuing the same work left unfinished there, when so many things in nature remain parallel. Although I feel with an obstinate ingratitude that my health is returning little by little, the fact is that I am well; but as I tell you, the desire to begin again, the joy of living, is hardly great.
I’ve just finished a landscape of an olive grove with grey foliage more or less like that of the willows, their cast shadows violet on the sun-drenched sand. Then yet another that depicts a field of yellowing wheat surrounded by brambles and green bushes. At the end of the field a little pink house with a tall and dark cypress tree that stands out against the distant purplish and bluish hills, and against a forget-me-not blue sky streaked with pink whose pure tones contrast with the already heavy, scorched ears, whose tones are as warm as the crust of a loaf of bread.
I have yet another in which a field of wheat on the slope of the hills is completely ravaged and knocked to the ground by a downpour, and which is drenched by the torrential shower.
It seems to me that the people here work a lot less than the peasants in our country, one scarcely sees any cattle, and the countryside almost always has more of a deserted look than it does at home. This seems most deplorable to me, all the more so since nature isn’t ungenerous and the air is so pure and so healthy. So one would wish to see a more energetic race of people here. The cases aren’t perhaps rare here where doing nothing becomes doing bad. In the north, aren’t there heaps of honest workmen without enough bread because there one works so much that work is no longer valued? I don’t say that this is always the case, but anyway there’s something of that kind however. Ah well, the farms here could produce three times what they do if they were well-kept, and the whole land if it was manured. By producing three times as much, the land here could thus feed a lot more people.
Now I think you asked me if, still supposing that love is a bacillus4 (which I myself am not in a position to state or prove, please don’t lose sight of that), I think that you asked me if there are people who would have the said bacillus and others who wouldn’t have it, or if on the contrary it was a fatal and universal illness. On that point, too, I’m rather unqualified to form a clearly well-founded opinion. But I consider it probable that if a person, yourself say, is convinced she didn’t have it, it would perhaps be wise for such a person to have herself inoculated with the said bacillus according to the Pasteur or some other method. Joking apart, I believe that a man or woman inevitably has to be in love with something, and that the only precaution one can take would be to fall in love in such and such a way and not in another one, according to one’s ideas.
And to know what one wants in such matters – alas we know ourselves so little.
Besides, I’d almost think that women take the offensive in these matters; that the wise ones among them, or rather those who have the most correct and sure instinct, don’t wait to be loved in order to love themselves – which – and I’m inclined to believe for good reasons – would appear to be the essential thing to them.
Anyway, it could very well be that by being inoculated with the attenuated bacillus, of the well-chosen virus and in the correct dose, one would be better protected from contagion. If one doesn’t yet have the illness one doesn’t prevent oneself perhaps getting it, while when one has it one can no longer catch it.
I’m quite curious to have some news of Theo, who appears pretty absorbed in his honeymoon, which is very good. He sent me some colours and canvas last week, but it will soon be a month since I had news of him by letter.
It’s a great consolation for me to know that he no longer lives alone. His wife wrote me a very nice letter a while ago, which proved to me that she’s really serious. She’ll certainly still need this, and for a long time to come, for Theo’s life is quite complicated because of his duty towards Boussod & Co. And as for her, she’ll learn more to live with him than without him, without being obliged to change too much and forget what she already knows of Dutch things.
I’m going off to work a little more, so as I finish I wish you and Mother all good fortune and health. I kiss you affectionately in thought.