Theo van Gogh to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, Sunday, 16 June 1889.
My dear Vincent,
I should have written to you a long, long time ago but I couldn’t put my thoughts into words. There are moments which one feels well, but when it’s so difficult to take account of what has taken shape in thought and what is still in a vague state. So I’m not sure of being able to write to you as I wanted today, but my letter will leave all the same, if only to tell you that we often think of you and that your latest paintings have given me a great deal to think about as regards your state of mind when you made them. All of them have a power of colour which you hadn’t attained before, which in itself is a rare quality, but you have gone further, and if there are people who occupy themselves seeking the symbol by dint of torturing the form, I find it in many of your canvases through the expression of the summary of your thoughts on nature and living beings, which you feel are so strongly attached to it. But how hard your mind must have worked and how you endangered yourself to the extreme point where vertigo is inevitable. With regard to that, my dear brother, when you tell me that you’re working again, which gladdens me on the one hand, because in it you find a means of avoiding the state into which many of the unfortunates fall who are cared for in the establishment where you are, I think of it with a little anxiety, for before your complete recovery you mustn’t put yourself at risk in these mysterious regions, which it appears one can touch lightly but not enter with impunity. Don’t give yourself more trouble than is necessary, for if you give only a simple account of what you see, there are sufficient good qualities for your canvases to last. Think of the still lifes and of the flowers Delacroix did when he went to the country to stay with G. Sand. It’s true that afterwards he had a reaction by doing the Education of the Virgin, and that’s not to say that in doing as I tell you you won’t make a masterpiece afterwards. But direct your works in such a way that they don’t over-exert you. As you know, there’s an exhibition in a café at the exhibition where Gauguin and a few others (Schuffenecker) are exhibiting. At first I’d said that you would exhibit there too, but they acted like such rowdies there that it became really bad to be part of it. However, Schuff. claims that this display will eclipse all the other painters, and if one had let him have his way I think he would have walked through Paris with the flags of all colours to show that he was the great conqueror. It was a bit like going to the World Exhibition by the back stairs. As always there were exclusions. As Lautrec had exhibited at a circle he wasn’t allowed to be in it, etc.
The other day a Rembrandt sketch was sold in a public sale, I would like you to have seen it, it was the figure of the Angel Gabriel standing, which is in the sky of his etching of the annunciation to the shepherds. What a marvel! The colour had remained quite bright; perhaps originally it was all yellow. The shadows were much more coloured than he usually does them, and were probably very pronounced blue, green and violet, but of an exquisite unity and harmony. Those who hold up the best at the big exhibition are Corot, Manet, Delacroix, Millet, Ricard, and above all Daumier. Some Degas were put in it, but he had them taken out. Gauguin left for Pont-Aven a fortnight ago, so he hasn’t seen your paintings. Isaäcson likes your latest consignment very much. I’ll send the Bedroom back to you, but you shouldn’t retouch this canvas, it can be repaired. Copy it and send that one back so that I can have it lined. The red vineyard is very beautiful, I’ve hung it in one of our rooms. I also very much like the vertical figure of a woman, there was a fellow here named Polack who knows Spain and the paintings there well. He said that it was as beautiful as one of the great Spaniards.
Good health and good handshake from Jo and from