My dear Theo,
Probably in order to convince myself that, as I myself am one of the most absent-minded of mortals, I have no right to criticize the people of the south for their carelessness — I once again made the mistake of addressing my letter to 54 rue de Laval instead of 54 rue Lepic.1 So when they returned the letter to me opened, the people at the Post Office had the pleasure of being able to edify themselves by contemplating Bernard’s brothel.2
I’m hurrying to send you back the letter as it is.
I’ve just received — this morning — part of the order for colours, from Tanguy.3 His cobalt is too poor to order more from him. His chromes are quite good, so we could continue from now on to ask him for them. But instead of carmine he sends dark madder, which doesn’t matter much — but neither is the carmine very reliable in his poor run-down hole. It’s not his fault, but in future I’ll write Tanguy next to the names of the colours, if they can be had from him.
Yesterday and today I worked on the sower, which has been completely reworked.
The sky is yellow and green, the earth purple and orange.4 There’s definitely a painting like that to be made of this splendid subject, and I hope it will be done one day, either by someone else or by me.
The question remains this — Christ’s boat by Eugène Delacroix5 and Millet’s sower6 are of entirely  1v:2 different workmanship. Christ’s boat — I’m talking about the blue and green sketch with touches of purple and red and a little lemon yellow for the halo, the aureole — speaks a symbolic language through colour itself.
Millet’s sower is colourless grey — as are Israëls’s paintings too.
Can we now paint the sower with colour, with simultaneous contrast7 between yellow and purple for example (like Delacroix’s Apollo ceiling, which is precisely yellow and purple),8 yes or no? Yes — definitely. So do it then! — yes — that’s what père Martin9 says too, ‘you must make the masterpiece’.
But get down to it — and you fall into a whole metaphysics of colours à la Monticelli, a mess from which it’s damned awkward to escape with credit.
And that makes you absent-minded, like a sleep-walker. If only one was doing something good. Well, let’s keep our courage and let’s not despair. I hope soon to send you this effort, with some others. I have a View of the Rhône — the Trinquetaille iron bridge, where the sky and the river are the colour of absinthe — the quays a lilac tone, the people leaning on the parapet almost black, the iron bridge an intense blue — with a bright orange note in the blue background and an intense Veronese green note.10 One more effort that’s far from finished — but one at least where I’m attempting something more heartbroken and therefore more heartbreaking.
Nothing from Gauguin. I very much hope to receive your letter tomorrow,11 forgive my carelessness. Handshake.

Ever yours,

Many thanks for the colours — more soon.


Br. 1990: 637 | CL: 503
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Thursday, 28 June 1888

a. Read: ‘afin’.
b. Read: ‘distraits’.
1. Rue de Laval was Theo’s old address. Van Gogh had made this mistake before (see letter 601).
2. Van Gogh had sent Theo Bernard’s Brothel scene [2322]; see letter 630.
3. Van Gogh had asked for a new batch of paint in letter 629. Apparently Theo had placed orders with both Tasset and Tanguy; in letter 635 Vincent confirms receipt of paint and canvases from Tasset.
4. Sower with setting sun (F 422 / JH 1470 [2646]).
6. See letter 156, n. 3, for Millet’s The sower. Van Gogh knew the pastel and the prints, not the painting; later in the letter he refers to the ‘grey’ colours.
7. For the concept of simultaneous contrast, see letter 536, n. 28.
8. Eugène Delacroix’s decorations in the ‘Galerie d’Apollon’, 1850-1851 (Paris, Musée du Louvre). Ill. 60 [60].
9. Pierre Firmin Martin (‘père Martin’) was an art dealer at 29 rue Saint-Georges in Paris. He sold work by the Barbizon School and the Impressionists. We learn from letter 718 that several of Van Gogh’s paintings were exhibited in his gallery.
10. The Trinquetaille bridge (F 426 / JH 1468 [2645]). The lilac he mentions has discoloured over time. The Trinquetaille Bridge linked the centre of Arles to the suburb of Trinquetaille on the opposite bank of the Rhône.
11. Van Gogh had written to Gauguin (see letter 625) and was eagerly awaiting his reply; we learn from letter 635 that he received it via Theo.