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.
Many thanks for the colours — more soon.