My dear Theo,
I thank you very much for your letter and the 100-franc note it contained. Now, I approve of your idea of settling Bing’s account, and I’m sending you back fifty francs for that purpose.
But it seems to me that it would be a mistake to have done with Bing — oh no — on the contrary I wouldn’t be astonished if Gauguin, like me, will wish to have some of these Japanese prints here. So do what you think best about paying him the full 90 francs for the stock and then taking more for a full 100 francs.
Or else Bing will replace the merchandise represented by the enclosed 50 francs. But. If it was possible — all the Japanese prints we have at home being beautiful — it would be better to take the whole stock back. We’re getting them so cheaply and we can give pleasure to so many artists with them, we should after all keep what favour we have with père Bing. I went to his place myself 3 times at New Year to pay, when I found the shop closed, probably for stocktaking. Then a month later, before I left, I no longer had the money and I’d also given a good many Japanese prints to Bernard, when I made the exchanges with him.1  1v:2
But take the Hokusais as well then, 300 views of the sacred mountain and scenes of manners and customs.2
There’s an attic at Bing’s, and in it there’s a heap of 10 thousand Japanese prints, landscapes, figures, old Japanese prints too.3
One Sunday he’ll let you choose for yourself, so take plenty of old sheets too.
He’ll take some from you when he goes through them, but he’ll leave you some. Their manager’s a very decent fellow,4 as it seemed to me, and good to people who are seriously interested in the subject. I myself don’t understand why you don’t have the fine Japanese prints at boulevard Montmartre. He’ll give you some of the best ones on deposit, I’m sure.
But it’s not my business, after all, but our personal stock, that I do value. In any event, make it clear to him that we’re not making anything on it, that we’re putting ourselves to trouble over the deal, that lastly, we’re sometimes responsible for sending people to him.  1v:3
When I was in Paris I always hoped to have a showroom of my own in a café; you know that that fell through.
The exhibition of Japanese prints that I had at the Tambourin had quite an influence on Anquetin and Bernard, but it was such a disaster.5 For the 2nd exhibition at the showroom on boul. de Clichy, I have fewer regrets about the time and effort.6 Bernard having sold his first painting there, Anquetin having sold a study there,7 and I having made the exchange with Gauguin,8 we all got something. If Gauguin were willing we could do a Marseille exhibition all the same. But better not rely any more on the people of Marseille than on Paris.
But please, keep the Bing stock. The benefit’s too great. As far as money goes, I’ve lost rather than gained on it — fine — but it gave me the opportunity to see a lot of Japanese art, at leisure and over time. And that should last, it seems to me. Your apartment wouldn’t be what it is without the constant presence of Japanese prints.9
Now the Japanese prints cost us 3 sous each. For 100 francs, if we pay the 90 francs, besides all of what we have left,  1r:4 we’ll have a new stock of 660 Japanese prints.10 Or half of them for the 50 francs enclosed.
I hadn’t counted on a 100-franc note among the 50-franc ones this month, knowing that you’re grappling with the Gauguin business and the arrival of our sisters. So I’ll get by somehow this month.
I’m working on some drawings for Bernard so that he’ll send me some of his.11
I’ll happily exchange Tanguy’s flowers for a new study, if he’s given up hope of the flowers. The point is that we have hardly any of the flowers left.12 But his account is as ridiculous as a bill that I would present for my part, in these terms:

portrait of Tanguy
,,  Mrs Tanguy
,, a friend
Money Tanguy has made on colours
Friendship &c
Total 200 francs
Payment of this bill isn’t urgent, but an advance would nevertheless be agreeable to me.13 So, enough of that. Handshake.

Ever yours,
By the way, about this book of Cassagne’s: the difficulty of finding the publisher, always supposing there is one, will soon be over if I tell you that l’a b c d du dessin par A. Cassagne is the text (sold separately, I believe, at a price of 5 francs) of Le dessin pour tous par Cassagne, the 100 instalments with which you’re certainly familiar.
Now, it has occurred to me that the book should be from the same publisher as the instalments.14
I’ve sent you a roll of drawings.15 If you went to see Thomas with these, and added the (I believe there are 4 of them) other drawings in the same format,16 perhaps we’d pick up a few sous from père Thomas if you explain to him the rather exceptional reasons there are at this moment for our wanting to do a deal. Or again, Thomas could buy something from Gauguin  2v:6 if he knows the partnership we have in train.
If you pay for the first stock in full, why don’t we ask 200 francs in commissions instead of less?
Whatever we do, we mustn’t stop holding stock. All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art, and if I’ve said nothing about this to Bing it’s because I think that after my journey in the south I’ll be able to take the subject up again perhaps more seriously. Japanese art, in decline in its own country, is taking new roots among French Impressionist artists. It’s this practical side for artists that necessarily interests me — more than the trade in japonaiseries. However, this trade is all the more interesting because of the direction that French art is tending to take.
Write me a short line to tell me if the drawings reach you in good condition.


Br. 1990: 644 | CL: 510
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Sunday, 15 July 1888

1. Van Gogh used the plural ‘échanges’, which means he must have swapped more than one work with Bernard. We know that while he was in Paris he exchanged his Self-portrait with a straw hat (F 526 / JH 1309 [2552]) for Portrait of Bernard’s grandmother [2212] (see letter 655, n. 3). The following works by Bernard also come from the Van Gogh brothers’ collection: the paintings Vase of flowers and a cup, 1887, Figure sitting in the grass, 1886 and Ragpicker fishing, 1886-1887, and the drawings Figures in a street and Portrait of his grandmother, 1887 (all Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). It emerges from letter 630 that they also had Bernard’s painting The acrobats [2323].
As well as the Self-portrait with a straw hat (F 526 / JH 1309 [2552]) Bernard had the following paintings from Van Gogh’s Paris period: Reclining female nude (F 330 / JH 1214), Reclining female nude (F 329 / JH 1215), Blue and white grapes, apples, pears and lemons (F 382 / JH 1337), Self-portrait (F 319 / JH 1333), Self-portrait (F 366 / JH 1345), and possibly also Woman with a scarlet bow in her hair (F 207 / JH 979 [2543]), Woman strolling in a garden (F 368 / JH 1262), The Seine with a rowing boat (F 298 / JH 1257) and Factories (F 318 / JH 1288). He may also have owned Old man with an umbrella seen from the back (F 978a / JH 240). See Van Gogh 2007, pp. 366-367. We do not know which of these works were obtained by means of exchange and which ones Bernard bought later.
[2552] [2212] [722] [2323] [2552] [737] [729] [730] [2543] [731] [732] [733]
2. Katsushika Hokusai’s series of colour woodcuts Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji (c. 1831), and/or the second series in black and white A hundred views of Mount Fuji (1833-1834), which were published in three albums. There is a copy of the second album in the estate, but it is not known whether Theo and Vincent bought it or it came into the collection later (inv. no. n561). See cat. Amsterdam 1991, p. 316. Hokusai produced countless genre scenes, so it is not possible to tell which ones Van Gogh means here.
[735] [736]
3. This may have been the attic at the back of Bing’s branch at 22 rue de Provence; in 1899 it was converted for use as a workshop for Bing’s craftsmen. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 2004-1.
4. In letter 676 Van Gogh mentions a branch manager called Lévy – this is probably who he means.
5. For Café Le Tambourin, where Van Gogh exhibited his work, see letter 571, nn. 2-3. It is assumed that Van Gogh’s exhibition of Japanese prints took place in February-March 1887 because the portrait of Agostina Segatori (with a Japanese print in the background) is dated to this period. In any event it must have been before the end of April 1887, because that was when Bernard left for Brittany and it is apparent from the present letter that he went to see the exhibition. Japanese graphic art was a major influence on the new style – Cloisonnism – that Anquetin and Bernard developed. Cf. letter 575, n. 7.
6. Read: ‘Avenue’ de Clichy. Van Gogh staged an exhibition of paintings in the Grand Bouillon-Restaurant du Chalet in avenue de Clichy in November-December 1887; see letter 575, n. 9. On the basis of this passage Kōdera assumed that Van Gogh also exhibited Japanese prints there, but there is nothing here that bears this out. Cf. cat. Amsterdam 1991, p. 12.
7. Bernard sold his first painting to the art dealer Georges Thomas, who Van Gogh mentions later in the letter. See exhib. cat. Mannheim 1990, pp. 97, 382. We do not know which work this was. Anquetin’s study is probably Old peasant [2192] (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). Thomas bought this one, too (see letter 641, n. 8).
8. In this exchange Gauguin acquired Sunflowers gone to seed (F 375 / JH 1329 [2554]) and Sunflowers gone to seed (F 376 / JH 1331 [2555]): see letter 576, n. 2.
[2554] [2555]
9. Shortly before he left for Arles Vincent had covered the walls of Theo’s apartment with Japanese prints. See Bernard 1994, vol. 1, p. 251.
b. Read: ‘outre qu’il nous reste tout ce qu’il y a’.
10. 3 sous = 0.15 francs, so one could buy 666 prints for 100 francs.
11. See letter 641 for the drawings Van Gogh sent Bernard. Bernard sent Van Gogh several sketches soon afterwards, see letter 649.
12. We do not know which flower painting Tanguy had. According to Bernard, Van Gogh had left a great many flower still lifes with Segatori (letter 571, n. 3); this could be why Vincent and Theo had very few left. See further cat. Amsterdam 2011.
13. Vincent had already drawn up a similar summary in letter 638, in response to Theo’s report that Tanguy had presented a bill (see letter 637). The portrait is Père Tanguy (F 263 / JH 1202 [2547]) or Père Tanguy (F 363 / JH 1351 [2560]). The portrait of Mrs Tanguy is not known; that of their friend is probably Portrait of a man (F 288 / JH 1200 [2546]). Incidentally, Van Gogh made a mistake in his arithmetic.
[2547] [2560] [2546]
14. Vincent had asked Theo to let him have the name of the publisher before (see letter 630, n. 9).
Le dessin pour tous, méthode Cassagne, with ‘Cahiers d’exercices progressifs’, consisted of various series made up of a number of instalments of 16 pages each: Étude du paysage, Fleurs et fruits, Figure, Animaux, L’ornement, Genre, Abécédaire du dessin, Marme. In 1881, in other words when Van Gogh was familiar with it, Le dessin pour tous consisted of 61 instalments altogether; L’alphabet du dessin took up 32 instalments (Van Gogh says here that there were 100). At that time, the Guide de l’alphabet du dessin cost six francs, as we learn from an advertisement in Cassagne’s Eléments de perspective. Paris 1881 (cf. letter 214, n. 2).
15. There were five drawings in this batch: The rock of Montmajour with pine trees (F 1447 / JH 1503 [2665]), Olive trees, Montmajour (F - / JH add. 3 [2324]), Hill with the ruins of Montmajour Abbey (F 1446 / JH 1504 [2666]), La Crau seen from Montmajour (F 1420 / JH 1501 [2147]) and Landscape near Montmajour with a train (F 1424 / JH 1502 [2148]).
[2665] [2324] [2666] [2147] [2148]
16. Among the other drawings of the same size was, in any event, View of Arles from a hill (F 1452 / JH 1437 [2618]), which was part of the set of drawings of Montmajour (see letter 639). In the same letter Van Gogh had suggested offering Thomas Seated Zouave (F 1443 / JH 1485 [2654]) and The harvest (F 1483 / JH 1439 [2620]) as well as the drawings he had sent. It is quite possible that he also counted Haystacks (F 1425 / JH 1441 [2622]), mentioned in letter 635, together with this Harvest among the group of drawings for Thomas. All these works measure approx. 50 x 60 cm.
[2618] [2654] [2620] [2622]
c. Read: ‘là-dessus’.