My dear Theo,
I too have all my attention on Gauguin at the moment.
And like you, I’m hoping that he’ll come now.
Not that that amazes me, but I’m pleased for Bague, whom I’ve always respected — good rascal!1
Well, if you see him — and if not, just be bold and go and see him — and tell him that I’ve told you I have here a starry night, the furrows, the poet’s garden — the vineyard.2
So, poetic landscapes.
Don’t make too much of the studies, which certainly take more trouble to do but are less saleable. If you’d sent me 2003 francs I would have gone to do the same thing with the sea at Saintes-Maries.
We have the full pitiless mistral here at the moment — it’s very bad for work. But after all, we’ll have more fine weather before the winter, properly speaking, and in any case I hope to add more to the series that I have on the go.  1v:2
Do you know what I have left now, today, of your remittance that came today? Well, I have 6 francs left.
I had asked you to send to me on Friday,4 and it wasn’t until four days later (midday on Monday) that I received your letter.
It’s mostly the fault of the frames that I once ordered, and to which I’m very attached. I can’t finish off except in a frame. And besides, perhaps we’ll work with them in Marseille. I have three woods, walnut — chestnut — deal, for the frames.
And I ask you to please give Bague my warm regards, if you see him, and tell him that I recommend to him my vineyard and my starry night. And the same thing to Tripp. Didn’t they buy a lot from Mauve, didn’t they even buy Mauve’s last large watercolours at a good price?5 I don’t know, it’s been so long since I knew them.  1v:3
But in the past I never quarrelled either with Tripp or with Bague.
Only, while not making too much of the two previous consignments, tell Bague that I’m very pleased that he’s bought this study,6 and as long as the autumn remains favourable I’m now doing studies which I’ll ask him to come and see when we send them with some Gauguins.
As for Thomas, I believe that you’re doing the right thing by going to see him.
I’ve just written you that when everything’s paid for I have 6 francs left.
Is that enough for a week — no. I therefore really beg you to send me, and I beg you to do it by return of post, one louis. That will make 26 francs for the week, and that way I’ll get by. But don’t delay. What’s more, I must be ready for work as soon as the fine weather comes along. We have a really pitiless mistral but I have to be ready; work gets done in the short intervals. And so everything has to be in order and ready to join battle.  1r:4
Tasset hasn’t sent the canvas. It’s very, very urgent; please order 10 or at least 5 metres of it immediately.7
It’s very urgent because I already bought some canvas here just today, in order to be ready for tomorrow or the day after, depending on what the weather’s like.
Here the fact is that you have to take advantage of the intervals the mistral leaves, and be ready beforehand.
My dear Theo, a thousand thanks for both the consignment of colours and for today’s letter.
Work absorbs me, and I feel certain of not losing by it if I can continue like this. These large canvases are all good. But they’re exhausting, too.
Included herewith a letter from yesterday that I’m sending as it is.8 You’ll see in it what I think of Gauguin’s portrait. Too dark, too sad. I’m not saying I don’t like it as such, but he’ll change, and must come. Yes indeed, they do spend less than me, yes — but — if I was in a threesome, like them — by spending a little more — it would be better.
Once again — it’s important not to draw with Prussian blue in the flesh areas! Because then it ceases to be flesh, it becomes wood!9
And as for G., he has nothing more pressing nor better to do than to join me. However, I dare believe that in terms of coloration the other Breton paintings are superior to this portrait that he’s sending me, done in haste, in fact. And am far from judging those studies; however, you’ll see for yourself. Look, if you can, don’t let me kick my heels for the whole week. If you can do it, send me another louis. I hardly know what to do, otherwise.

Ever yours,

Don’t believe that I’m exaggerating about the Gauguin portrait, nor about Gauguin himself.
He needs to eat, to walk with me in some beautiful countryside — to have a screw once in a while — see the house as it is and as we’ll make it, and in a word, thoroughly enjoy himself.
He’s been living cheaply, yes, but it’s been making him ill to the point where he can no longer distinguish a cheerful tone from a sad tone.
Ah well, that’s no use at all. It’s high time he came, and then you’ll see, he’ll get better in no time.
In the meantime, forgive me too if I overstep my budget. I’ll work all the more, I assure you. But I have a horror a thousand thousand times of these melancholies à la Meryon!!!10 (I was so busy from Thursday on, that from Thursday to Monday I had only two meals; apart from that I had only bread and coffee, which I had to drink on credit too, and for which I was due to pay today. So if you can, don’t delay at all.)  2v:6
One day you’ll see the two portraits of G. and of Bernard.11 And you’ll compare with the negresses.12 And you’ll see that it’s vital that he cheers up now.
Or otherwise..........
But no otherwise; let’s assume — he’ll cheer up.
But it’s certainly high time.
I’m writing to you in haste; I’m working on a portrait.
That’s to say, I’m doing a portrait of our mother for myself. I can’t look at the colourless photograph, and I’m trying to do one with harmonious colour, as I see her in my memory.13
I shake your hand firmly.

Ever yours,

Don’t delay — if it doesn’t leave you too hard up — don’t delay in sending me the louis and the canvas.

My dear Theo,
Thank you for your letter, but I was really kicking my heels this time; my money ran out on Thursday, so until midday on Monday it was damned long. Throughout those 4 days I lived mainly on 2314 coffees, with bread, and for which I still have to pay. It’s not your fault, it’s mine, if fault there is. Because I was frantic to see my paintings in frames, and I had ordered slightly too many for the budget, seeing that the month’s rent and the charwoman15 also had to be paid. It’s going to drain me dry, even today. Because I have to buy canvas too, and prepare it myself. As Tasset’s hasn’t yet arrived. Would you ask him at the earliest possible moment if he’s sent it, 10 metres or at least 5 metres of ordinary canvas at 2.50 francs?
But this wouldn’t matter to me, my dear brother, if I didn’t feel that you yourself must be suffering from this pressure that work exerts over us at present. But I dare believe that if you saw the studies you’d give me a motive to work ‘at white-heat’ as long as the weather’s fine — which isn’t the case these past few days — merciless mistral that sweeps the dead leaves with fury. But between this and the winter there’ll be another spell of magnificent weather and effects, and then once again it will be a matter of making an all-out effort. I’m so immersed in work that I can’t stop dead. Don’t worry, the bad weather will stop me only too soon. As it has already done today, yesterday and the day before yesterday. For your part, please try to persuade Thomas. He’ll do something in any case. Do you know what I have left today for my week,  3v:8 and this after 4 days of strict fasting? Just 6 francs.
And Monday’s the very day when I receive your letter.
I ate at midday, but by this evening I’ll have to sup on a crust of bread.
And it all goes into nothing else but either the house or the paintings. Because for at least 3 weeks I haven’t had enough to go and have a screw for 3 francs.
That’s a really good one, about Bague!
If those gentlemen have been able to use Mauves as foils for Corots, it may be true and it may even be right. Because in fact, next to Corots, the Mauves, Mesdags, Marises are indeed ponderous. For all that, it’s none the less true that they’ve bought a lot of them, even  3v:9 Mauve’s last watercolours. It was they who bought them, as we saw them there for framing at the framer’s who did Reid’s Monticellis. Bague, I’m almost sure of it, would like my large studies Starry sky, Furrows,16 &c. He’ll like some others in the last consignment much less. Something I like about Bague is that he likes thick, heavy impasto painting; I’ve heard him enough on that subject in the past. I have no expectation at all that they’ll buy, only you wouldn’t do badly to tell Bague that I have some large studies here — new ones — of autumn effects. And keep him on tenterhooks with that. I’d say, show him, and Thomas, the white orchard, the no. 30 canvas the harvest;17 not much else. We shouldn’t make a big thing of the studies, which take more trouble but which are less attractive than the paintings that are their outcome and fruit, and which one paints as if in a dream, and without suffering so much for it.
For the two ‘Poet’s gardens’ I’ve had walnut frames made, which do very well. And now I’m looking for  3r:10 a frame in yellowed chestnut. It’s as plain and simple as a slate frame, but the tone of the wood does well. Deal does well too, for the Furrows and the vineyard.
If you were really kind you would send me one louis by return of post; I’d get through my week and I’d be safe from the ‘roller-coaster’ that came with the beginning of this month. Otherwise I’d be kicking my heels too long and wouldn’t have all my strength for the fine days that I’m hoping for at the end of the week, after the mistral.
Enclosed herewith another letter that I’ve been writing these past few days about Gauguin’s portrait.18 I’m sending it to you because I don’t have the time to write it out again, but the main thing is that I emphasize this. That I do not like these horrors of the ‘work’, except in so far as they show us our way. Our way is not to endure them for ourselves, nor to make others endure them; on the contrary, this way


Br. 1990: 704 | CL: 547
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Monday, 8 October 1888

1. The ‘good rascal’ could be an allusion to the ‘good thief’ on the Cross beside Christ (Robert, with reference to Voltaire).
2. Starry night over the Rhône (F 474 / JH 1592 [2723]), Ploughed fields (‘The furrows’) (F 574 / JH 1586 [2719]) and The green vineyard (F 475 / JH 1595 [2726]). ‘The poet’s garden’ consisted of two works: The public garden (‘The poet’s garden’) (F 468 / JH 1578 [2713]) and a painting of the park that is now lost (cf. the letter sketches in letters 689 and 693 for the composition). See also letter 695, n. 13.
[2723] [2719] [2726] [2713]
3. It is possible that Van Gogh wrote ‘100’ rather than ‘200’.
4. Van Gogh had asked in letter 694 whether he could have his money on Friday.
6. The precise circumstances of Theo’s contacts with Bague cannot be reconstructed. The art gallery Bague et Cie, at 41 rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, must at any rate have expressed an interest in selling (recent) paintings by Van Gogh (see also letter 702). We may infer from the phrase ‘while not making too much of the two previous consignments, tell Bague that I’m very pleased that he’s bought this study’ that Bague had bought a study from Arles. We do not know which one it was.
Merlhès, on the other hand, suggests that this remark has to do with Theo’s sale on 3 October 1888 of a Parisian self-portrait by Vincent to the dealers Lawrie & Co. in London, together with a Corot landscape, and he assumes that Bague – possibly working with Tripp – acted as the intermediary in this sale. See Merlhès 1989, pp. 71-72 (n. 1); see also in this connection Martin Bailey, ‘Van Gogh’s first sale. A self-portrait in London’, Apollo (March 1996), pp. 20-21.
Athanase Bague and his partner Maurice Gouvet dealt in work by the Barbizon School and the Hague School and were competitors of the firm of Boussod, Valadon & Cie, which only occasionally bought art from them (GRI, Goupil Ledgers). Cf. exhib. cat. Paris 1988, p. 343.
7. In letter 687 of 25 September Van Gogh had enclosed a new order for paint and canvas, specifying ‘5 or even 10 metres of canvas’. From the rest of the letter it emerges that Tasset had sent paint.
8. This must have been the unfinished letter, which is added here as an appendix (ll. 156 ff; see also Arrangement). See letter 692, n. 1, for Gauguin, Self-portrait with portrait of Bernard, ‘Les misérables’ [2262].
9. In letter 697 Van Gogh had already said of Gauguin’s portrait: ‘the flesh in the shadows is lugubriously tinged with blue’.
10. For Meryon’s depressive episodes see letter 621, n. 9.
12. For these negresses see letter 697, n. 6.
13. Van Gogh’s mother (after a photograph) (F 477 / JH 1600 [2729]). See letter 678, n. 16, for the photograph on which Van Gogh based his painting.
14. It is possible that Van Gogh wrote ‘2 3’ (to mean ‘a few’; cf. letter 689, l. 114: ‘deux trois jours’ (two or three days)) rather than ‘23’.
15. See letter 638, n. 17, for this unidentified cleaning woman.
16. Starry night over the Rhône (F 474 / JH 1592 [2723]) and Ploughed fields (‘The furrows’) (F 574 / JH 1586 [2719]) both measure 72.5 x 92 cm.
[2723] [2719]
17. The white orchard (F 403 / JH 1378 [2576]) and The harvest (F 412 / JH 1440 [2621]).
[2576] [2621]
18. This must have been a letter for Gauguin; see also Arrangement.