My dear Theo,
I still have to ask you to send me a few ordinary brushes as soon as possible, of more or less these sizes

Half a dozen of each please.
I hope that you’re well and your wife too, and that you’ll enjoy a little of the good weather. At least here we have splendid sunshine.
As for me, my health is good, and as for the head it will, let’s hope, be a matter of time and patience.
The director had a few words with me to say that he’d received a letter from you, and that he’d written to you.1 To me he says nothing and I ask nothing of him, which is simplest. He’s a little gouty man — widowed a few years ago — who has very dark spectacles. As the establishment is a little moribund, the man appears to take only a rather half-hearted enjoyment in this profession, and besides there’s reason enough for it.
A new person has arrived who is so agitated that he breaks everything and shouts day and night, he also tears the straitjackets and up to now he scarcely calms down, although he’s in a bath all day long, he demolishes his bed and all the rest in his room, overturns his food &c. It’s very sad to see — but they have a lot of patience here and will eventually get there, however.2  1v:2
New things become old so quickly — I think that if I came to Paris in the state of mind I’m currently in, I wouldn’t make any distinction between a so-called dark painting or a bright Impressionist painting, between a varnished painting in oils and a matt picture done with thinned paint.3
I mean by this that having reflected as time passed — I believe more than ever in the eternal youth of the school of Delacroix, Millet, Rousseau, Dupré, Daubigny, just as much as in the current one or even in artists to come. I scarcely believe that Impressionism will ever do more than the Romantics, for example.
It’s certainly a far cry between that and admiring people like Léon Glaize or Perrault.
This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.4 Daubigny and Rousseau did that, though, with the expression of all the intimacy and all the great peace and majesty that it has, adding to it a feeling so heartbreaking, so personal. These emotions I do not detest.
I still have remorse, and enormously when I think of my work, so little in harmony with what I’d have wished to do. I hope that in the long run it will make me do better things, but we aren’t there yet.
I think that you would do well to wash the canvases that are quite quite dry with water and a little spirits of wine to remove the oil and the thinner from the impasto.5 The same for the night café6 and the green vineyard,7 and above all for the landscape that was in the walnut frame.8 The night9 also (but that one has recent retouchings which might run with the spirits of wine).  1v:3
I’ve been here almost a whole month, not one single time have I had the slightest desire to be elsewhere; just the will to work again is becoming a tiny bit firmer.
I don’t notice any very clear desire to be elsewhere in the others either, and this may very well come from the fact that one feels too decidedly broken for life outside.
What I don’t really understand is their absolute idleness. But that’s the great defect of the south, and its ruin. But what a beautiful land and what beautiful blue and what a sun. And yet I’ve only seen the garden and what I can make out through the window.
Have you read the new book by Guy de Maupassant, Fort comme la mort,10 what is its subject? What I read last in this category was Zola’s Le rêve, I found the figure of the woman, the embroiderer, very, very beautiful, and the description of the embroidery all in gold. Precisely because it’s like a question of colour, different yellows, whole and broken. But the figure of the man struck me as rather lifeless, and the great cathedral also made me as melancholy as hell. Only that lilac and dark blue repoussoir makes, if you will, the blonde figure stand out.11 But anyway, there are already things by Lamartine like that.
I hope that you’ll destroy a heap of things that are too bad in the heap I sent, or at least will only show the most passable ones.
As regards the exhibition of the Independents, it’s all the same to me, act as if I wasn’t there at all. To not be indifferent and not exhibit something too mad, perhaps the starry night and the landscape with yellow greenery which was in the walnut frame.12 Since these are two of contrary colours,  1r:4 and that might give others the idea of doing night effects better than I do.
Anyway you must absolutely stop worrying with regard to me now. When I receive the new canvas and the colours13 I’ll go out a bit to see the countryside.
Since it’s just the season when there are lots of flowers and thus colour effects, it will perhaps be wise to send me another 5 metres of canvas in addition.
For the flowers will be short-lived and will be replaced by the yellow wheatfields. The latter, above all, I would like to capture better than in Arles. The mistral (since there are a few mountains here) appears far less annoying than in Arles, where you always get it at first hand.
When you receive the canvases I’ve done in the garden14 you’ll see that I’m not too melancholy here.
More soon, good handshake in thought to you and to Jo.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 780 | CL: 593
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, between about Friday, 31 May and about Thursday, 6 June 1889

1. Theo had written to Peyron on 23 May, as emerges from his answer of 26 May 1889 (FR b1058). Peyron informed Theo that Vincent was better and that he spent whole days drawing in the garden. He also said that he still thought that Vincent’s illness was connected with epilepsy.
2. This newcomer was a 27-year-old man, ‘suffering from acute mania’, who had been admitted to the asylum on 27 May. ‘He displays frenzied agitation, he screams and breaks everything’ (quoted from the admissions register, in Doiteau and Leroy 1928, p. 62). That this patient lay in the bath all day long was apparently part of the hydrotherapy treatment. On this subject, see letter 776, n. 23.
3. Van Gogh is referring to the technique of peinture à l’essence – much used by Degas, Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec – in which the oil paints are highly diluted with spirits (‘essence de térébenthine’, terpentine) to obtain a matt and transparent effect.
4. This morning star was the planet Venus, which ‘had emerged from obscurity in the morning twilight during mid-May and became more prominent and higher in the morning sky through June’. See Charles A. Whitney, ‘The skies of Vincent van Gogh’, Art History, vol. 9, no. 3 (September 1996), pp. 356-357.
5. For the technique of washing paintings with water, see letter 662, n. 8.
6. The night café (F 463 / JH 1575 [2711]).
7. The green vineyard (F 475 / JH 1595 [2726]).
8. This work, described further on in the letter as ‘the landscape with yellow greenery’, was presumably The public garden (‘The poet’s garden’) (F 468 / JH 1578 [2713]), which had been painted ‘with thick impasto, lemon yellow and lemon green’ (letter 683) and had a walnut frame (see letter 699). According to Pickvance, this work is ‘now lost’. See exhib. cat. New York 1986, p. 31. Dorn identifies it as Entrance to the public garden (F 566 / JH 1585 [2718]). See Dorn 1990, p. 436. Regarding the frame, see letter 673, n. 16.
[2713] [2718]
9. This is Starry night over the Rhône (F 474 / JH 1592 [2723]); later in the letter Van Gogh actually calls it ‘the starry night’.
10. In Maupassant’s novel Fort comme la mort (1889), a painter receives a commission to paint the portrait of a noblewoman. The businesslike relations between the painter and his model grow into a mutual passion, despite the woman’s resolution never to surrender to his charms. Her beauty is fading and he takes an increasing interest in her daughter, who resembles her. When the daughter marries, the infatuated painter runs down the street in a frenzy and dies in a traffic accident. The novel first appeared in the Revue Illustré in instalments between 1 February and 15 May 1889, and was published in book form by Ollendorff in May 1889 (see Maupassant 1987, p. 1573).
11. For Zola’s Le rêve, see letter 716, n. 1. Van Gogh refers to several descriptive passages in the novel. The golden embroidery occurs on pp. 894-895, 899 (chapter 6); pp. 912-913 (chapter 8) and p. 950 (chapter 11). The male figure, Félicien, endeavours unsuccessfully to convince his father of his love for Angélique, whom he tries in vain to persuade to elope with him. Félicien is described only through the eyes of Angélique, who craves wealth and status. The massive, dark cathedral is mentioned on pp. 862-863 (chapter 4). The ‘lilac and dark blue repoussoir’ is derived from pp. 931-932 (chapter 9). See Zola 1960-1967, vol. 4.
12. Van Gogh had ordered canvas and paints in letter 776.
13. After this, Van Gogh crossed out ‘et ou prédomine la couleur’ (and where colour predominates).
14. In letter 776 Van Gogh said that he had painted four canvases of the garden. These were Irises (F 608 / JH 1691 [2787]), Lilacs (F 579 / JH 1692 [2788]), Trees with ivy in the garden of the asylum (F 609 / JH 1693 [2789]) and The garden of the asylum (F 734 / JH 1698 [2791]).
[2787] [2788] [2789] [2791]