2. Van Gogh’s future had been a subject of discussion during his stay with his parents in December. This prompted Mr van Gogh to write on 31 December 1875 to Theo: ‘What will happen to Vincent, we do not know yet. He is certainly not happy. I believe it is not the right place for him there. We had a private chat to discuss matters. Yesterday he went to Uncle Cor to talk things over with him as well, he is after all a businessman. I almost think I will have to advise Vincent to hand in his resignation in about 2 or 3 months (this in confidence!). ... There is so much good in Vincent. For that reason, though, it might be better to make a change in his position.’ The letter closes with a postscript: ‘Vincent is back. Uncle Cor advised against it. We shan’t hurry things – all of this in complete confidence between the two of us!’ (FR b2385).
Vincent returned to Paris on Monday, 3 January, and the next day Mr van Gogh wrote to Theo: ‘But how happy and grateful we are that you take pleasure in your work. If only V. had that too! His outlook on life does tend to be a bit too morbid.
When he enthuses so much about the pale hues of Maris’s paintings, I wish his taste would incline more towards the expression of more vigorous life, of stronger or more vivid colours, even if it were below the norm.
He left yesterday morning at half past eight, and thought it better not to decide straightaway about changing jobs. He has promised, however, to keep a close eye on what awaits him there, and to try and act wisely. We hope for the best, but are not without worry. There is a lot of eccentricity in him, but much good as well. We keep our sights fixed on God. He can put worries and troubles to shame’ (FR b2225, 4 January 1876).
Mr van Gogh also wrote about this matter to Lies, who then told Theo: ‘Pa says that although he is irreproachable, he lacks the strength to get ahead on his own and to get a grip on himself’ (9 January 1876, FR b2226).
When Vincent had had his talk with Boussod and had told his parents of his dismissal, Mr van Gogh again poured his heart out to Theo: ‘This business with Vincent continues to worry us terribly. On the 4th of this month he wrote to say that when he went to wish Mr Boussod a happy new year, the meeting turned very unpleasant. For one thing, his going home at the end of the year had been very much resented. Indeed, he should not have done so, but it seems he was very determined. After that meeting, according to him, he had no choice but to resign as from April 1st. ... Though we do not forget that God can be our support and help even now, we are terribly grieved about everything. How much he has spurned! What bitter sorrow for Uncle Cent. What a bitter experience. We are glad that we live in relative isolation here and would really like to shut ourselves in. It is an unspeakable sorrow. I advised him today – after making it clear to him that he should not have left his work for any reason whatsoever at the end of the year, when it became apparent to him that he was needed – that he should tell Mr Boussod frankly that he regretted his error.’
Later in the letter Mrs van Gogh takes the pen: after first expressing her disappointment, she writes: ‘what a disappointment for you too, dear Theo, we can understand you commiserate with us, we see no light, but know that the good Lord has so often given it, when things were very bleak. We will hope for it; Uncle Cor, to whom Vincent also wrote, sent us a very sympathetic answer, but could offer no help either, certainly not in his firm’ (FR b2227). The close of the letter seems to indicate that Uncle Cor had said he had no place for Vincent in his own art dealership in Amsterdam.
Four days later it became apparent that Vincent had had another talk with Boussod, about which Mr van Gogh wrote: ‘I had advised him to speak to Mr Boussod, and he did so, and was not received unfavourably ... There is certainly a lot of good in him. If only he could acquire a bit more tact to make an agreeable impression’ (FR b2228). Vincent had not intended to resign, as emerges from a remark made by Mr van Gogh on 3 January 1876 in a letter to Theo: ‘he means to stay there, but will decide later what seems best’ (FR b2224). His dismissal was not rescinded, however.