My dear Theo,
I’ve received your letter and 25 francs enclosed and I thank you very much for both. I’m really glad that you like my plan to come to Paris. I believe it will help me make progress and at the same time that, if I didn’t go, I might easily get into a mess, keep moving around in the same circle too much, persist in the same mistakes. Furthermore, as for you, I don’t think that coming home to a studio would do you any harm. For the rest, I have to tell you the same about me as you write about yourself — I’ll disappoint you.
And even so, this is the way to combine forces. And even so, much greater understanding of each other can follow from it.
Now what shall I tell you about my health? I still believe that I have a chance of avoiding being really ill; all the same, I’ll need time to get better. I also still have two more teeth to be filled, then my upper jaw, which was most affected, will be all right again. I still have to pay 10 francs for that, and then another 40 francs to get the bottom half right too.
Some years of those 10 years that I appear to have spent in prison will disappear as a result. Because bad teeth, which one so seldom sees any more as it’s so easy to get them put right,  1v:2 since bad teeth give a physiognomy a sort of sunken look.
And then — even eating the same things, one can naturally digest better when one can chew properly, and so my stomach will have a chance to recover.
I really do notice that I’ve been at a very low ebb, though — and as you wrote yourself, all sorts of things that are even worse could arise out of neglecting it. However, we’ll see that we get it put right.
I haven’t worked for a few days, gone to bed early a couple of nights (otherwise it was usually 1 or 2 o’clock because of drawing at the club). And I feel that it’s calming me.
I’ve had a note from Ma, who writes that they’re going to start packing in March.1
Further, since you say you’ll have to pay rent until the end of June — well then, perhaps it would be best after all if I were to return to Nuenen, starting in March, only — if I encountered opposition and scenes like I got before I left, I would be wasting my time there and so, even if it were only just for those few months, I’d make a change anyhow, since I want to have some new things from the country ready to bring to Paris with me.
That Siberdt, the teacher of the antique, who spoke to me at first as I told you, definitely tried to pick a quarrel  1v:3 with me today, perhaps with a view to getting rid of me. Which didn’t work inasmuch as I said — Why are you trying to pick a quarrel with me? I have no wish to quarrel, and in any case I have absolutely no desire to contradict you, but you deliberately try to pick a quarrel with me.
He evidently hadn’t expected that and couldn’t say much to refute it this time, but — next time, of course, he’ll be able to start something.
The issue behind it is that the fellows in the class are talking about things in my work among themselves, and I’ve said, not to Siberdt but outside the class to some of the fellows, that their drawings were completely wrong.
Bear in mind that if I go to Cormon and run into trouble sooner or later either with the master or the pupils, I wouldn’t let it worry me. If need be, even if I didn’t have a master, I could also go through the antique course by going to draw in the Louvre or somewhere. And so I’d do that if I had to — although I’d far rather have correction — as long as it doesn’t become DELIBERATE provocation; that correction without one giving any cause other than a certain singularity in one’s manner of working which is different from the others. If he starts on me again, I’ll say out loud in the class, I’m happy to do mechanically everything that you tell me to do, because I’m determined to pay you back what is your due, if need be, if you insist on it, but —  1r:4 as far as mechanizing me as you mechanize the others is concerned, that has not, I assure you, the slightest hold over me.
Besides, you started by telling me something quite different, that’s to say, you told me: tackle it as you wish.
The reason why I’m drawing plaster casts — not to start from the outline, but to start from the centres2— I haven’t got it yet, but I feel it more and more and — I’ll certainly carry on with it, it’s too interesting.
I wish that we could spend a few days together in the Louvre and could just talk about it. I believe it would interest you.
This morning I sent you Chérie, mainly for the preface, which will certainly strike you.
And — I wish that at the end of our lives we could also walk somewhere together and — looking back, say — we’ve done this — and that’s one; and that — and that’s two; and that — and that’s three.3 And if we want to and dare to — will there be anything to talk about then?
We can try two things — making something good ourselves — collecting things by other people that we think are good, and dealing in them.  2r:5 But we must both live rather more robustly, and perhaps combining forces is a step towards becoming more robust.
But now allow me to touch on a delicate matter — if I’ve said unpleasant things to you, specifically about our upbringing and our home, this has been because we’re in an area where being critical is essential in order for us to get along with and understand each other and cooperate in business.
Now I can well understand that one can passionately love something or someone that one can’t do anything about.
Very well — I won’t go into that except in so far as it might make a fatal separation between us where reconciliation is needed.
And our upbringing &c. — won’t prove to be so good that we’ll retain many illusions about it — there you are — and we might perhaps have been happier with a different upbringing. But if we stick to the positive idea of wanting to produce and to be something, then we’ll be able, without getting angry, to discuss faits accomplis as such when it’s unavoidable and might perhaps touch on or directly concern the Goupils or the family. And for the rest, these issues between us are for the understanding of the situation and not out of rancour.  2v:6
But if we undertake something it won’t be a matter of indifference to either of us to improve our health, because we need time alive — some 25 or 30 years of working constantly. There’s so much of interest in the present age when one thinks how very possible it is that we may well yet see the beginning of the end of a society. And just as there is infinite poetry in the autumn or in a sunset, and then there’s so much soul and mysterious endeavour in nature, so it is now. And as for art — decline, if you will, after the Delacroix, Corots, Millets, Duprés, Troyons, Bretons, Rousseaux, Daubignys — very well — but a decline so full of charm — that there truly is still an immense, immense amount of good things to come, and they’re being made every day.
I’m longing dreadfully for the Louvre, Luxembourg etc., where everything will be so new to me.
For the rest of my life I’ll regret that I didn’t see the Cent chefs d’oeuvre,4 the Delacroix exhibition5 and the Meissonier exhibition.6 But there will still be plenty of opportunities to catch up. It’s true, for instance, that wanting to progress too quickly here, I may actually have progressed less, but what would you? My health is also behind it, and if I regain that as I hope to do, then my taking pains will have been less in vain.  2v:7
After all, I believe that if one asks permission, one may draw plaster casts in the Louvre, even if one isn’t at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts.7
It wouldn’t surprise me if, once the idea of living together takes hold, you’ll find it odder and odder that we’ve been together so surprisingly little, if you will — for fully 10 years.
Anyway, I most certainly hope that this will be the end of it, and that it won’t begin again.
What you say about the apartment is perhaps really rather expensive. I mean, I’d be just as happy if it weren’t quite as good.
I’m curious as to how those few months in Nuenen will be for me. Since I have some furniture there, since it’s beautiful there, too, and I know the district a little, it might be a good thing for me to keep a pied-à-terre there, if need be in an inn where I could leave that furniture, since otherwise it will be lost — and it could still come in very useful.
There’s sometimes the most to do by returning to old places.  2r:8
I must finish this now, since I’m going to the club.
Keep thinking about what we can best do. Regards.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 561 | CL: 450
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Antwerp, on or about Saturday, 6 February 1886

a. Means: ‘beschadigd, gehavend’ (damaged, battered).
b. Read: Die ik uiterlijk lijk te hebben doorgemaakt’ (that I appear to have suffered).
c. Means: ‘aangezien’ (as, since).
1. For the impending move from Nuenen to Breda, which was to take place at the end of March.
3. At the end of the preface to Chérie, Edmond de Goncourt writes about a walk he took with his brother some months before Jules’s death, during which Jules reflected on their achievements. Van Gogh quotes the closing words of the following three paragraphs:
‘All of a sudden my brother stopped dead and said to me:
“It doesn’t matter, do you see, they can deny us all they like… one day it will have to be acknowledged that we created GERMINIE LACERTEUX… and that ‘Germinie Lacerteux’ is the original book that served as the model for everything that has been produced since us, under the name of realism, naturalism, etc. And that’s one!
Now through writing, through talk, through purchases… who has imposed on the generation of mahogany chests of drawers the taste for eighteenth-century art and furniture?… Where is he who will dare to say it is not us? And that’s two!
And what about that description of a Paris salon furnished with japonaiseries, published in our first novel, in our novel EN 18.., that appeared in 1851 … yes, in 1851 …– let them show me people with a taste for Japanese things in those days…– and our acquisitions during those years of bronzes and lacquerware from Mallinet and a little later from Mrs Desoye… and our discovery in 1860, at the Porte Chinoise, of the first Japanese album known in Paris… known at least to the world of men of letters and painters… and the pages devoted to Japanese things in MANETTE SALOMON, in IDÉES ET SENSATIONS… do they not make us the first propagators of that art… of that art, which, without doubt, is revolutionizing the perspective of western peoples? And that’s three!
Now the search for truth in literature, the revival of eighteenth-century art, the triumph of Japonism: these are, do you know, – he added after a silence, and with an awakening of intelligent life in his eye, – these are the three great literary and artistic movements of the second half of the nineteenth century… and we will have led them, these three movements… us, poor unknown us. Well! when you have done that… it will be really difficult not to be someone in the future.”
And it’s true, the dying man taking a walk along the avenue of the Bois de Boulogne could perhaps be right.’
(Tout à coup brusquement mon frère s’arrêta, et me dit:
“Ça ne fait rien, vois-tu, on nous niera tant qu’on voudra... il faudra bien reconnaître un jour que nous avons fait GERMINIE LACERTEUX... et que ‘Germinie Lacerteux’ est le livre-type qui a servi de modèle à tout ce qui a été fabriqué depuis nous, sous le nom de réalisme, naturalisme, etc. Et d’un!
Maintenant par les écrits, par la parole, par les achats... qu’est-ce qui a imposé à la génération aux commodes d’acajou, le goût de l’art et du mobilier du XVIIIe siècle?... Où est celui qui osera dire que ce n’est pas nous? Et de deux!
Enfin cette description d’un salon parisien meublé de japonaiseries, publiée dans notre premier roman, dans notre roman d’EN 18.., paru en 1851 ... oui, en 1851 ... – qu’on me montre les japonisants de ce temps-là... – et nos acquisitions de bronzes et de laques de ces années chez Mallinet et un peu plus tard chez Mme Desoye... et la découverte en 1860, à la Porte Chinoise, du premier album japonais connu à Paris... connu au moins du monde des littérateurs et des peintres... et les pages consacrées aux choses du Japon dans MANETTE SALOMON, dans IDÉES ET SENSATIONS... ne font-ils pas de nous les premiers propagateurs de cet art... de cet art en train, sans qu’on s’en doute, de révolutionner l’optique des peuples occidentaux? Et de trois!
Or la recherche du vrai en littérature, la résurrection de l’art du XVIIIe siècle, la victoire du japonisme: ce sont, sais-tu, – ajouta-t-il après un silence, et avec un réveil de la vie intelligente dans l’oeil, – ce sont les trois grands mouvements littéraires et artistiques de la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle... et nous les aurons menés, ces trois mouvements... nous, pauvres obscurs. Eh bien! quand on a fait cela... c’est vraiment difficile de n’être pas quelqu’un dans l’avenir.”
Et, ma foi, le promeneur mourant de l’allée du Bois de Boulogne pourrait peut-être avoir raison.) See Goncourt 1884, pp. xiv-xvi. Cf. for this preface also letters 550 and 551.
4. This was one of the annual ‘Expositions Internationales’ mounted by Georges Petit in 8 rue de Sèze since 1882. Vincent knew about the one in 1883 from what Theo had told him. See letter 358, n. 1.
On 10 May 1884 Andries Bonger wrote to his parents about this ‘jewel of an exhibition’: ‘A small number of masterpieces by Bastien-Lepage, Cazin, Carolus-Duran, Stevens, Jan van Beers, Jean Béraud and a couple of Spanish painters have been brought together. I find it impossible to describe to you the joy I experienced when looking at those paintings’ (FR b1787).
‘The exhibitors reflected the cosmopolitanism which had developed in the Paris art world ... It attracted a public of an equally international scope. Eventually scheduled regularly in May, it was anticipated and attended by fashionable society as well as those with a serious interest in the latest names and trends in art, and the newest output by painters with established reputations’, wrote Roger Terry Dunn, The Monet-Rodin exhibition at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1889. Diss. Northwestern University 1979, pp. 10-11.
5. Exposition Eugène Delacroix au profit de la souscription destinée à éléver à Paris un monument sa mémoire at the Ecole nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris 1885. See letter 461, n. 2. Theo went to the exhibition with Andries Bonger, who wrote enthusiastically to his parents on 4 April 1885: ‘He is the most sympathetic person I have met in Paris. He is a charming fellow to get along with. One cannot conceive of more entertaining company than his. The exhibition of Eug. Delacroix’s paintings is an inexhaustible subject of discussion. They are so good that we can never say enough about them. We are going there again tomorrow morning’ (FR b1812).
6. Exposition Meissonier. 24 Mai- 24 Julliet 1884. Au profit de l’oeuvre de l’hospitalité de nuit. Paris, Galerie Georges Petit.
7. The fact that people who were not students were allowed into the Louvre to draw – as well as professional copyists, women were also admitted – emerges in Theodore Reff, ‘Copyists in the Louvre, 1850-1870’, The Art Bulletin 46-4 (1964), pp. 552-559 and Paul Duro, ‘Copyists in the Louvre in the middle decades of the nineteenth century’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts 130 (1988), no. 1431 (April), pp. 249-254. Duro observes: ‘From early in the century a series of regulations defined, clarified and bureaucratized the practice of copying’, but all the same the regulations were ‘surprisingly liberal’, with a distinction between ‘those who copied for instruction and those who copied for profit’ (p. 249).