My dear Theo,
Here’s a short note for Bernard and Lautrec, to whom I’d solemnly promised to write.1 I’m sending it to you so that you can give it to them sometime, it’s not in the least urgent and it will be a reason for you to see what they’re doing and to hear what they’re saying, if you want.
But what’s Tersteeg doing? Nothing? If you haven’t had a reply, I’d drop him a line if I were you, very short and very calm, but stating that you’re astonished that he hasn’t replied to you. I say ‘personally’, because even though he doesn’t reply to me — to you — HE MUST reply, and you must insist on getting a reply. If you don’t, you’ll lose your self-confidence, and on the contrary, this is an excellent opportunity to gain more.2 I don’t believe we should press the point in a new letter explaining things again. We have to be careful with him — but what we have to avoid is to let ourselves be treated as if we were dead or outlaws. Enough. Let’s hope that you’ve received his reply in the meantime.
I’ve had a line from Gauguin,3 who complains about the bad weather, is still unwell and says nothing vexes him more than lack of money among the variety of human ills, and yet he feels doomed to be broke for ever.
Rain and wind these past few days, I’ve worked at home on the study of which I’ve made a croquis in Bernard’s letter.4 My aim was to give it colours like stained glass, and a design of solid outlines.5
Am reading Pierre et Jean by Guy de Maupassant. It’s beautiful — have you read the preface explaining the freedom the artist has to exaggerate, to create in a novel a more beautiful, simpler, more consoling nature,6 and explaining what Flaubert’s phrase might have meant, ‘talent is long patience’ — and originality an effort of will and intense observation?7
There’s a Gothic porch here that I’m beginning to think is admirable, the porch of St Trophime,8 but it’s so cruel, so monstrous, like a Chinese nightmare,9 that even this beautiful monument in so grand a style seems to me to belong to another world, to which I’m as glad not to belong as to the glorious world of Nero the Roman.10
Must I tell the truth and add that the Zouaves, the brothels, the adorable little Arlésiennes going off to make their first communion,11 the priest in his surplice who looks like a dangerous rhinoceros, the absinthe drinkers, also seem to me like creatures from another world?
1v:3 This doesn’t mean I’d feel at home in an artistic world, but it means I prefer to make fun of myself than to feel lonely. And I think I’d feel sad if I didn’t see the funny side of everything.
You’ve had plenty of snow in Paris, from what our friend L’Intransigeant tells us.12 However, it’s not a bad idea for a journalist to advise General Boulanger to put the secret police off the scent by henceforth wearing rose-tinted spectacles, which in his opinion would go better with the General’s beard.13 Perhaps this will have the favourable influence we’ve been wanting for so long — on the picture trade.
But nevertheless we’re going to see something of what there is in this famous Mr Tersteeg. He’ll have to come to a decision — really — in the interests of our pals we are, it seems to me, under some obligation not to let ourselves be thought of as dead men. It’s not about us but it’s about the question of the Impressionists in general, so as he has been approached by us, we must have his reply.
You must feel like me that we can’t move forward without having
1r:4 positive information about his intentions.
If we think it’s a good idea to create a permanent exhibition of the Impressionists in London and Marseille, it goes without saying that we’ll try to establish them. So it remains to be seen, will Tersteeg be part of it? Yes or no?
And if not, what are his intentions as regards an offensive, do they exist, yes or no? And has he calculated, like us, the effect of a fall on paintings that are highly priced at present, a fall which, it seems to me, will probably come about as soon as the Impressionists rise.
Look at the way those who sell highly priced paintings are harming themselves by opposing, for political reasons, the advent of a school that for years has shown an energy and a perseverance worthy of Millet, Daubigny and others. But let me know if Tersteeg has written to you and what he may have said. I’ll do nothing about this without you. Good luck and a handshake.
Included with the other letters the one from Gauguin, so that you can read them.