My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your kind letter and the 50-franc note that was enclosed with it.
We’ll still have to write to Gauguin.1 The problem is this bloody journey, since we urge him to make it, and afterwards we’d be in an awkward position if it doesn’t suit him. I think I’ll write to him today and will send you the letter.
Now that I’ve seen the sea here I really feel the importance there is in staying in the south and feeling — if the colour has to be even more exaggerated — Africa not far away from one.
I’m sending you by same post some drawings of Saintes-Maries. I did the drawing of the boats as I was leaving, very early in the morning, and I’m working on the painting, a no. 30 canvas with more sea and sky on the right.2
It was before the boats cleared off; I’d watched it all the other mornings, but as they leave very early, hadn’t had time to do it.
I have another 3 drawings of huts that I still need and which will follow; these ones of the huts are a bit harsh, but I have some more carefully drawn ones.3  1v:2 I’ll make you a consignment of rolled-up paintings as soon as the seascapes are dry.4
Do you see the cheek of these idiots in Dordrecht, do you see that self-importance, they’re very happy to condescend to Degas and Pissarro — of whose work they’ve seen nothing, by the way, any more than of the others.5
But it’s a very good sign that the young ones are furious, perhaps it proves that there are some old ones who’ve spoken well of it.
About staying in the south, even if it’s more expensive — Look, we love Japanese painting, we’ve experienced its influence — all the Impressionists have that in common — and we wouldn’t go to Japan, in other words, to what is the equivalent of Japan, the south? So I believe that the future of the new art still lies in the south after all.
But it’s bad policy to live there alone when two or three could help each other to live on little.  1v:3
I’d like you to spend some time here, you’d feel it — after some time your vision changes, you see with a more Japanese eye, you feel colour differently. I’m also convinced that it’s precisely through a long stay here that I’ll bring out my personality. The Japanese draws quickly, very quickly, like a flash of lightning, because his nerves are finer, his feeling simpler.6 I’ve been here only a few months but — tell me, in Paris would I have drawn in an hour the drawing of the boats? Not even with the frame.7 Now this was done without measuring, letting the pen go. So I tell myself that gradually the expenses will be balanced by work. I’d like us to earn a lot of money to bring good artists here who too often get despondent in the mud on the Petit Boulevard.8 Fortunately it’s extremely easy to sell the right sort of paintings in the right sort of place to the right sort of gentleman. Since the distinguished Albert9 gave us the formula, all our  1r:4 difficulties have disappeared by magic. You only have to go down rue de la Paix10 — there strolls, just for that purpose — the good art lover.
If Gauguin came here, he and I could perhaps accompany Bernard to Africa when he goes there to do his service.
What have you decided about our two sisters?
Anquetin and Lautrec — I think — won’t like what I’m doing.11 Apparently an article on Anquetin has appeared in the Revue Indépendante in which he seems to have been called the leader of a new movement in which Japonism was even more marked, &c.12 I haven’t read it, but after all — the leader of the Petit Boulevard is without any doubt Seurat, and young Bernard has perhaps gone further than Anquetin in the Japanese style. Tell them I have a painting of boats, that and the Langlois bridge13 could suit Anquetin. What Pissarro says is true — the effects colours produce through their harmonies or discords should be boldly exaggerated. It’s the same as in drawing — the precise drawing, the right colour — is not perhaps the essential element we should look for — because the reflection of reality in the mirror, if it was possible to fix it with colour and everything — would in no way be a painting, any more than a photograph.
More soon, handshake.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 623 | CL: 500
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Tuesday, 5 June 1888

1. Theo’s letter must have contained his reaction to the draft letter to Gauguin that Vincent had enclosed with letter 616. We can infer from ‘still’ that Theo had raised objections to the plan.
a. Read: ‘puisqu’on’.
2. The drawing he sent is Fishing boats on the beach at Saintes-Maries (F 1428 / JH 1458 [2637]); the painting of the same subject is Fishing boats on the beach at Saintes-Maries (F 413 / JH 1460 [2638]), but this measures 65 x 81.5 cm and is therefore a no. 25 ‘figure’ canvas. Van Gogh made a watercolour after the drawing first: Fishing boats on the beach at Saintes-Maries (F 1429 / JH 1459). See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 2005, p. 186. View of Saintes-Maries (F 1439 / JH 1446 [2626]) – the same size as F 1428 – may also have been in the consignment of drawings; it emerges from the rest of the letter that the batch also included drawings of cottages (see n. 3).
[2637] [2638] [2626]
3. Two drawings of cottages that Van Gogh kept back were Row of cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 1434 / JH 1449 [2629]) and Cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 1438 / JH 1448 [2628]). He used them as preliminary studies for the paintings Row of cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 420 / JH 1462 [2640]) and Cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 419 / JH 1465 [2643]). The more detailed drawing Cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 1440 / JH 1451 [2631]) must also have been among the ‘more carefully drawn ones’ that he hung on to. He did, though, probably send Theo Sunlit cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 1437 / JH 1450 [2630]) and Cottages in Saintes-Maries (F 1436 / JH 1454 [2634]); these could be described as ‘a bit harsh’ (l. 28). See cat. Amsterdam 2007, p. 126. The drawings Fishing boats off the beach at Saintes-Maries (F 1432 / JH 1455 [2635]) and View of Saintes-Maries with cemetery (F 1479 / JH 1456 [2636]) may also have been in the consignment.
[2629] [2628] [2640] [2643] [2631] [2630] [2634] [2635] [2636]
4. Fishing boats at sea (F 415 / JH 1452 [2632]) and Fishing boats at sea (F 417 / JH 1453 [2633]). We learn from letter 619 that Van Gogh wanted to leave the seascapes behind in Saintes-Maries to dry, but as far as we know he did not go back to the coast. It is not entirely clear whether he took the paintings back to Arles with him after all or had them sent on later; the wording in the present letter would seem to point to the former. In letter 636 he reports that the studies are not dry yet. Theo did not receive the seascapes until mid-August, when they were sent with some thirty other studies (see letter 660).
[2632] [2633]
5. Van Gogh is referring to the organizers of the second exhibition of the Nederlandsche Etsclub, among them Jan Veth of Dordrecht, who had asked Theo to lend works. See letter 611, n. 5. Theo was prepared to let him have ‘some 50 etchings and 20 drawings’ for the exhibition, but Veth evidently only wanted work by established artists: he wrote that he was not really looking for ‘the very latest thing’ but for ‘the best of the school that you [i.e. Theo] champion with such great judgement’ (FR b3574).
The exhibition, which was staged in the galleries of the artists’ society Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam, opened on Friday, 1 June 1888. Acting for Boussod, Valadon & Cie, Theo let Veth have the chalk drawing Leaning dancer by Degas, four lithographs by Thornley after Degas (cat. nos. 34-38) and ten pen-and-ink drawings by Lançon (cat. nos. 60-68). From his own collection Theo also lent five etchings by Forain (cat. nos. 39-43), ten woodcuts by Lucien Pissarro after Camille Pissarro (cat. nos. 87-96), three etchings by Raffaëlli (cat. nos. 97-99) and the chalk drawing The café concert by Seurat (cat. no. 108). See exhib. cat. Arti et Amicitiae – Catalogus van de Tweede Jaarlijksche Tentoonstelling der Nederlandsche Etsclub. The Hague 1888.
Later, after reading Aurier’s article about Vincent, Veth wrote to Theo: ‘I can scarce forgive myself that I believed that in the little I had seen by your brother I could see the aspiration towards something uncommonly great and fine, but to my mind that aspiration was still not fully expressed. But now isn’t the time to write any more about that. We probably differ very considerably in these matters, and would only understand each other better after talking for a very long time’ (FR b3231, 3 February 1890).
b. Read: ‘vivre’.
6. Van Gogh may have gleaned his knowledge of the speed with which Japanese artists drew from Louis Gonse, who praised their swift, powerful style of drawing in his influential book L’Art japonais (1883). On Hokusai he wrote: ‘When Hokousaï draws an engraving, he is concise, swift, impulsive, often brutal ... His brush seems to take on an ethereal quality as it follows the amorous flows of his thoughts in a sort of voluptuous delight. Hokousaï then has the ingenuity of a tender soul, soaring above the noisy world; he has the refinement and strokes of genius which only come to an imagination overwhelmed with colour, light and truth.’ (Hokousaï, lorsqu’il dessine pour la gravure, sera concis, rapide, prime-sautier, souvent brutale ... Il semble que son pinceau s’immatérialise pour suivre dans une sorte de délectation voluptueuse les mouvements amoureux de sa pensée. Alors Hokousaï a les ingénuités d’une âme tendre, envolée au-dessus des bruits du monde; il a des raffinements et des trouvailles qui ne viennent qu’à une imagination éperdue de couleur, de lumière et de vérité) (ed. Paris 1886, pp. 101-102).
7. On Van Gogh’s knowledge and use of the perspective frame: letter 235, n. 10 and cat. Amsterdam 2011.
8. See for the artists of the ‘Petit Boulevard’: letter 584, n. 6.
9. This must be a reference to the art collector and connoisseur of Oriental art Albert Goupil, the son of Adolphe Goupil. Albert was a member of the board of Goupil & Cie between 1872 and 1884, and he and his father were sleeping partners (‘commanditaire’) in the new firm of Boussod, Valadon & Cie. See Etat des lieux 1994, pp. 150-151.
10. The rue de la Paix in Paris runs from the Opéra to place Vendôme. This chic shopping street housed art dealers (including Durand-Ruel), fashion houses and jewellers.
11. In his early days in Arles Van Gogh worked in a style that was related to the Cloisonnism of Bernard and Anquetin (see letter 588). His comment that Anquetin and Toulouse-Lautrec would not like his work suggests that he was aware that he had meanwhile taken a different path. Although he, too, took his inspiration from the Japanese examples, unlike Anquetin and Toulouse-Lautrec he made great use of impasto and he painted outdoors. This is related to what he wrote in letter 596 to Bernard (whom he does not mention here, possibly because he was in Brittany and consequently could not see Vincent’s work at Theo’s).
12. Edouard Dujardin, ‘Aux XX et aux Indépendants. Le cloisonnisme’, La Revue Indépendante 6 (March 1888), no. 17, pp. 487-492. Dujardin calls Anquetin’s submission for the exhibitions of Les Vingt and the Indépendants ‘the first appearance of a rather new and special manner’ (la première manifestation d’une manière assez nouvelle et spéciale), and compares his paintings with Japanese art and the ‘images d’Epinal’, cheap, coloured, popular prints. The new style is characterized by ‘the strict distinction between drawing and colouring ... And the task of the painter will be something like painting in compartments, as in cloisonné work, and his technique will be a sort of cloisonnism’ (la distinction très rigoureuse du dessin et de la coloration. ... Et le travail du peintre sera quelque chose comme une peinture par compartiments, analogue au cloisonné, et sa technique consistera en une sorte de cloisonnisme). Cf. also letter 575, n. 7.
Van Gogh probably knew about the contents of Dujardin’s article from Bernard. Although Bernard and Anquetin had developed the new style together and Bernard had actually taken it further (as Van Gogh says later in the letter) he is not mentioned in the article. Rewald suggests that Bernard had complained about this in a letter to Van Gogh. See Rewald 1978, pp. 176-177.
13. The painting of boats is Fishing boats on the beach at Saintes-Maries (F 413 / JH 1460 [2638]) mentioned above. The Pont de Langlois could refer to either of two works: The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 397 / JH 1368 [2571]) and The Langlois bridge with washerwomen (F 571 / JH 1392 [2589]). The former was originally intended as a gift for H.G. Tersteeg, but in the end he did not get it (cf. letter 615, n. 2). The Langlois bridge (F 400 / JH 1371 [2573]), in which the colours were originally brighter, is also a possibility.
[2638] [2571] [2589] [2573]