My dear Theo
Many thanks for your letter, which gave me great pleasure, coming just at the moment when I was still dazed by the sun and the strain of handling a rather large canvas.1
I have a new drawing of a garden full of flowers; I also have two painted studies of it.2
I must send you a rather large new order for canvas and colours. Only it’s not at all urgent. What, if anything, would be urgent would rather be the canvas, seeing that I have a whole lot of stretching frames from which I’ve removed the studies, and on which in the meantime I must put other canvases.3

You’ll see from this croquis the subject of the new studies; there’s one vertical and one horizontal one of the same subject — no. 30 canvases.4 There’s definitely a subject for a painting among them — as in some other studies that I have. And truly, I don’t know if I’ll ever do tranquil and calmly worked paintings, myself, as it seems to me that it will always remain disjointed.
Have you any news from Gauguin? I wrote to him again last week, to know how it was going with his health and his work.
No reply from Russell, who’s probably not in Paris, judging by what Macknight was saying, who has come back with Boch. Still icy silence about the work when they come.
What you say about Princenhage, it’s true that it’s the same story all over again — but when at long last the fellow isn’t there any more, then for his little circle it will be one more emptiness and desolation.5
And even the rest of us would feel it, because there’s something heartbreaking in the fact that when we were younger we saw so much of him, and we were even influenced by him.  1v:3
So, seeing someone whom one has known as very active reduced to that state of suspicious helplessness and constant suffering, it certainly doesn’t give you an appealing or cheerful notion of human life, and doesn’t add to the joy of living. Our mother in Breda, she must be getting on a bit, too.
Without meaning to — is it the effect of nature down here, so Ruisdaelesque? — I quite often think of Holland, and with the double separation of distance and time that has passed, these memories have something heartbreaking about them.
What you write about Reid isn’t very cheerful either — at times he used to speak so often of making himself a painter, and of retiring to live with an aunt in the country, that it’s just possible that he’s carrying out this plan now.6 What does Maria say? But perhaps she’s disappeared too.7
I believe all the same that the constant wind here must have something to do with the fact that the painted studies have that wild look. Because you also see it in Cézanne.  1r:4
What must make it easier for the Japanese to stuff their works of art into drawers and cupboards is that you can roll kakemonos but not our painted studies, which would eventually flake.8
Nothing would make it easier for us to place our canvases than to get them widely accepted as decorations in bourgeois homes. As in Holland in the old days.
And here in the south it would do a hell of a lot of good to see paintings on the white walls. But go and look: big, coloured Julien medallions9 everywhere — horrors. And alas, we won’t change anything in this state of affairs.
However — cafés — perhaps we’ll decorate them later on.
More soon, handshake.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 648 | CL: 512
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, between Tuesday, 17 and Friday, 20 July 1888

1. Van Gogh appears to be referring here to one of the two no. 30 canvases he mentions after this. We cannot rule out the possibility that he means a third work, in which case it must be Mousmé, which measures 74 x 60 cm; he stresses several times that painting it was a great effort for him (see letters 649 and 650).
2. The drawing is Garden with flowers (F 1455 / JH 1512 [2669]); the two paintings, no. 30 canvases, are Garden with flowers (F 430 / JH 1510 [2668]) and Garden with flowers (F 429 / JH 1513 [2670]).
[2669] [2668] [2670]
3. This order eventually arrived in Arles on 9 August: see letter 658. For this order see also letter 652.
4. The letter sketch Garden with flowers (F - / JH 1511) is after the first-mentioned painting (see n. 2 above).
5. Uncle Vincent van Gogh of Princenhage was seriously ill – he had a lung condition (letter 615). He died soon after this, on 28 July 1888.
6. According to his son Alexander, Reid was a skilled amateur artist and he often went ‘on sketching expeditions’ with Van Gogh on Sundays. He did not, though, have an aunt in the country. See Alexander McNeill Reid, notes for a biography of Alex Reid (unpublished manuscript, Acc. 6425, National Library of Scotland; photocopy).
7. We do not know who this ‘Maria’ is; Van Gogh might have meant Reid’s former girlfriend Mary Bacon Martin. Cf. letter 602, n. 21.
8. Kakemonos are Japanese prints in vertical format on a hanging roll of silk or paper, with rods at the top and bottom. Van Gogh had read about the Japanese approach to art in Loti’s Madame Chrysanthème, see letter 639, n. 11.
9. Van Gogh is referring to coloured medallions in the style of the eighteenth-century sculptor Pierre Julien. Commissioned by King Louis xvi, he had made sculptures for the milking parlours at Rambouillet, among them were four medallions depicting the ‘travaux de la laiterie’ (the work of the dairy), and a large medallion of a mother suckling her child. He could also mean replicas of them or coloured reproductions after these medallions.