My dear Theo,
I’m writing to you in great haste, but to tell you that I’ve just received a line from Gauguin, who says that he hasn’t written because he was doing a great deal of work, but says he’s still ready to come to the south as soon as chance permits.
They’re having a fine time, painting, debating, quarrelling with the virtuous Englishmen;1 he says many good things about Bernard’s work, and Bernard says many good things about Gauguin’s work.
I’m painting with the gusto of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won’t surprise you when it’s a question of painting large Sunflowers.
I have 3 canvases on the go, 1) 3 large flowers in a green vase, light background (no. 15 canvas),2 2) 3 flowers, one flower that’s gone to seed and lost its petals and a bud on a royal blue background (no. 25 canvas),3 3) twelve flowers and buds in a yellow vase (no. 30 canvas).4 So the last one is light on light, and will be the best, I hope. I’ll probably not stop there. In the hope of living in a studio of our own with Gauguin, I’d like to do a decoration for the studio. Nothing but large Sunflowers.
Next door to your shop, in the restaurant, as you know, there’s such a beautiful decoration of flowers there; I still remember the big sunflower in the window.5 Well, if I carry out this plan there’ll be a dozen or so panels. The whole thing will therefore be a symphony in blue and yellow. I work on it all these mornings, from sunrise. Because the flowers wilt quickly and it’s a matter of doing the whole thing in one go.  1v:2
You did well to tell Tasset that he must give us some tubes of paint for the 15 francs’ carriage on the two unstamped consignments.6 When I’ve finished these sunflowers I’ll perhaps be short of yellow and blue, so I’ll make a small order to that effect. Tasset ordinary canvas, which at 50 centimes was dearer than Bourgeois’s,7 is very much to my liking and is very well prepared.
I’m very glad that Gauguin is well. I’m beginning to like the south more and more.
I have another study on the go, of dusty thistles with an innumerable swarm of white and yellow butterflies.8
I’ve again missed some models that I hoped to have these past few days.
Koning has written that he’s going to stay in The Hague; he intends to send you some studies.9
I have a whole heap of ideas for new canvases. Today I saw that same coal-boat again, with workers unloading it, that I’ve already told you about; in the same place as the sand-boats, of which I’ve sent you a drawing. It would be a grand subject.10 Only I’m beginning more and more to look for a simple technique that perhaps isn’t Impressionist. I’d like to paint in such a way that if it comes to it, everyone who has eyes could understand it. I’m writing in haste but wanted to send a line to our sister enclosed herewith.11 Handshake, I must get back to work.

Ever yours,

Gauguin said that Bernard had made an album of croquis of mine, and that he’d shown it to him.12


Br. 1990: 670 | CL: 526
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Tuesday, 21 or Wednesday, 22 August 1888

1. Bernard had also written about this; see letter 664, n. 3.
2. Sunflowers in a vase (F 453 / JH 1559 [2701]). Van Gogh is mistaken about the size: the work measures 73 x 58 cm, which makes it a ‘no. 20 figure’ canvas (73 x 60 cm).
3. Sunflowers in a vase (F 459 / JH 1560 [2702]). Van Gogh refers to five flowers; the sixth (below centre) was added when the painting was mounted on wood and enlarged to 98 x 69 cm. It was most probably originally a ‘no. 25 figure’ canvas (81 x 65 cm). See Dorn 1999, pp. 49, 59.
4. Sunflowers in a vase (F 456 / JH 1561 [2703]). See Dorn 1999, p. 49; Van Tilborgh and Hendriks 2001, p. 22, on the number of flowers.
5. Next door to Boussod, Valadon & Cie, at 21 boulevard Montmartre, there was a restaurant belonging to the Duval chain (Almanach du commerce de Paris 1886). See letter 502, n. 8. Around 1900 the restaurant was called Le Soleil, as can be seen on a contemporary postcard. See exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, pp. 50-51.
6. See letter 658 for the compensation for the cost of carriage on Tasset’s shipments.
7. Van Gogh was able to compare these prices because he had a catalogue from the artists’ supplies merchant Bourgeois; see letter 639.
8. This study is not known, but the subject may have been similar to that of the drawing Thistles by the roadside (F 1466 / JH 1552). For an earlier attribution see letter 665, n. 8.
9. Around 15 September 1888 Koning, who had returned to Winschoten after he left Paris, moved to 163 Van Diemenstraat in The Hague (FR b1080-b1081). He wrote to Theo about his studies: ‘I can well imagine that at the moment I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I firmly believe it will come. Anyway, judge for yourself. This morning I packed up the best of my studies or paintings, call them what you will, and I shall send them to you today’ (FR 1080). On 18 September 1888 Koning sent seven studies to Paris: ‘There are 4 no. 10 ... 2 no. 8 and 1 no. 6’ (FR b1081). The exact make-up of Koning’s consignment to Theo cannot be reconstructed. There are presently 14 paintings by Koning in the Van Gogh Museum, ten of which qualify in terms of their size.
10. Van Gogh had written about this ‘very large boat laden with coal’ in the ‘railway yard’ in letter 652. The drawing of sand barges is Quay with sand barges (F 1462 / JH 1556 [2699]); it had gone to Theo in the second consignment of paintings (see letter 662).
There is no known painting of a large coal barge, so evidently Van Gogh did not carry out his plan. Pickvance and others linked this passage to the paintings Sand barges (F 437 / JH 1570 [2708]) and Sand barges (F 438 / JH 1571 [2709]); see exhib. cat. New York 1984, p. 164 and exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1990, p. 139. However, it is more likely that these paintings (which are actually of small sand barges, not large coal boats) were the outcome of Van Gogh’s earlier idea of painting the coal barge at sunset. See letter 652, n. 13.
[2699] [2708] [2709]
11. This letter to Willemien was letter 667.
12. Nothing is known about this album. Van Gogh had sent two batches of drawings to Bernard in mid-July; see letter 641, n. 1.