My dear Theo,
On 1 September I’ll have my rent to pay, and if you could send me the money for the week the same day as you receive yours for the month, first of all I would pay the rent the same day, then the outlay would cover both weeks for me. Lastly, if there was some way that you could send me the money on Sunday in your letter or by money order, it wouldn’t leave me indifferent to gain a day that way.
I have two models this week, an Arlésienne and the old peasant, whom I’m doing this time against a bright orange background, which, although it doesn’t pretend to represent a red sunset in trompe l’oeil, is perhaps a suggestion of it, all the same.1 Unfortunately, I fear that the little Arlésienne will stand me up for the rest of the painting.2 The last time she came she had innocently asked for the money in advance that I’d promised her for all the sittings, and as I made no difficulty about that she scarpered without my seeing her again.  1v:2 Anyway, one of these days she owes it to me to come back, and it would be a bit rich if she didn’t turn up at all.
I have a bouquet on the go as well, and also a still life of a pair of old shoes.3
I have a mass of ideas for my work, and by continuing the figure very assiduously, I’d possibly find something new. But what can you do, sometimes I feel too weak in the face of the given circumstances, and I’d have to be wiser and richer and younger to win the fight. Fortunately for me, I no longer count at all on any victory, and in painting I look for nothing more than the means of getting by in life.
I’ve still had no reply whatsoever from Russell. He probably doesn’t have a sou at the moment.4  1v:3
I really hope that our sister will also have seen the Luxembourg by now.
We’ve had two or three glorious days here, very hot, with no wind. The grapes are beginning to ripen, but you hear people saying they won’t be good.
I must do some more work today. Because of the models, I’m dreading these last days of the week a little. I’m still negotiating with some other people about posing; there’s something that’s urging me always to do as many figure studies as possible.
Circumstances could get even worse in future, and well, whatever the case may be, once I’ve mastered the figure, work will seem more serious to me.
Handshake to you and to our sister.

Ever yours,

Vexations with models continue all the same, and what with the tenacity of the mistral down here, that doesn’t cheer me up.


Br. 1990: 675 | CL: 529
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Wednesday, 29 or Thursday, 30 August 1888

1. The ‘old peasant’ is Patience Escalier, who had previously posed for Van Gogh; see letter 663. The new portrait is Patience Escalier (‘The peasant’) (F 444 / JH 1563 [2705]).
2. We do not know who this Arlésienne was. Evidently she did not come back to sit for him, so Van Gogh was unable to finish the picture (at any rate there is no such portrait dating from this period; it was not until letter 717 that Van Gogh was able to report ‘I have an Arlésienne at last’. Dorn wrongly associates this passage with the painting Portrait of a woman with carnations (F 381 / JH 1355); see letter 658, n. 11.
3. Since Van Gogh had expressed a desire to paint a study of oleanders shortly before (see letter 660), it seems likely that he carried out his plan here. There are two still lifes of oleanders: Oleander branches in a majolica jug (F 593 / JH 1566) and Oleander branches in a majolica jug (F 594 / JH 1567). Zinnias in a majolica jug (F 592 / JH 1568 [2706]) also dates from late August, early September, given the flowering times of the species pictured (zinnias, asters and marigolds).
The still life of shoes is Shoes (F 461 / JH 1569 [2707]).
[2706] [2707]
4. Van Gogh expected a response from Russell to the batch of drawings he sent him and to his request that he buy a work from Gauguin. See letter 652, n. 3.