1. Paul Gauguin, Breton girls dancing, 1888 (W296/W251) (Washington, National Gallery of Art, lent by Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon). Ill. 102 [102]. The canvas was one of Gauguin’s recent paintings from Pont-Aven, which Theo was exhibiting in the gallery (cf. letter 704, n. 1).
Theo had written to Gauguin on 13 November 1888: ‘I shall still be able to sell the dance of the little Breton girls, but there will be a small bit of retouching to be done. The little girl’s hand that comes to the edge of the frame assumes an importance that it does not seem to have when you see just the canvas. The collector would like you to alter the shape of this hand a little, without changing anything else in the painting. It doesn’t seem to me that that will be difficult for you, and and I am therefore sending you the canvas.’ (Je pourrai encore vendre la ronde de petites Bretonnes, mais il y aura une petite retouche à faire. La main de la petite fille qui vient au bord du cadre prend une importance qu’elle ne paraît pas avoir quand on ne voit que la toile. L’amateur voudrait que vous revoyiez un peu la forme de cette main sans autrement modifier quoi que ce soit dans le tableau. Il me semble que cela ne vous sera pas difficile & pour cela je vous envoie la toile). Gauguin answered by return post: ‘I shall deal with the painting to be retouched; the hand that touches the frame obviously assumes great importance, and I believed it was necessary to do it that way in order to balance the dance, which is in the shape of an S. But since these are the whims of a painter and not a collector, I shall try to remedy, or rather, attenuate it.’ (Je vais m’occuper du tableau à retoucher; evidemment la main qui arrive dans le cadre prend beaucoup d’importance et je la croyais necessaire ainsi pour équilibrer la danse qui a la forme d’un S. Mais comme ce sont des toquades de peintre en non d’amateur je tâcherai d’y remedier ou plutôt atténuer.) See Correspondance Gauguin 1984, pp. 280-282. On the changes Gauguin made to the canvas, see Wildenstein 2001, p. 414, cat. no. 296.
The sale did not go through. Theo finally sold the canvas in September 1889. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1999, p. 139.
2. For Gauguin’s Human miseries [2242], see letter 717, n. 2, and for Woman with pigs [2249], see letter 719, n. 5.
[2242] [2249]
3. The canvas that Theo had suggested exhibiting at Boussod, Valadon & Cie was probably Small pear tree in blossom (F 405 / JH 1394 [2590]). See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1990, p. 112. Although it is not very small (73 x 46 cm), it is still only half the size of a no. 30 canvas (the format Van Gogh had been using almost exclusively for some time). Admittedly, the picture depicts a pear and not a peach tree – Van Gogh earlier called it a ‘small pear tree’ (see letter 597) – but the words ‘I think’ added to the present letter could indicate that he was not entirely sure which work Theo was talking about. It was probably Theo who called it a peach tree; his wife, Jo, wrote to Vincent in May 1889 about ‘that beautiful flowering peach tree of yours, which looks at me in such a friendly way every morning’ (see letter 771).
a. Read: ‘puisqu’elles’.
4. Vincent had worked for Goupil from 1869 to 1876.
5. Vincent had previously told Theo that he should wash his paintings with lots of water; see letter 662.
6. It is not clear who the critics of Van Gogh’s working method are in this passage, which must be connected with ll. 172-182 below. ‘What I’ve sent’ (l. 131) must refer to the two batches of paintings sent from Arles, which were at Theo’s (see letters 606 and 660). Druick and Zegers assume that this ‘can only be Gauguin, possibly along with anyone else who may have seen the pictures that Vincent sent to Paris in May and August’ (see exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, p. 207). This could not possibly refer to Gauguin, however, because he had not been in Paris since January 1888 and so could not have seen any of the works in those two batches.
Like Pickvance, we assume that Van Gogh means the ‘artists and friends of Theo’s who had seen the paintings he [= Vincent] had sent to Paris’ (see exhib. cat. New York 1984, p. 235). One naturally thinks first of Bernard, who had been back in Paris since about 10 November, and of Camille Pissarro, who had seen work from the first batch (see letter 676). Van Gogh could also be referring to the Paris art dealers Thomas and Bague, to whom he hoped to sell work (see letter 699).
7. Gauguin, by contrast, wrote to Bernard in the second half of November 1888 about his relations with Van Gogh: ‘In general, Vincent and I see eye to eye on very little, especially on painting. He admires Daudet, Daubigny, Ziem and the great Rousseau, all of them people I can’t stand. And on the other hand, he detests Ingres, Raphael, Degas, all of them people whom I admire; I reply, you’re right, soldier, for the sake of a quiet life. He likes my paintings very much, but when I’m doing them he always finds that I’m wrong in this and that. He’s a romantic, and I’m more drawn towards a primitive condition. From the point of view of colour, he sees the possibilities of impasto, as in Monticelli, and I detest manipulated brushwork and so on.’ (Vincent et moi nous sommes bien peu d’accord en général, surtout en peinture. Il admire Daudet, Daubigny, Ziem et le grand Rousseau, tous gens que je ne peux pas sentir. Et par contre il déteste Ingres, Raphaël, Degas, tous gens que j’admire; moi je réponds brigadier vous avez raison pour avoir la tranquillité. Il aime beaucoup mes tableaux mais quand je les fais il trouve toujours que j’ai tort de ceci, de celà. Il est romantique et moi je suis plutôt porté à un état primitif. Au point de vue de la couleur il voit les hasards de la pâte comme chez Monticelli et moi je déteste le tripotage de la facture etc.) See Correspondance Gauguin 1984, p. 284.
8. The last two canvases by Gauguin are the above-mentioned Human miseries [2242] and Woman with pigs [2249] (n. 2).
[2242] [2249]
9. De Haan and Isaäcson.
10. Boch had written to Van Gogh at the beginning of October from the Borinage; see letter 693. Boch’s sister Anna was a member of the artists’ society Les Vingt from 1886 to 1894. Regarding this group, see letter 580, n. 6.
11. On or about 13 November 1888, Gauguin wrote the following to Schuffenecker about Guillaumin’s letter: ‘Guillaumin has written me a distressing letter; he tells me about his wish to exhibit with the Indépendants this year’ (Guillaumin m’a écrit une lettre désolante; il me parle de son désir d’exposer cette année aux Indépendants). See Merlhès 1989, p. 139. A daughter, called Madeleine, had been born to Guillaumin on 14 October.
12. Gauguin had five children; see letter 625, n. 22.
b. Read: ‘habite’.
13. Vincent had asked his sister Willemien in letter 720 to send him Jet Mauve’s address by return post, so he must have received it in the meantime. Jet Mauve lived in The Hague at Riouwstraat 70, at that time on the edge of the city. This street joins Timorstraat, where the Jewish Cemetery is located.
14. In letter 717 Van Gogh reported that he had painted Marie Ginoux (‘The Arlésienne’) (F 489 / JH 1625 [2744]) in just one hour.
15. Claude Monet, Bouquet of sunflowers, 1881 (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). Ill. 300 [300]. Gauguin could have seen the painting at the Monet exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s, who had purchased it in October 1881, and at the exhibition of the Indépendants in 1882. See Wildenstein and Walter 1974-1991, vol. 2, pp. 239-240.
16. Gauguin’s remark undoubtedly referred to the recent paintings of sunflowers from Arles, particularly the two no. 30 canvases that were hanging in his room: Sunflowers in a vase (F 456 / JH 1561 [2703]) and Sunflowers in a vase (F 454 / JH 1562 [2704]). After his departure Gauguin wanted to have the latter canvas. See letter 739.
[2703] [2704]
c. This means something like ‘plough on secretly’.
17. Van Gogh’s chair (F 498 / JH 1635 [2749]).
18. Gauguin’s chair (F 499 / JH 1636 [2750]).
19. F 498 [2749] and F 499 [2750] are painted on the jute that Gauguin had bought; see exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, pp. 354-369.
[2749] [2750]