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737 Paul Gauguin to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, Thursday, 17 January 1889.

No. 737 (Brieven 1990 741, Complete Letters GAC 35)
From: Paul Gauguin
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Paris, Thursday, 17 January 1889

Source status
Original manuscript

Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b856 V/1962

In letter 738, which we have dated to 19 January 1889, Van Gogh says that he received a letter from Gauguin ‘yesterday’. This was the present letter, which therefore arrived in Arles on the 18th. We have consequently dated it to Thursday, 17 January 1889.

Ongoing topics
Bernard’s military service (575)
The refusal of Bernard’s father to support his son (687)

original text
Mon cher Vincent
Ne vous occupez pas des études que j’ai laissées exprès à Arles comme ne valant pas la peine du transport.1 Par contre les albums à dessin2 contiennent des notes qui me sont utiles et j’accepte l’offre que vous me faites de les envoyer. Ainsi que les 2 masques et gants3

Chez Mr Schuffeneker
29 Rue Boulard

L’adresse de Milliet est

Sous lieutenant 3em Zouaves
Guelma – Place de Constantine

Je regrette de l’avoir emportée par mégarde (toutes mes excuses.–) Depuis que je suis arrivé à Paris j’ai vu Bernard 2 fois. Il a beaucoup de chances de ne pas être soldat à cause de son étroitesse de poitrine et ne connaîtra son sort que fin février. Il paraît que son père l’embête de plus en plus pour la peinture et pour la malheureuse lettre que j’ai écrite à sa famille.–4
Non je n’ai pas encore fait de portraits ayant passé mon temps en courses.5 Maintenant que j’ai un atelier dans lequel je couche6 je vais me mettre au travail.– J’ai commencé une  1v:3 série de lithographies pour être publiées afin de me faire connaître.7 C’est du reste d’après le conseil et sous les auspices de votre frère.–
Je vais m’atteler aux portraits de toute la famille Schuffeneker, lui, sa femme et ses 2 enfants en tablier vermillon.–8 Il fait un rude froid en ce moment à Paris – je me suis en outre amusé à faire des croquis à la Halle9 et je vais faire poser des forts de la Halle avec leurs grands chapeaux, portant des sacs et des quartiers de boucherie. Je suis emballé à fond de train là-dessus.
Je ne sais pas si j’irai à  1v:4 Bruxelles,10 tout dependra de la monnaie et celà c’est la bouteille à l’encre. En tous cas si j’y vais je me souviendrai des conseils que vous me donnez là-dessus – je ne sais par exemple si ma faible voix sera entendue. en tous cas le bien commun m’intéresse énormément et je tâcherai de faire juste.

Cordialement à vous
Paul Gauguin

My dear Vincent
Don’t bother yourself with the studies that I deliberately left in Arles as not being worth the trouble of transporting them.1 On the other hand the sketchbooks2 contain notes which are useful to me, and I accept your offer to send them to me. As well as the 2 masks and gloves3

c/o Mr Schuffenecker
29 rue Boulard

Milliet’s address is

2nd lieutenant 3rd Zouaves
Guelma — Place de Constantine

I regret that I inadvertently took it with me (all my apologies). I’ve seen Bernard twice since I arrived in Paris. He has a very good chance of not being a soldier because of his narrow chest, and he won’t know his fate until the end of February. It appears that his father is bothering him more and more on account of the painting and the unfortunate letter I wrote to his family.4
No, I haven’t done any portraits yet, having spent my time on errands.5 Now that I have a studio in which I sleep,6 I’m going to put myself to work. I’ve begun a  1v:3 series of lithographs to be published in order to get myself known.7 Moreover, it’s on your brother’s advice and under his auspices.
I’m going to buckle down to the portraits of the whole Schuffenecker family, he, his wife and his 2 children in vermilion aprons.8 It’s darned cold in Paris at the moment — in addition I’ve amused myself doing croquis at the market,9 and I’m going to get some porters from the market to pose with their big hats, carrying sacks and sides of meat. I’m carried away at top speed by it.
I don’t know if I’ll go to  1v:4 Brussels,10 everything will depend on the money situation, and that’s as clear as mud. In any case, if I go there I’ll remember the advice you gave me about it — I don’t know, for example, if my weak voice will be heard. In any case the common good interests me enormously, and I’ll try to do the right thing.

Cordially yours,
Paul Gauguin
1. For the studies Gauguin left behind, see letter 736, n. 12.
2. These might have included the sketchbook from Brittany and Arles of 1888 (Jerusalem, The Israel Museum), published as Le carnet de Paul Gauguin. (Gauguin 1952). Gauguin might also have taken that sketchbook with him to Paris; the sketch it contains of a guillotine could be connected with the execution of Prado which he witnessed there on 27 December 1888. See exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, p. 265.
3. In letter 734 Gauguin had asked Van Gogh to send his fencing masks and gloves. Vincent sent them at the end of April or beginning of May 1889 in a consignment of paintings to Theo (see letter 765).
4. This ‘unfortunate letter’ was the one Gauguin sent to Bernard’s sister Madeleine in mid-October 1888, in which he advised her to put off marrying, and first to earn her own livelihood. Her father, who had intercepted the letter, wrote an angry letter to Gauguin, who received it in Arles and forwarded it to Bernard. See Correspondance Gauguin 1984, pp. 256, 269, 510 (n. 295).
According to Bernard, Gauguin had fallen in love with Madeleine in Pont-Aven – she had been there from mid-August to mid-October 1888 – and was even intending to elope with her. Her father had, however, forbidden all contact between her and Gauguin. See Wildenstein 2001, pp. 444, 449. Gauguin must have told Van Gogh about this, as emerges from the lack of further explanation in the present letter and the reference to the letter from Bernard’s father in letter 817 of November 1889.
5. It is apparent from this passage and the one about exhibiting in Brussels that Gauguin is reacting to Van Gogh’s letter, which is no longer extant.
6. Gauguin had been staying with the Schuffenecker family (29 rue Boulard) since his return to Paris. Regarding his studio, see letter 734, n. 5.
7. Gauguin is referring to his series of ten ‘zincographies’ (1889), which he made after Theo had urged him to make lithographs. In January-February 1889 he had them printed in Paris by Edouard Ancourt with the title Dessins lithographiques Paul Gauguin. The series is also referred to as the ‘Suite Volpini’, after the 1889 exhibition at which they were displayed (cf. letter 779, n. 13). One example is Old maids of Arles, 1889 (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). Ill. 2274 .
8. Paul Gauguin, The Schuffenecker family, 1889 (W313) (Paris, Musée d’Orsay). Ill. 103 .
9. These sketches by Gauguin of the market are not known.
10. Gauguin had been invited to display his work at the sixth exhibition of the artists’ society Les Vingt in Brussels, and was toying with the idea of settling in Brussels (letter 723).