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749 Theo van Gogh to Vincent van Gogh. Paris, Saturday, 16 March 1889.

No. 749 (Brieven 1990 753, Complete Letters T4)
From: Theo van Gogh
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Paris, Saturday, 16 March 1889

Source status
Original manuscript

Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b731 V/1962

Letter headed: ‘Paris le 16 Mars 1889’. On the front of the envelope, which was postmarked the 17th, Van Gogh wrote the end of letter 750 of 19 March.

Ongoing topics
Theo’s engagement and marriage to Jo Bonger (728)
Theo’s new apartment (745)

original text
Paris le 16 Mars 1889

Mon cher frère,
J’apprends, que tu n’es pas encore mieux1 ce qui me cause bien du chagrin. Je voudrais tant, que tu puisses me dire comment tu te sents car rien n’est pénible que l’incertitude et si tu me dirais comment cela va je pourrai plustôt faire quelque  1v:2 chose pour te soulager. Tu as tant fait pour moi que je suis navré de savoir que maintenant que j’aurai probablement des jours de bonheur avec ma chère Jo tu auras justement de bien mauvais jours. Elle s’était faite une illusion, que puisqu’elle veut autant que possible vivre de ma vie, tu eusses été pour elle un frère comme tu l’as toujours été pour moi. Nous espérons du fond de notre coeur que tu puisses revenir à une bonne santé et que tu pourras reprendre bientôt tes travaux.
En arrangeant mon nouvel appartement je revois avec tant de plaisir tes tableaux. Ils rendent les pièces si gais et il y a un tel accent de vérité, de vraie campagne dans chacun. C’est bien comme tu disais quelquefois de certains tableaux d’autres artistes, qu’ils ont l’air de venir comme cela directement des champs. S’il n’était pas si loin je serais certainement venu te voir, mais le temps me manque & je me demandes si ma visite pourrait t’être utile à quelque chose. D’içi quelque temps Signac  1r:4 doit aller dans le midi. Il ira te voir.2 J’ai en ce moment chez moi une exposition de Claude Monet, qui a beaucoup de succès.3 D’içi quelque temps pour sûr le public voudra des tableaux de la nouvelle école car ils travaillent bien l’esprit public. Si tu pouvais tu serais bien gentil de me donner ou de me faire donner de tes nouvelles car à part les lettres de Mrs Rey & Salles4 je ne sais rien de toi.
Je te souhaite meilleur santé & je reste ton frère qui t’aime.


Paris, 16 March 1889

My dear brother,
I learn that you’re not yet better,1 which causes me much grief. I do so wish that you could tell me how you feel, for nothing is as distressing as uncertainty, and if you would tell me how things are going I can do something sooner  1v:2 to give you relief. You’ve done so much for me that it breaks my heart to know that now that I’ll probably have days of happiness with my dear Jo, you will actually have very bad days. She had the illusion that, since she wants to live my life as much as possible, you would have been a brother for her as you have always been for me. We hope from the bottom of our hearts that you can return to good health and that you can soon take up your work again.  1v:3
In arranging my new apartment I see your paintings again with so much pleasure. They make the rooms so jolly, and there’s such a note of truth, of real countryside in each one. It’s just as you said sometimes of certain paintings by other artists, that they seem to come like that directly from the fields. I would certainly have come to see you if it wasn’t so far, but I’m short of time and I ask myself if my visit could be useful to you in any way. Signac  1r:4 is to go to the south soon. He’ll go and see you.2 At the moment I have an exhibition by Claude Monet at my place, which is proving very successful.3 In a little while the public will certainly want paintings by the new school, for they’re certainly exercising the public mind. If you could you would be very kind in giving me or having me given news of you, for apart from the letters from Messrs Rey and Salles4 I don’t know anything about you.
I wish you better health and I remain your brother who loves you.

1. Theo had received word from Salles, as emerges from what he had written the previous day, 15 March 1889, to his sister Willemien: ‘I cannot tell you how sad it sometimes makes me to think of that poor Vincent. At last I’ve had another letter from the Rev. Salles. Just as I had thought, his condition is the same, and not at all better. So that it’s now as good as decided that he’ll be transferred to Aix. I expected this, but now it is certain that it will be a long time before he is again completely healthy’ (FR b921). This letter from Salles is not known.
Several days earlier, the sisters Elisabeth and Willemien had placed their share of the inheritance of 678.23 francs at Vincent’s disposal, to pay for his care. Theo wrote about this on 10 March 1889 to his brother-in-law Joan van Houten and his sister Anna van Houten-Van Gogh: ‘Thank you very much for your letters, which I received yesterday with the enclosed postal order for 678.23 francs, which amount Lies and Wil place at Vincent’s disposal. At the moment there’s no reason to change his present treatment, which is free. He is well cared for in the municipal hospital, where nursing is provided free of charge and according to the advice both of the house physician, who is very well disposed towards Vincent and me, and of my doctor here, who treated Vincent when he was here, it’s best to leave him there for the time being to see whether rest and regular care can put him to rights. Should the contrary be deemed necessary, that he be admitted to a special nursing home, we must decide to what extent paid care needs to be provided. I appreciate that you would like to contribute if needed, but that probably won’t be necessary. I’ll deposit the money from Lies and Wil with a banker until it’s necessary to use it for him, but I don’t think that this will be the case. As you know, Vincent gave this money to the girls and Cor, influenced by a reproach that he had used more money for his education than the other children. I don’t think that he would take it back, no matter what the circumstances, if he could judge for himself. It is, however, a reserve in case other means should prove insufficient. At the moment I have no other news from him than that which you have probably heard from Ma’ (FR b920). Cf. also letter 490, n. 14 and letter 506, n. 21.
2. Signac would visit Van Gogh on 23 and 24 March; see letter 752.
3. From 7 February until the end of March 1889, Theo held an exhibition at Boussod, Valadon & Cie with work by Monet and Rodin, as well as pastels by Degas, at the branch at 19 boulevard Montmartre. Ten paintings by Monet were on display. See Wildenstein 1996, vol. 1, pp. 249-250; vol. 4, p. 1017, cat. nos. 518, 975, 1044, 1179, 1188, 1201, 1204, 1209, 1210a, 1212.
Frantz Jourdain wrote about the exhibition in exceptionally enthusiastic terms, calling it ‘one of the most important artistic events of the winter, permanently putting Mr Claude Monet into first place among the modern landscape painters’ (une des plus importantes manifestations artistiques de l’hiver [qui] donne définitivement à M. Claude Monet la première place parmi les paysagistes modernes). See ‘Claude Monet. Exposition du Boulevard Montmartre’, La Revue Indépendante 10 (March 1889), no. 29, pp. 513-518 (quotation on p. 517).
4. Salles’s letters to Theo of 1, 2 and 18 March have been preserved (FR b1048, b1051 and b1049). He had also written to Theo shortly before 15 March (see n. 1 above). The last surviving letter from Rey to Theo dates from 12 February (FR b1057). For this letter, see Documentation, 12 February 1889.