[Letterhead: Boussod Paris]

Paris, 5 Sept 1889

My dear Vincent,
You gave me really great pleasure by writing to me, when one doesn’t know one thinks that things are even worse than they really are. It’s bad enough that you’ve had a crisis, but fortunately I see from your letter that now you’re better. The view from your window, of which you give a croquis,1 must be really beautiful; in Paris one sometimes yearns to see the real countryside as you draw a fragment of it. One never sees peasants in the surroundings of Paris, and truly I no longer know when  1r:2 the wheat or potatoes are harvested. It’s true that in town one meets people who are certainly interesting too, but one sometimes has enough of it, and then when one can’t go away a painting of the real countryside does one good, and in those moments, certainly, a Bodmer will give as much or more pleasure as some painting that is technically clever but which doesn’t have that something true and healthy like a slice of black bread. Rousseau also has this knowledgeable side. There are paintings of his at the Exhibition with areas of forest in which one can recognize all the species of tree with real heather and real ferns at their feet.2 Certainly, if these people aren’t artists, and one must be darned fussy not to take them as such,3 they’re in any case men, and of the sort one would like the world to be full of.  1v:3 There’s old père Pissarro, who has all the same done some really fine things lately, and it’s precisely there that one also finds these qualities of rusticity which show immediately that the man is more at his ease in a pair of clogs than in polished boots. He recently lost his mother, who was very old but it hit him hard all the same;4 he also had to have an operation on one eye, but I don’t think it has cured him. He still wears a sort of muzzle which really annoys him.5 He has quite a lot of difficulty selling6 and has a lot of trouble, but always courageous. One of his sons is in London, it appears that there are schools there where one learns decoration and where the pupils are absolutely free to grasp the subject as they understand it.7 The first thing he was given to do was a frieze of brambles. It would be really good if the same thing was done here, leaving people to follow their own inclinations, they’ll find ornaments taken from  1v:4 nature, and many changes for interior decoration etc. might follow from it. It’s a pity that the Impressionists aren’t known in England, there must be people there who would like them.
This week Tersteeg sent me eight watercolours by J.H. Weissenbruch, who isn’t dead, by the way, they’re really really fine.8 Even if he isn’t attached to the detail of the vegetation, he knows the nature of the Dutch countryside as Daumier knew his lawyers, the stunted trees, the muddy roads through the meadows, and his skies, aren’t they really like one sees them in Holland! I’m very pleased that Tersteeg had the courage to buy some from him, he’s always the same, he begins by saying no and after a while he returns to it and often changes his mind. Here, where Jongkind was understood,9 people may well understand him too. In any event, it can be tried. Gauguin has sent me a few new canvases. He says that he hesitated to send them, as what he seeks isn’t in them as he wanted it.  2r:5 He says that he found it in other canvases that aren’t dry yet.10 Anyway, it’s a fact that his consignment didn’t appear as fine to me as the one from last year,11 but there’s one canvas that’s once again a really fine Gauguin. He calls it Beautiful Angèle.12 It’s a portrait arranged on the canvas like the big heads in Japanese prints, there’s the bust portrait with its frame, and then the background. It’s a Breton woman seated, hands folded, black dress, lilac apron and white collar, the frame is grey and the background a beautiful lilac blue with pink and red flowers. The expression of the head and the posture are very well found. The woman looks a little like a young cow, but there’s something so fresh and once again so countrified, that it’s most agreeable to see. Now I must also tell you that the Independents’ exhibition is open and that in it there are your two paintings, ‘The irises’ and the Starry night.13 The latter is badly placed, for one can’t position oneself  2v:6 far enough away, as the room is very narrow, but the other one looks extremely well. They’ve placed it on the narrow side of the room and it strikes you from a long way off. It’s a fine study, full of air and life. There are some Lautrecs which look very well, among them a Ball at the Moulin de la Galette which is very good.14 One could send only two paintings each because the exhibition is being held in premises much smaller than where it was up to now.15 Seurat has some seasides,16 Signac two landscapes.17 There’s also a painting by Hayet, that friend of Lucien Pissarro: place de la Concorde in the evening with carriages, the gaslights etc.18 It’s a little like that painting of the tumblers by Seurat,19 but more harmonious.
We’re very well, I’m hardly coughing any more and I feel sturdier. Jo is well too, one begins to see that she’s pregnant, but it doesn’t inconvenience her yet. One of her sisters is with us at the moment.20 Mother has had a letter from Cor, he’s already far away and was well. Write me a few words if you wish, thank you once again for your letter. Be of good heart, and good handshake, from Jo as well.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 800 | CL: T16
From: Theo van Gogh
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Paris, Thursday, 5 September 1889

1. Theo is referring to the sketch Field with a ploughman (F - / JH 1769) in letter 798.
2. At the 1889 World Exhibition held in Paris, Théodore Rousseau exhibited 16 landscapes. See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-3, p. 55, cat. nos. 600-615.
3. Theo is referring here to Mirbeau’s article ‘Claude Monet’ and his opinion of Meissonier and Rousseau. See letter 798, n. 15.
4. Pissarro’s mother, Rachel Pommié-Manzana, died on 30 May 1889 at the age of 94.
5. Camille Pissarro had been suffering since 1882 from a chronic inflammation of the tear gland – dacryocystitis – in his left eye. Around 26 May 1889, he had an eye operation to remedy this condition. Although this gave him some temporary relief, he was forced to wear an eye patch during variable weather conditions, to prevent the tear gland from becoming inflamed again. See Adler 1978, pp. 93, 131.
6. Between June and September 1889, Theo sold five paintings by Pissarro (GRI, Goupil Ledgers). We do not know how much they fetched, but a letter of 2 September from Pissarro to Theo reveals that the asking price had been high: in Pissarro’s opinion, Theo could ask at least 800 francs per painting (FR b817). See Correspondance Pissarro 1980-1991, vol. 2, pp. 289-290 and cf. Jampoller 1986.
7. Georges Pissarro, Camille’s son, received lessons from Charles Robert Ashbee – a pupil of William Morris – at the Guild and School of Handicrafts. See Adler 1978, p. 132.
8. Theo writes that Weissenbruch is not dead, because Van Gogh had assumed this in letter 776. Tersteeg sent the following eight watercolours by Weissenbruch, which had been purchased on 30 August 1889 by Goupil’s Hague branch: Route & canal (Road and canal); Canal, effet de nuage (Canal, cloudy effect); Paysage & mare (Landscape and pond); Mare (Pond); Moulins, effet de soir (Windmills, evening effect); L’heure de traire (Milking time); A travers des champs (Across the fields) and Ferme, praire & eau (Farmhouse, meadow and water). The first two were sold the same month to a collector; the others remained in Paris or were sent to the branches in London and New York. (RKD, Goupil Ledgers, nos. B&V 14237-14244).
9. The Dutch painter Johan Barthold Jongkind, who worked for a long time in France, is viewed as one of the pioneers of French Impressionism. Particularly the first generation of Impressionists were influenced by his work.
10. Gauguin wrote to Theo around 1 September 1889: ‘I have just sent a parcel of canvases to your address in boulevard Montmartre. As you will see, it’s something different, but I very much dread allowing them to be seen, given that they are only a state preparatory to what I am doing now. I have just done one, among others, that I was unable to send you, as it was not dry, which fully encompasses what I feel and am trying to do’ (Je viens d’envoyer un paquet de toiles à votre adresse Bd Montmartre. C’est comme vous verrez autre chose mais j’aprehende de beaucoup à les faire voir attendu qu’elles ne sont qu’un état préparatoire à ce que je fais aujourd’hui. Je viens d’en faire une entre autres que je n’ai pu vous envoyer n’étant pas sèche et qui renferme bien ce que je ressens et ce que je veux). See Gauguin lettres 1983, pp. 120-125 (GAC 17).
It is not known which works Gauguin sent, apart from La belle Angèle [99] (see n. 12 below). The exhib. cat. Chicago 2001 suggests that he also sent Flageolet player on the cliff, Brittany (W361), The red cow (W365) and Landscape with two Breton women (not in Wildenstein). See exhib. cat. Chicago 2001, pp. 293-297. According to Cooper, Gauguin possibly sent the following works: Cowherd (W344), Little girls at Le Pouldu (W345), Haymakers (W350), Harvest in Brittany (W352), The Fence (W353), Fields at the seaside (W356), On the beach in Brittany (W359), and The isolated house (W364). See Gauguin lettres 1983, p. 121 (n. 1). It is not clear, however, where Cooper got this information; Wildenstein 1964 gives no clues.
[99] [870] [871] [874] [875]
11. Regarding the paintings Gauguin shipped from Pont-Aven in October 1888, see letter 704, n. 1.
12. Paul Gauguin, La belle Angèle (W315), 1889 (Paris, Musée d’Orsay). Ill. 99 [99].
13. Irises (F 608 / JH 1691 [2787]) and Starry night over the Rhône (F 474 / JH 1592 [2723]). Theo wrote about these to Willemien: ‘I submitted two paintings to the exhibition of the Indépendants that made a very good impression. A field of irises and the starry night, view of Arles with the street-lamps and the stars reflecting in the Rhône’ (FR b926, 27 November 1889).
In his review of the exhibition for La Vogue (September 1889), the art critic Félix Fénéon wrote the following about Van Gogh’s paintings: ‘His Irises violently shred their purple parts over their lath-like leaves. Mr van Gogh is a diverting colourist even in eccentricities like his Starry Night: on the sky, criss-crossed in coarse basketwork with a flat brush, cones of white, pink and yellow, stars, have been applied straight from the tube; orange triangles are being swept away in the river, and near some moored boats strangely sinister beings hasten by’ (Les Iris de celui-ci déchiquètent violemment leurs pans violets sur leurs feuilles en lattes. M. Van Gogh est un amusant coloriste même dans des extravagances comme sa Nuit étoilée: sur le ciel, quadrillé en grossière sparterie par la brosse plate, les tubes ont directement posé des cônes de blanc, de rose, de jaune, étoiles; des triangles d’orangé s’engloutissent dans le fleuve, et, près de bateaux amarrés, des êtres baroquement sinistres se hâtent). See Fénéon 1970, vol. 1, p. 168.
On 26 August 1889, Theo paid 10 francs for Vincent’s contribution to the Société des Indépendants, and in March 1890 another 10 francs via Tanguy for the exhibition of the Indépendants. See Account book 2002, pp. 44-45.
[2787] [2723]
14. Toulouse-Lautrec exhibited three works: Dance Hall at the Moulin de la Galette, 1889 (The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr and Mrs Lewis L. Coburn Memorial Collection). Ill. 430 [430]; Portrait of Mr Fourcade (Sao Paulo Museum of Art); and Study of a woman. See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-1, p. 19, cat. nos. 257-259.
15. The exhibition was held in 1889 in the Salle de la Société d’horticulture, 84 rue de Grenelle (Saint-Germain); in 1887 and 1888 in the Pavillon de la Ville de Paris on the Champs-Elysées.
16. Seurat exhibited Le Crotoy, downstream, 1889 (private collection), Le Crotoy, upstream, 1889 (The Detroit Institute of Arts) and Port-en-Bessin, (The Minneapolis Institute of Arts). See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-1, p. 18, cat. nos. 241-243, and exhib. cat. Paris 1991, pp. 327, 331-332, cat. nos. 209, 211-212.
17. Signac exhibited not two, but three landscapes, namely Portrieux. The jetty, grey weather. Opus 180, 1888 (Otterlo, Kröller-Müller Museum), Portrieux, the harbour. Opus 190, 1888 (Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie) and Cassis. The jetty. Opus 198, 1889 (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-1, p. 18, cat. nos. 244-246, and Cachin 2000, pp. 187, 189, 192, cat. nos. 164, 172, 184.
18. Louis Hayet, Five o’clock, 1889 (private collection). The work is also known by the title The Place de la Concorde. See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-1, p. 11, cat. no. 138, and Guy Dulon and Christophe Duvivier, Louis Hayet, 1864-1940. Peintre et théoricien du Néo-Impressionnisme. Pontoise 1991, p. 100.
19. Theo must be referring to Seurat’s painting Circus parade, 1887-1888 (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960)). Ill. 427 [427]. This painting was shown at the 1888 exhibition of the Indépendants, cat. no. 614. In La Vogue Fénéon also compared Hayet’s painting with that of Seurat: ‘The figures whose heads are cut off by the frame are too much like those in the Parade by Mr Seurat’ (Les personnages décapités par le cadre sont trop ceux de la Parade de Monsieur Seurat). See Fénéon 1970, vol. 1, p. 167. Vincent en Theo must have seen the painting in Seurat’s studio on 19 February 1888 (see letter 589, n. 19).
20. Jo’s sister Hermina (Mien) Bonger had arrived in Paris at the end of August and would stay with Theo and Jo until 23 October (FR b4293, b2848).