My dear Theo,
Thanks very much for your last letter,1 I’m very glad that you and Jo are in good health, and very often think of you both.
It’s very interesting what you tell me about a publication of coloured lithographs with a text on Monticelli,2 honestly, that gives me very great pleasure, and I’d be very curious to see them one day. I hope that he’ll reproduce in colour the bouquet you have,3 for that’s a thing of the first order as regards colour. One day I’d very much like to do a print or two myself in this vein after my canvases. Thus I’m working on a painting at the moment, women picking olives, which would lend itself to it, I think. These are the colours: the field is violet and further away yellow ochre, the olive trees with bronze trunks have grey-green foliage, the sky is entirely pink, and 3 small figures pink also. The whole in a very discreet range.4 It’s a canvas I’m working on from memory after the study of the same size done on the spot,5 because I want a far-off thing like a vague memory softened by time. There are only two notes, pink and green, which harmonize, neutralize each other, oppose each other. I’ll probably do 2 or three repetitions of it, for in fact it’s the result of a half-dozen studies of olive trees.6
I think it likely that I’ll do hardly any more things in impasto, it’s the result of the calm life of seclusion I’m leading, and I feel I’m better for it. Fundamentally I’m not as violent as that, anyway I feel more myself in calmness.
You’ll perhaps also see it in the canvas for the Vingtistes that I sent yesterday, the Wheatfield with rising sun.7 You’ll receive the Bedroom at the same time.8 I’ve also added two drawings to them.9 I’m curious to know what you’ll say about the Wheatfield, you may have to look at it for a while perhaps. However, I hope that you’ll write to me soon whether it’s arrived in good order if you find a free half hour next week.
I’d be completely resigned to staying here next year too, because I think the work will get along a little. And through the prolonged stay, I feel the country here differently from the first place encountered – good ideas are now germinating a little and should be allowed to develop. And thus I wouldn’t be so very far removed from the idea of going to look for something in the land of Tartarin.10 I have a great desire to do more of both the cypresses and the Alpilles, and often going on long walks in all directions I’ve noted many subjects and know good places for when the fine days come. Then, from the point of view of expenditure there would hardly be any advantage in moving I think, and moving makes the success of the work all the more doubtful. I’ve received another very nice letter from Gauguin, a letter thoroughly impregnated with the proximity of the sea, I think he must be doing fine, rather savage things.11
You tell me not to give myself too many worries and that better days will come again for me. I’d say that these better days have already begun for myself, when I glimpse the possibility of completing, to some extent, the work in such a way that you’ll have a series of Provençal studies done with feeling which will hold up, this is what I hope, with our far-off memories of youth in Holland, and thus I’m treating myself by redoing the olive trees again for our mother and sister.12 And if I could one day prove that I wouldn’t impoverish the family, that would relieve me. For at present I always have a great deal of remorse in spending money that doesn’t come back. But as you say, patience and working is the only chance of getting out of that.
However, I often tell myself that if I’d done like you, if I’d stayed at the Goupils’, if I’d restricted myself to selling paintings, I would have done better. For in the trade, if one doesn’t produce oneself one makes others produce, now that so many artists need support among the dealers and only rarely find it.
The money that was with Mr Peyron has run out, and a few days ago he even gave me 10 francs in advance. And in the course of the month I’ll certainly need another ten, and at New Year I’d consider it right to give something to the servant lads who work here, and to the porter, which will make another ten francs or so.
As regards winter clothing, what I have isn’t very much, as you’ll understand, but it’s warm enough and so we can wait until spring with that. If I go out it’s to work, so then I put on the most worn-out things I have, and I have a velvet waistcoat and trousers for here. In the spring, if I’m here, I’m planning to go and make a few paintings in Arles as well, and if I get something new around then, that will suffice.
I’m sending you enclosed an order for canvas and colours, but I still have some and it can wait until next month if this one is too heavily burdened already.
I remember the painting by Manet you speak of.13 As to figure, the portrait of a man by Puvis de Chavannes has always remained an ideal for me, an old man reading a yellow novel, with beside him a rose and watercolour brushes in a glass of water – and the portrait of a lady that he had in the same exhibition,14 a woman already old but completely as Michelet felt, that there’s no such thing as an old woman.15 These are consolatory things, to see modern life as bright despite its inevitable sadnesses.
Last year around this time I was certainly not thinking that I would recover as much as this.
Give my kind regards to Isaäcson if you see him, and to Bernard.
I regret not being able to send the olive trees one of these days, but it’s drying so badly that I’ll have to wait.
I think it’ll be a good course of action to have our sister come in January. Ah, if that one could get married, that would be a good thing.
I shake your hand warmly in thought, I’m going to work some more outside, the mistral’s blowing. It usually dies down by the time the sun’s about to set, then there are superb effects of pale citron skies, and desolate pines cast their silhouettes into relief against it with effects of exquisite black lace.
At other times the sky is red, at other times a tone that’s extremely delicate, neutral, still pale lemon but neutralized by delicate lilac.
I have an evening effect of a pine again against pink and green-yellow.16 Anyway, shortly you’ll see these canvases, of which the first, the Wheatfield, has just left. More soon, I hope, warm regards to Jo.