My dear Vincent
Life is very long and very sad. Since your last letter I’ve been so deep in the doldrums that I couldn’t write, in the daytime wishing to see the evening, and at night awaiting the morning. Once the land is ploughed, the man casts the seed, and each day defending himself against the vagaries of the bad weather he manages to harvest. But what of us poor artists? Where does the seed we plant go, and when does the harvest come? In the 3 months I’ve been at Le Pouldu I’ve had 30 francs in my pocket; it’s obviously pointless my putting energy into it, I can’t carry on painting.  1r:2
Apart from these money troubles I’ve had other causes for sorrow. I almost lost one of my children, who fell from the 3rd floor into the street.1 You will understand that in Copenhagen the household was overwhelmed, and that the expenses occasioned by this accident are throwing things into chaos (chaos which I’m powerless to remedy at the moment). All of this makes me sick with spleen, and I dare neither paint nor write. And why paint?
I very much like the 2 drawings you sent me, especially the one of the women who are picking olives.2
I’m pleased that you’ve exhibited in Brussels; have you any news of this exhibition. Let me know.
Like us you have winter  1v:3 at the moment, and I know that for you it’s a harsh time to get through. You’re probably awaiting the heat with impatience so that you can work out of doors.
I’m doing everything I can at the moment to leave for Tonkin at government expense,3 but it isn’t easy, especially because I’m an artist and people don’t believe that they have any capacity for business. In the colonies there’s something for us westerners to do, and I hope to learn something new there in art at the same time as being relieved of financial worries for a time.
De Haan is still working here with me and making serious progress, but doesn’t want to return to Holland until  1v:4 he feels strong enough to silence his compatriots; they’re going to say harsh words to him about his transformation. These new questions of colour had greatly tormented him, but today, when he’s beginning to see clearly in this new way, he’s full of ardour.
Excuse my delay in writing, and believe me always

Ever yours cordially,


Br. 1990: 842 | CL: GAC 38
From: Paul Gauguin
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Le Pouldu, on or about Friday, 17 January 1890

2. It is not known which drawings Van Gogh sent to Gauguin. One of them had been made after the painting Women picking olives (F 655 / JH 1869 [2879]), as emerges from letter 841, though such a drawing is not known.
3. In January 1890 Gauguin wrote from Pont-Aven to Schuffenecker, saying that in Paris he hoped to arrange a position as a painter in Tonkin. ‘And if I don’t succeed with Tonkin I’ll try to work at something other than painting, because I have to heave to for a time. Or otherwise, I’ll press the finance minister to give me something or other in France’. (Et si je ne réussi pas pour le Tonkin je vais tâcher de travailler en dehors de la peinture, car il faut tenir la cape pendant quelques temps. Ou bien encore je pousserai le ministre des finances pour me donner en France n’importe quoi). See Gauguin lettres 1946, p. 181. Nothing ever came of his plan.
a. Read: ‘progrès’.