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Arles, on or about Sunday, March 25th, 1888; To Theo van Gogh

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Throughout the month of March, we’re featuring excerpts from our recently-published collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, a beautiful volume of van Gogh’s letters entitled Ever Yours: The Essential Letters, edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten, and Nienke Bakker. The letters we feature will be posted on the same day of the month on which they were originally penned. Here are links to the 3/10/1888, 3/3/1883, and 3/20/1884 letter posts.


My dear Theo,

Your letter gave me great pleasure, I thank you for it as well as for the 50-franc note.

I congratulate you heartily on Tersteeg’s letter —I think it’s absolutely satisfactory.

I’m convinced there’s nothing hurtful in his silence towards me, in any case he’d have expected you to give me his reply to read. And it’s much more practical for him having only to write to you, and as far as I’m concerned, if he doesn’t think what I’m doing is utterly bad, you’ll see, he’ll write me a line as soon as he’s seen my work. So once again, I’m happier with his simple and friendly reply than I could tell you.

You’ll have noticed that he states his willingness to make a purchase of a good quality Monticelli for his own collection. If you told him that we have a bouquet of flowers in our collection that is more artistic and more beautiful than a bouquet by Diaz.

That Monticelli would sometimes take a bouquet of flowers in order to put on a single panel the whole range of his richest and most perfectly balanced tones. And that you have to go straight to Delacroix to find such an orchestration of colours.

That —I’m referring to the painting at the Delarebeyrettes’ —we currently know of another bouquet of very good quality and at a reasonable price, and that in any case we think it’s much finer than the Monticellis with figures, which are all over the place these days and belong to a period of decline in Monticelli’s talent.

I hope you’ll send him Gauguin’s fine seascape. But how pleased I am that Tersteeg has replied in this way.

When you write to him, say a word about Russell. When I write to Russell myself, I’ll talk about his paintings and I’ll ask him to do an exchange with me, because we’d want to mention him and show his paintings when it comes to the question of the modern-day Renaissance school.

I’ve just done a clump of apricot trees in a little fresh green orchard.

The Seine with the Clichy bridge
The Seine with the Clichy bridge, 1888. Pen and ink (discoloured to brown), 3 x 2.6 cm (image). Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Had some trouble with the sunset with figures and a bridge that I was talking to Bernard about. As the bad weather prevented me from working on the spot, I completely worked this study to death trying to finish it at home.

However, I started the same subject again immediately afterwards on another canvas, but as the weather was quite different, in a grey palette and without figures.

I wouldn’t think it a bad idea if you sent Tersteeg one of my studies —do you mean the Clichy bridge with the yellow sky and two houses reflected in the water?

That one, or the butterflies or the field of poppies might do. However, I hope to do better things here. If you happen to feel that way, you could tell Tersteeg that I myself think I have a better chance of sales in Holland with the studies of nature in the south, and that when Tersteeg comes to Paris in May he’ll find a consignment with some subjects from down here.

And again, many thanks for all the initiatives you’ve taken for the Independents’ exhibition, all in all I’m really pleased that they’ve put them with the other Impressionists. But —although this time it makes no difference at all —in future my name must be put in the catalogue the way I sign it on the canvases, i.e. Vincent and not Vangogh, for the excellent reason that people here wouldn’t be able to pronounce that name.

I’m returning herewith the letter from Tersteeg and the one from Russell —it will perhaps be interesting to keep the artists’ correspondence.

If you included the little head of a Breton woman by our friend Bernard in your consignment, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. We must show him that all the Impressionists are good and that what they do is very varied.

I think our friend Reid regrets falling out, unfortunately there can be no question of offering him the same advantages again —that is, trying to let him have paintings on commission. It’s not enough to love paintings, and it seemed to me that he lacked warm feelings for painters. If he changes in that respect it won’t be overnight. Tersteeg was a personal friend of Mauve and many others, and he has that je ne sais quoi that wins art lovers over. You’ll see that what gives self-confidence is knowing people.

I’ll write more in the next few days, but wanted to congratulate you right away on the renewal of your relations with Holland.

Handshake.

Yours truly,
Vincent

The city of Paris pays practically nothing, would be sorry to see the Seurats in a provincial museum or a cellar —these paintings must stay in living hands. If Tersteeg was willing ———. If we do the 3 permanent exhibitions, we’d need a large Seurat for Paris, one for London and one for Marseille.

 

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