|Courtesy of www.VincentVanGogh.org|
My dear Theo,
Yesterday I spent the evening with that second lieutenant, and he plans to leave here on Friday, then he'll stay one night in Clermont, and from Clermont he'll send you a telegram to tell you by which train he'll be arriving. Sunday morning, in all probability.
The roll that he'll bring you contains 36 studies; among them there are many with which I'm desperately dissatisfied, and which I'm sending you anyway because it will still give you a vague idea of some really fine subjects in the countryside.
For example, there's a quick sketch I made of myself laden with boxes, sticks, a canvas, on the sunny Tarascon road; there's a view of the Rhône, in which the sky and the water are the colour of absinthe, with a blue bridge and black figures of ruffians; there's the sower,a washing-place and still others, not at all successful and unfinished, especially a large landscape with brushwood.
What's happened to the Souvenir de Mauve? Having heard no more about it, I was inclined to believe that Tersteeg may have said something disagreeable to you, to let you know that it would be refused, or some other unpleasantness. Naturally, I wouldn't get worked up about it in that case.
At the moment I'm working on a study like this: boats seen from a quay, from above; the two boats are a purplish pink, the water is very green, no sky, a tricolour flag on the mast. A workman with a wheelbarrow is unloading sand.8 I have a drawing of it too. Did you receive the three drawings of the garden? They'll end up by not taking them at the post office any more, because the format's too big.
I fear that I won't have a very fine female model. She had promised, then as it appears, she earned a few sous with some riotous living and has better things to do. She was extraordinary; her expression was like that of Eugène Delacroix. And a strange, primitive bearing. I take things with patience, for want of seeing other ways of enduring them, but it's annoying, this constant aggravation with models. I hope to do a study of oleanders in the next few days.11 If we painted smoothly like Bouguereau people wouldn't be ashamed to let themselves be painted, but I believe it's made me lose models, that people found that it was 'badly done', it was only pictures full of painting that I was doing. So the good whores are afraid of being compromised, and that people will laugh at their portraits. But it's enough to make you almost lose heart when you feel that you could do things if people had more good will. I can't resign myself to saying, 'grapes are sour'; I can't get over the fact that I don't have more models. Well, we must be patient and look for others.
Now our sister will come soon to spend some time with you; I have no doubt that she'll enjoy herself.
It's a rather sad prospect to have to say to myself that the painting I do will perhaps never have any value. If it was worth what it costs I could say to myself, I've never concerned myself about money.
But in the present circumstances, on the contrary, one will soak it up. Ah well, and all the same, we must still continue and try to do better.
It very often seems wiser to me to go to Gauguin instead of recommending to him the life down here; I so much fear that in the end he'll complain of having been inconvenienced. Will it be possible to live at home here, will we manage to make ends meet? Because that's a new venture. In Brittany, now, we can calculate what it will cost, and here I have no idea. I continue to find life quite expensive, and you don't get very far with the people. Here there would be beds and some pieces of furniture to buy, and the expenses of his journey and everything he owes. That seems to me to risk more than is proper, when he and Bernard spend so little in Brittany. Well, we'll have to make up our minds soon, and for my part I have no preferences. It's a simple question of deciding where we have the most chance of living cheaply.