Vincent van Gogh skriver til sin bror Theo i Paris om hvor hyggelig det er å ha den fem år yngre danske maleren Christian Mourier-Petersen på besøk der i det gule huset i Arles.
Været er ustabilt for tiden; det blåser mye, og himmelen er overskyet. Men mandeltrærne er i ferd med å springe ut, og Vincent gleder seg dessuten over at noen av bildene hans nå er utstilt på de uavhengige kunstnernes utstilling i Paris.
Det har nettopp vært en stor og uhyggelig sak i Arles: to menn er blitt drept utenfor et av de lokale bordellene. Dette har forårsaket opptøyer i byen, og den opprrøte menneskemengden har gjort tsert inntrykk på Vincent. Han kan fortelle at han selv ogås har besøkt horehuset. Blant byens barn skal Vincent ellers etter hvert bli kjent som en svært hyppig gjest på horehusene i byen.
Han oppfordrer Theo varmt til å oppsøke maleren Signac, som han er i ferd med å bli kjent med.
Og han spør bekymret etter brorens helse. Om sin egen kan han fortelle at han plages med feber, og at han har vanskelig for å spise. Men alt dette vil gå over, mener han.
Dansken han er blitt kjent med er ganske velstående, og har studert medisin noen år, men nå har han tatt en pause fra studiene og på er på reise i Frankrike. Han ønsker å lære seg å male, og Vincent er en velvillig lærer.
De to diskuterer litteratur: Zola, brødrene de Goncourt, Maupassant.
Her er Vincents brev i engelsk oversettelse:
My dear Theo,
I thank you very much for your letter, which I hadn’t even dared to expect so soon as regards the 50-franc note you included with it.
I see you’ve had no response yet from Tersteeg — I don’t see the need to press the point from our end in a new letter — however, if you had some official business to transact with the firm of Boussod Valadon & Cie in The Hague you could make it clear in a P.S. that you’re quite surprised that he hasn’t let you know that he received the letter in question. As far as work goes, I brought home a no.15 canvas today, it’s a drawbridge, with a little carriage going across it, outlined against a blue sky — the river blue as well, the banks orange with greenery, a group of washerwomen wearing blouses and multicoloured bonnets.1 And another landscape with a little rustic bridge and washerwomen as well.2 Lastly an avenue of plane trees near the station.3 12 studies altogether since I’ve been here.4
The weather’s changeable, often windy and cloudy skies — but the almond trees are starting to blossom everywhere. All in all I’m very pleased that the paintings are at the Independents.5
You’ll do well to go and see Signac at his place.6 I was very pleased at what you wrote in today’s letter, that he made a better impression on you than the first time. In any case I’m happy to know that from today you won’t be on your own in the apartment. Be sure to say hello to Koning for me. Is your health good? As far as mine goes, it’s better, but eating’s a real chore as I have a fever and no appetite, but it’s just a passing thing and a question of patience.
I have company in the evening, because the young Danish painter who’s here is very nice; his work is dry, correct and timid, but I’m not averse to that when the person is young and intelligent. At one time he’d begun to study medicine, he knows the works of Zola, De Goncourt and Guy de Maupassant, and he has enough money to have an easy time of it.7 Besides that he has a very serious wish to do something different from what he’s doing at present. I think he’d do well to put off returning home for a year, or to come back after a short visit to his compatriots.
But, my dear brother — you know, I feel I’m in Japan. I say no more than that, and again, I’ve seen nothing yet in its usual splendour.
1v:3 That’s why (even while being worried that at the moment expenses are steep and the paintings of no value), that’s why I don’t despair of success in this enterprise of going on a long journey in the south. Here I’m seeing new things, I’m learning, and being treated with a bit of gentleness, my body isn’t refusing me its services. For many reasons I’d like to be able to create a pied-à-terre which, when people were exhausted, could be used to provide a rest in the country for poor Paris cab-horses like yourself and several of our friends, the poor Impressionists.
I attended the inquiry into a crime committed at the door of a brothel here; two Italians killed two Zouaves.8 I took advantage of the opportunity to go into one of the brothels in the little street called ‘des Récollets’.9 Which is the limit of my amorous exploits vis-à-vis the Arlésiennes. The crowd almost (the southerner, following Tartarin’s example,10 being braver in good intentions than in action), the crowd, I’m telling you, almost lynched the murderers locked up in the town hall, but its revenge was that all the Italians, men and women, including the young chimney-sweeps, had to leave the town under duress.11
I wouldn’t talk to you about that if it weren’t to tell you that I’ve seen the boulevards of this town full of excited people. And really, that was quite beautiful.
I made my last three studies with the help of the perspective frame you know about.12 I attach importance to the use of the frame, because it doesn’t seem unlikely to me that several artists will use it in the not too distant future, just as the old German and Italian painters, certainly, and, I’m inclined to believe, the Flemish artists too, used it.
The modern use of this tool may differ from the use people made of it in the past — but — isn’t it also true that with the process of painting in oils we nowadays achieve very different effects from those of the inventors of the process, J. and Hubert van Eyck?13 This is to say that I still hope not to work for myself alone. I believe in the absolute necessity of a new art of colour, of drawing and — of the artistic life. And if we work in that faith, it seems to me that there’s a chance that our hopes won’t be in vain. You’ll still know that I’m in a position to send you some studies if need be, only it’s still impossible to roll them up. I shake your hand firmly. On Sunday I’ll write to Bernard and Lautrec because I solemnly promised to. Anyway, I’ll send you the letters.14 I’m really sorry about Gauguin’s situation, especially since, now that his health has been undermined, he no longer has a constitution that could only benefit from being put to the test, on the contrary, it will just wear him out now, and that will surely make it difficult for him to work. More soon.
Rohde, H. P. (1994). Van Goghs verden (2.udg. ed.). København: Hernov.