Vincent van Gogh - Thistles 1888

Thistles 1888
Oil on canvas 59.0 x 49.0 cm. Arles: August, 1888
Collection Niarchos

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Monday, 27 February 1888.
My dear Theo,
Would you read the letter I’ve written to Mr Tersteeg — and would you send it to him with a letter from you if you judge the move is right. You see, for myself I thought we had to make an effort from this end, because we’ll have Reid through Van Wisselingh and Van Wisselingh through Tersteeg. And that’s what you’ll explain to Tersteeg yourself. Fed as I am by you — and as you draw your own income from the firm of Boussod Valadon & Cie, I don’t want to do anything against the firm. On the contrary, I ask no more than this, that what you’ve started in the shop on the boulevard should last and become more important. But you need support from other employees in the firm. If Tersteeg refuses to get involved in it we still have Reid and Wisselingh as English agents. You know that Van W. has married the daughter of the Glasgow picture dealer who’s in competition with Reid. If Reid takes the Impressionists, if he finds a way of starting up there, and if he tries to do that against the rest of us, from that moment we’re entitled to let his opponent over there know what’s going on. But if Wisselingh ever gets involved, and especially if today or tomorrow you have a chat with W., Tersteeg could immediately complain: why did you, esteemed employee of our firm, who handles the Impressionists, not tell me what was going on?

So you’ll have to talk to Tersteeg about it first, and to save you the trouble of writing a long letter it is I who have written it this time.
You could add to it by saying something vague about the question of Reid and the Impressionists and the interest that Van Wisselingh may subsequently have, hence the complications of this matter.
And what I’ve said in a postscript, namely that in view of the low prices compared with the interest the paintings present, Tersteeg should easily be able to sell about fifty in Holland, and besides he’ll be obliged to have some, because if people are already talking about them in Antwerp and Brussels, they’ll be talking about them in Amsterdam and The Hague too before long.
Anyway, what’s proposed in the letter is by no means unpleasant either for Tersteeg or for you: you’ll show him round all the studios and he’ll see for himself that next year people will be talking a lot and will keep on talking about the new school for a long time. If, though, you think the letter is badly timed you have my full permission to burn it. But if you send it, suggest the same thing to him yourself.
But you’re well aware that Tersteeg is at home in English business matters like a fish in water, and so it’s entirely possible that it’s he who would control the way these new paintings are doing over there. Really, this way Tersteeg and the London manager would organize the permanent exhibition of the Impressionists in London — you would have the one in Paris and I would start it up in Marseille. But Tersteeg will have to see a lot for himself first, and that’s why a grand tour of the studios is a good idea at this point; you’ll explain to him the whole importance of the matter as you go round.
The artists’ association is all the more likely to come about since Tersteeg won’t be against our having the artists’ interests at heart, nor that above all we want to increase the cost price of a painting, which in fact wouldn’t be saleable if it cost nothing.
In any case, we’ve got to talk about this boldly now, haven’t we — and Mesdag and others have got to stop POKING FUN at the Impressionists. It will be helpful in any case for Tersteeg to be interviewed on this subject.
You see that for myself I still see the crux of the matter in England, either artists will give their work to the dealers over there at miserable prices, or artists will get together and themselves choose intelligent agents who aren’t usurers. Now think the matter over — and send the letter or burn it, as you think best. It’s not a cut and dried thing I want to send you, but I’d very much like to see Tersteeg involved because he has the necessary self-assurance.
I shake your hand firmly.
I have one more study.