Bloaters on a Piece of Yellow Paper

Bloaters on a Piece of Yellow Paper

"My dear Theo, I’m writing to tell you that I’ve seen Signac, which did me a lot of good. He was very nice and very straight and very simple when the difficulty arose of whether or not to force open the door closed by the police, who had demolished the lock. They began by not wanting to let us do it, and yet in the end we got in. As a keepsake I gave him a still life which had exasperated the good gendarmes of the town of Arles because it depicted two smoked herrings, which are called gendarmes, as you know. You know that I did this same still life two or three times before in Paris, and once exchanged it for a carpet back then. That’s enough to say what people meddle in and what idiots they are."
Details:
Painting Date
15th of January 1889
Detailed Image Link
Description:
“My dear Theo,
I’m writing to tell you that I’ve seen Signac, which did me a lot of good. He was very nice and very straight and very simple when the difficulty arose of whether or not to force open the door closed by the police, who had demolished the lock. They began by not wanting to let us do it, and yet in the end we got in. As a keepsake I gave him a still life which had exasperated the good gendarmes of the town of Arles because it depicted two smoked herrings, which are called gendarmes, as you know. You know that I did this same still life two or three times before in Paris, and once exchanged it for a carpet back then. That’s enough to say what people meddle in and what idiots they are.”
I find Signac very calm, whereas people say he’s so violent, he gives me the impression of someone who has his self-confidence and balance, that’s all. Rarely or never have I had a conversation with an Impressionist that was so free of disagreements or annoying shocks on either side.
For example, he went to see Jules Dupré and reveres him. No doubt you had a hand in his coming to boost my morale a little, and thank you for that. I took advantage of my trip out to buy a book, Ceux de la glèbe by Camille Lemonnier. I’ve devoured two chapters of it – it’s so serious, so profound.4Wait for me to send it to you. This is the first time for several months that I’ve picked up a book. That tells me a lot and heals me a great deal.
In fact there are several canvases to send to you, as Signacwas able to see – he wasn’t frightened by my painting, or so it seemed to me.  1v:2
Signac thought I was looking well, and it’s perfectly true.
On top of that, I have the desire and the taste for work. Of course, it’s still the case that if things were to be messed up for me in my work and in my life every day by gendarmes and venomous layabouts of municipal electors who petition against me to their mayor5 elected by them (and who is consequently keen on their votes) it would be only human on my part that I should succumb once more. Signac, I’m led to believe, will tell you something similar.”

To Theo. Arles, Sunday, 24 March 1889

Notes:   Signac later recalled: ‘All day long he talked to me of painting, literature, socialism. In the evening he was a little tired. A fearsome mistral was blowing, which may have made him irritable. He tried to gulp down a litre of turpentine that was on his bedroom table. It was time to go back to the hospital.’ (Toute la journée il me parla peinture, littérature, socialisme. Le soir il était un peu fatigué. Il faisait un coup de mistral effroyable qui a pu l’énerver. Il voulut boire à même un litre d’essence de térébenthine qui se trouvait sur la table de la chambre. Il était temps de rentrer à l’hospice.) See Coquiot 1923, p. 194 (also included in Verzamelde brieven1973, vol. 3, p. 417). Later on, paint became a threat to Van Gogh’s health; see letter 794, n. 1 and letters 835 and 838.

2. Signac received Still life with red herrings (F 510 / JH 1661 [2767]).
3. Two still lifes with smoked herrings are known from the Paris period: Still life with red herrings (F 203 / JH 1123 [2545]) and Still life with red herrings (F 283 / JH 1120 [2544]).

Painting, Oil on Canvas
Arles: January, 1889
Private collection
F: 510, JH: 1661

Where Vincent Was:
Arles

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