HOME AGAIN IN SWITZERLAND
Theo returned home to Basel with mixed emotions. He was pleased that he was able to repay his debt with the paintings he had promised. And he found, as he wrote in his journal, that the city’s cultural life was beginning to blossom. There were concerts by world-famous artists and the city authorities had provided a liberal budget for the visual arts. Frescoes, mosaics and sculptures were ordered to fill every available space in the city. Art had become part and parcel of the social order.
But Theo felt for all that, the painter was still an outsider. “This is not what I am looking for,” he wrote in his journal “It wasn’t that I was anti-establishment. A Ballios I was born and a Ballios I remain. But the life I found in Basel struck me as being fake. I could not become part of it; my whole fabric revolted against it. I longed to find a place where the painter played a natural part in the life of the people.”
The place that Theo longed for was the South Seas. There he had found happiness and contentment, and there he could paint what he wanted to paint and where he wanted to paint without being questioned. It was the freedom he enjoyed and cherished so much. He had to return. But what about the ones he was leaving behind?
Theo wondered how Helga would take his leaving for the second time. He didn’t have to wonder long. He learned she had met the son of another baker, and with the prodding of her father they married. He admitted it was wrong for him to say that he did not feel jilted for he did but beneath it all he was happy for her, and happy for himself. He knew deep down he could never take her to Tahiti with him. He couldn’t take anyone anymore. He had to do what he had to do alone.
Thus, Theo planned his return. With the success of his first trip he was not criticized and thought to be crazy as he had been before. But what would be painful was leaving his mother, father and sister. His father still had hopes that his son would come back to the fold. The problem was alleviated somewhat when his sister began to take an interest in the office machine business. But the news of Theo leaving again was not taken lightly. The mental suffering, the anguish that he had to endure, was his awareness that this was not going to be a short trip. He was returning to the South Seas to make it his home, to remain the rest of his life. To remain in Basel was to lose himself as an artist. It was most likely he might never return, never to see his mother and father again. His only salvation was the hope that they would understand. And for that, only time would tell.
Theo was not that solvent and money, as always, was the problem. But he wouldn’t let that deter him. Wealth to him was not money; he felt he was wealthy. Happy as a lark, once decisions were made and plans settled, he began to round up subscriptions for a new paintings club. “Not that I needed all that much. Sea fares were still cheap in those days in the fall of 1934,” he wrote in his journal. And so for 350 francs he bought a passage on the Hakezaki Maru to Singapore.