Schenkweg 138, Thursday
I received your letter with the enclosed 100 fr., and thank
you very much for both. What I had already feared when I wrote
you last has really happened, It is a miserable condition and is caused by
overexertion. Mauve has again been to see me, and once more we
agreed to keep up courage through all.
Now I have recovered enough so that I
got up again last night and rummaged around, straightening
things. When the model came of her own accord this morning,
though I only half expected her, I put her into the right pose
with Mauve's help and tried to draw a little; but I could not
do it, and I felt miserable and weak the whole evening. But if
I rest a few more days, it will be over, and I need not be
afraid of its coming back soon if I am careful.
When I was in Brussels last winter, I also took a bath at the
bathing establishment as often as I could, two or three times a
week; and as it did me a lot of good, I will do it here too. No
doubt if you keep it up for some time, it will help you a great
deal, because it keeps the blood circulating well and the pores
of the skin open; that way the skin can fulfill its function -
otherwise it would shrivel up, especially in winter.
And I tell you frankly that in my opinion one must not
hesitate to go to a prostitute occasionally if there is one you
can trust and feel something for, as there really are many. For
one who has a strenuous life it is necessary, absolutely
necessary, in order to keep sane and well. One must not
exaggerate such things and fall into excesses, but nature has
fixed laws which it is fatal to struggle against. Well, you
yourself know all you have to know on that subject. It would be
well for you, it would be well for me, if we were married - but
what can we do?
I'm sending you a little drawing, but you must not conclude
that they are all like that; this has been washed in quickly
and thinly, but this does not always succeed with the larger
ones, indeed, it seldom does. It will perhaps show you that it
is not a hopeless business and that I have learned the knack of
The last time Mauve was here, he asked me again if I needed
money. I was then able to say I did not want it, but you see,
in case of need, he would be willing to do something. And so
though there will be some difficulties now and then, I hope we
can manage to struggle through. Especially if Mr. Tersteeg
would be so kind as to give me some credit in case you're
unable to send me money, and when it is absolutely
You speak of fair promises - with me it is more or
less the same. Mauve says it will be all right; but for all
that, the watercolours I make are not quite saleable. Now I
have some hope myself, and I will work hard on them, but it is
often hopeless enough, for when I try to work them up, they
become too heavy. It's exasperating, for it's no small
difficulty. And experiments with watercolours are rather
expensive - paper, paint, brushes, model, and time, and
But even so, I think the most economical way is to keep
going without losing time.
For this bad time must be lived through.
I must try to forget some things I taught myself, and learn
to look at things in quite a different way.
It takes a lot of effort before one has a steady eye for the
proportion of things.
It is not always easy for me to get on with Mauve or vice
versa, because I think we are equally nervous; and it costs him
a real effort to show me things, and no less for me to
understand them and try to put them into practice.
But I think we are both beginning to understand each other
better and the feeling is becoming somewhat deeper than
superficial sympathy. He is very busy with his large picture,
which was at one time intended for the Salon; it is a splendid
thing. And he is also busy with a winter landscape. And some
I think he gives each picture and each drawing some small
part of his life. A times he is tired to death, and recently he
said, “I do not seem to get any stronger”; and
whoever had seen him at that moment would not soon forget the
expression on his face.
When my drawings become heavy, thick, muddy, black and dull,
Mauve comforts me by saying, “If your work were
transparent now, it would only possess a certain chic,
and it would probably become heavy later on. Now you are
pegging away at it and it becomes heavy, but later it will go
quickly and become light.” I have no objections if this
is true. And you can see it now from the little one I am
sending: it was started and finished in a quarter of an hour,
but only after I had made a larger one which had become too
heavy. And just because I had worked so hard on that large one,
when the model accidentally resumed the pose, I was able to
sketch this little one on a bit of paper that was left from a
sheet of Whatman. This model is a beautiful girl - she is the
model for Artz and many others - but she wants 1.50 guilders a
day, and that is too expensive for me just now. So I try to
manage with my little old woman.
The only thing to do then is to go on with the work; for
Mauve and Israëls and so many others who are examples to
the rest of us know how to profit from every mood.
Well, my youth is gone - not my love of life or my energy,
but I mean the time when one feels so lighthearted and
carefree. I really say, So much the better, now there are much
better things, after all.
Keep heart, boy, I think it rather mean and cheap of Messrs.
Goupil & Co. to refuse you when you wanted to draw some
money. You certainly don't deserve such stinginess, for you
have pulled many of their chestnuts out of the fire, and do not
spare yourself. So you deserve to be treated with some
A handshake in thought, I hope soon to have better news to
tell you than I have had lately, but you must forgive me, I
feel rotten. Adieu.
Yours sincerely, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 28 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 26 January 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 173.
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