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My dear Theo,
Since I received your letter and the money, I have had a
model every day and am now up to my ears in work.
I've a new model now, though I had done a hasty drawing of
her once before. Or rather, there is more than one model, for I
have already had 3 individuals from the same family, a woman of
about 45 who is just like a figure by Ed. Frère, and her
daughter, about 30, and a younger child of 10 or 12. They are
poor people and, I must say, splendidly willing. I only managed
to get them to agree to pose with some difficulty and on
condition that I promise them regular work. Well, that was
exactly what I wanted so badly myself, so I consider the deal a
The younger woman's face isn't beautiful, because she has
had smallpox, but the figure is very graceful and I find it
rather charming. They have the right clothes, too, black merino
and a nice style in bonnets and a beautiful shawl, etc.
You needn't worry too much about the money because I reached
an agreement with them at the beginning. I promised that I
would give them a guilder a day as soon as I sold something.
And that I shall make up then for paying too little now.
But I simply must sell something. If I could afford to, I
would keep everything that I am doing now for myself, since if
I could just keep it for a year, I feel sure I would get more
But anyway, in the circumstances I should find it very
gratifying if Mr. Tersteeg did take something now and then, if
necessary on condition that it will be exchanged if it isn't
sold. Mr. Tersteeg has promised to come round to see me as soon
as he can find the time.
The reason I should like to keep them is simply this. When I
draw individual figures, it is always with a view to a
composition with more figures, for instance a
3rd-class waiting room, or a pawnshop, or an
interior. But the larger compositions must mature gradually,
and for a drawing with, let's say, 3 seamstresses, one might
have to draw 90 seamstresses. Voilà l'affaire. [There
you have it.]
I have had a kind note from C. M. with a promise that he
will be coming to The Hague soon and visit me then. Well, it's
just another promise, but perhaps something will come of it.
For the rest I'm going to run after people less and less,
dealers or painters, it doesn't matter who they are. The only
people I shall run after will be models, since I'm sure that
working without a model is quite wrong, at least for me.
It's gratifying, isn't it, Theo, when there's a little bit
of light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm seeing a little bit
of light now. It's gratifying to draw a human being, something
alive - it may be damned difficult, but it's wonderful
Tomorrow I shall be giving a children's party, two children
whom I have to entertain and draw at the same time. I want
there to be some life in my studio and already have all sorts
of acquaintances in the neighbourhood. On Sunday I am having a
boy from the orphanage, a real type, but unfortunately I can
only get him for a short time.
It may be true that I don't have the knack of getting on
with people who are sticklers for etiquette, but on the other
hand perhaps I get on better with poor or common folk, and what
I lose on the one hand I gain on the other. Sometimes I just
leave it at that and think: after all, it's right and proper
that I should live like an artist in the surroundings I'm
sensitive to and am trying to express. Honni soit qui mal y
Here we are at the beginning of another month, and although
it's not yet a month since you sent me something, I would ask
you to be kind enough to send me some more soon, if you can. It
doesn't have to be 100 frs. all at once, but just a little to
be going on with between now and when you can send the rest. I
mention this because you said in a previous letter that you
wouldn't be able to raise any money until after
It grieves me sometimes when I realize I'm going to have to
keep a model waiting, because they need it so badly. So far I
have been paying them, but next week I shan't be able to. But
I'll be able to get a model anyway, either the old woman or the
younger one or the child.
Incidentally, Breitner mentioned you to me the other day,
saying there was something he was very sorry for and which he
thought you might still be cross about. Apparently, he still
has a drawing that belongs to you, but I didn't understand
exactly what it was all about. He is at work on a large affair,
a market that will be full of figures. Last night I went out
with him to look for different types of figures on the street
so as to do a study of them later with a model in the studio.
I've drawn an old woman in this way whom I saw on the Geest,
where the madhouse is.
Well, bonsoir, I hope to hear from you soon,
Ever yours, Vincent
I had to pay the rent too this week. Good-night, it's two
o'clock already and I haven't finished yet.
At this time, Vincent was 28 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 3 March 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 178.
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