I want to explain somewhat more clearly my answer to your
line, “Tersteeg has been almost like an older brother to
us, try to stay friends with him.” My answer was that he
might be that to you, but for years I personally have seen only
his unfriendly and harsh side.
In all those years, between the time when I left, or got my
dismissal from Goupil and the time when I began to draw (which
I acknowledge was a mistake not to have done at once), in those
years when I was abroad without friends or help, suffering
great misery (so that in London I often had to sleep in the
open air, and did so three nights in succession in the
Borinage), did he ever give me a piece of bread? Did he ever
encourage me, he who knew me of old, did he ever lend me a
helping hand when I almost broke down?
I think not. Did he ever help me in any way? No, except when
he lent me the Bargues after I had literally implored him four
When I sent him my first drawings, he sent me a paintbox but
not a cent of money. I readily believe those first drawings
were not worth any money; but, you see, a man like Tersteeg
might have argued, “I know him of old, and I will help
him get on,” and he might have known I needed it so badly
in order to live.
When I wrote him from Brussels, “Wouldn't it be
possible for me to work in The Hague awhile and have some
intercourse with painters?” he tried to put me off, and
wrote, “Oh no, certainly not, you have lost your
rights”; I had better give lessons in English and French;
of one thing he was sure, I was no artist. Or I had better try
to get copying work from Smeeton and Tilly, though the
latter was not exactly in my neighbourhood, and besides, in
Brussels several lithographers had refused me this; there was
no work, business was slow, was the answer.
When I showed him drawings again last summer, he said:
“I hadn't expected this.” But he didn't help
me, and didn't take back what he had said before. When I came
to The Hague after all, without asking his advice, he tried to
cut me out; I hear he laughed at my becoming a painter.
I perceived that Mauve thought me a greenhorn, and Mauve was
quite astonished to find me a different person from what he had
heard. I did not ask Mauve for money, but of his own accord
Mauve said, You need money, I will help you earn money, you may
be sure that now your hard years are over and the sun is rising
for you - you have worked hard and honestly deserve it. And the
first thing Mauve did was help me get settled. And then all
this changed - Mauve's sympathy, which was like water to a
parched plant to me, ran dry.
Because Tersteeg poisoned Mauve's ear by saying, “Be
careful, you can't trust him with money. Let him go, don't help
him any longer; as a dealer I see no good coming of it” -
or at least something like this.
And when I said to him, Tersteeg, take it easy with that
slander of yours, he looked astonished, he hadn't said a thing;
he pretended I had only imagined it. Until one fine day he
threatened me, “Mauve and I will see to it that you don't
receive any more money from Theo.” Then I no longer
doubted, but realized he was betraying me. Because I knew what
Mauve had told me about the money I get from you - that it
would be very good for me to receive it for at least another
When you forsake somebody in the winter and then try to take
his bread away from him, is that forcing a person or
It is not considerate, not delicate, it is not good manners,
it is not humane. And what am I? - only a man who has
difficult, trying work to do, for which he needs quiet and
peace and some sympathy; otherwise the work is impossible.
Theo, think these things over and write me soon. Though I
felt terribly grieved at Mauve's neglecting me, I have
struggled through this winter as best I could. But can you
wonder that it was a shock to me, and that it sometimes seems
as if my heart would break?
The likes of Tersteeg “laugh” at that; but you
are my brother, and I hope you will not laugh.
I still have more to tell you about my plans for the future,
how I intend to carry on my work. But first you must come here,
and so I won't write about it now, as I hope it will not be so
very long before you come. You have seen the two drawings I
sent you. These were not made by accident; I can produce such
work regularly, and it improves as I go on. So it is not
unreasonable for me to insist upon its being arranged so that I
no longer need be afraid that what is strictly necessary will
be taken from me, nor always feel as if it were the bread of
Bread, clothes, rent, models, and drawing materials are
strictly necessary. And the way I arrange it, this is not so
very much, and I can make drawings in return if people will
only take them. I have no desire to become rich, but of course
I can't do without those necessary things. A workman is worthy
of his hire.
I wish it might be arranged so I could receive the money
weekly, because it is so hard to reckon a month in advance.
If Tersteeg takes back the worst of what he has said, I will
assume he said it unintentionally, and then all will be
forgiven and forgotten. If he persists, I won't consider him a
friend, but an enemy who begrudges me the very light of my
Do not be angry with me, Theo, for troubling you with this.
But this is the way things have been all winter long, and what
have I done to deserve all this trouble?
Adieu, Theo, with a handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
It was impossible to make the views of the city for C. M.
because of all the rain and wind, so I didn't receive the money
for them. Therefore, as I have to pay the rent on the first of
May, if you could send something about that time, it would be
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written late April 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 191.
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