I do not want you to imagine my being in a depressed or
abnormal mood. And therefore I already wrote you in my last
letter about my work, and as I have to ask you a few things in
connection with it, I will not put off writing again.
When you come, I want to try and show you some watercolours
done in different ways. Then we can see and talk over what you
think is best. So I work regularly on that every day, and will
continue to do so until you come.
I have now made three of Scheveningen, also the “Fish
Drying Barns,” which you know - drawn as elaborately -
but now there is colour too. I am sure you know, Theo, that it
is not more difficult to work in colour than in black and
white; indeed, perhaps the reverse, for as far as I can see,
three-fourths of it depends on the original sketch, and almost
the whole watercolour rests on its quality.
It is not sufficient to give an à peu près; it
was and is my aim to intensify it.
In the black-and-white “Fish Drying Barns” that
is already apparent, I think, for in them you can follow
everything and trace the composition of the whole. And look
here, I think the reason for my working so much more easily in
watercolours is that I have tried so hard and for such a long
time to draw more correctly.
Tersteeg called my activities a waste of time, but you will
soon see that I have gained time. I already feel it now, and
when you come, you will see it for yourself.
When you come, I know a few beautiful paths through the
meadows where it is so quiet and restful that I am sure you
will like it. There I discovered old and new labourers'
cottages and other houses that are characteristic, with little
gardens by the water's edge, very cosy. I will go and draw
there early tomorrow morning. It is a road which runs through
the meadows of the Schenkweg to Enthoven's factory or the
I saw a dead willow trunk there, just the thing for Barye,
for instance. It was hanging over a pool that was covered with
reeds, quite alone and melancholy, greenish, yellowish, but
mostly a dull black, with bare white spots and knotted
branches. I am going to attack it tomorrow morning.
I also did a bleaching-ground at Scheveningen right on the
spot, washed in at one sitting, almost without preparation, on
a piece of very coarse Torchon (unbleached linen).
Enclosed a few small sketches of it[F None, JH 163].
About the time of your arrival I will have some things to
show you. I think you will like that “Fish Drying
Barn” now that it is done in colour.
Be sure, boy, that I am quite my old self again, and be sure
I believe that all depends on the work, and that I consider
everything in direct relation to it. The new studio is a great
improvement on the old one; it makes work easier, and it is
much better for posing especially because one can take a
I am sure that the extra rent I pay is made up for by better
But I have a favour to ask. I could very well understand,
and it would be very natural if, instead of sending money on
the first of August, you gave it to me when you came, for
instance on the seventh of August. But as I bought paper and
paint and brushes as soon as I received your last letter, and
shall need a few other things about the first of August, I beg
you kindly to send me the money about the first, though you
will be coming soon after. For I figured it out exactly, and I
shall be absolutely penniless after the first few days of
August. I hope it will not be inconvenient for you. Of course I
am not asking for more, but I am asking you to send it on time,
on the first day of August if possible, if not, in the first
days of the month.
I also have a second drawing of the Rijswijk meadow, in
which the same subject gets quite a different aspect through a
change of viewpoint.
[A sketch of the Rijswijk meadow was drawn here.]
You see I am quite taken up by landscape, but it is because
Sien is not yet fit to pose; nevertheless, the figure remains
the principal thing for me.
When you come, I shall take care to be near the house as
long as you are in town so you will know where to find me; and
then while you attend to business and pay your calls, I will go
on drawing as usual. I can meet you by appointment wherever you
wish, but for several reasons it is better for us both, I
think, if I do not go with you to see Tersteeg or Mauve, etc.
I tell you this before your visit so that you may know that
I will not be any trouble to you, but for the rest you will
understand that I actually long for every half hour that you
can spare. I think we shall feel easier with each other if
we stick to the subject of painting and drawing, and talk
especially about that. But if there is nothing else which
bothers or worries you, then remember I haven't a single secret
from you and you have my full confidence in everything.
I am also very anxious to show you the wood engravings. I
have a splendid new one, a drawing by Fildes, “The Empty
Chair of Dickens,” from the Graphic of 1870.
I could have bought three etchings by Méyron for 2
guilders, but I let them go. They were indeed very beautiful,
but I have so few etchings, and when I buy anything, I stick to
wood engravings. But I wanted to tell you about them - Blok is
the one who has them; I don't know if all Méryons are
rare and have any money value. They are from an old series
I am still wrapped up in those books by Zola. How he
painted those Halles!
the baby are well and are getting stronger, and I love them
Someday I must do the cradle in watercolour (when it is
rainy and I cannot work outside). But for the rest I want to
show you landscape watercolours when you come. I hope to do
figure watercolours this winter after I have been here a year.
First I shall have to draw more from the nude, and more in
black and white too, I think. We shall talk all that over, and
I am sure that your visit will contribute much toward keeping
things in order and making the work go smoothly.
Adieu, with a handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
By going quietly on with my work I have every hope of
eventually getting an entirely new circle of acquaintances to
compensate for the loss of the sympathy of Mauve, Tersteeg and
others; but I will make no step toward it, not the least - it
must come from the work itself.
What has happened to me with Tersteeg is not at all unusual;
everybody meets with such things in life. One cannot tell
exactly where the fault lies. But with Tersteeg it is an old
trouble. I am now almost certain that long ago he said things
about me which contributed not a little toward putting me in a
bad light. But I need not mind that - what could harm me before
cannot harm me now.
When you come to the studio, you will see for yourself that
it really is absurd when he says, “Oh! Your drawing will
never amount to anything.” However, it is hard to
contradict such a remark, for as soon as one does, one is
called conceited, and they mention the greatest artists and
say, “He fancies he's like them.”
But I repeat, everyone who works with love and intelligence
finds a kind of armour against the opinion of other people in
the very sincerity of his love for nature and art. Nature is
also severe and, so to speak, hard; but she never deceives and
always helps us on.
So I do not count my falling into disgrace with Tersteeg, or
whomever, a misfortune; though I am sorry about it, that
cannot be the real cause of misfortune. If I had no love for
nature or my work, then I should indeed be misfortunate. The
worse I get along with people, the more I learn to have faith
in nature and to concentrate on her.
All those things make me feel brighter and fresher -
you will see that I am not afraid of a bright green or a soft
blue, and the thousands of different greys, for there is
scarcely any colour that is not grey: red- grey, yellow-grey,
green-grey, blue-grey. This is the substance of the whole
When I returned to that fish drying barn, a wonderfully
bright fresh green of turnips or rapes had sprouted in those
baskets full of sand in the foreground which serve to prevent
the sand from drifting off the dunes. Two months ago everything
was bare except the grass in the little garden, and now this
rough, wild, luxuriant growth forms a very pretty effect in
contrast to the bareness of the rest.
I hope you will like this drawing, the distant horizon, the
view across the roofs of the village with the little church
steeple, and the dunes - it was all so fine. I can't tell you
what great pleasure I had making it. So do come soon. I think
you will approve of the change of studio when you see that it
gives me an infinitely better opportunity to work - more
distance, better light, more room.
I also had a letter from Van Rappard.
I am confoundedly pleased that the fellow is so absorbed in
his English wood engravings. It is true I encouraged him in the
beginning, but now he no longer needs any encouragement, he is
almost as enthusiastic about it as I. When you come, I will
show you a few which you will not soon forget after you have
seen them. And there are things among them quite different from
Boughton's style, for instance, though he certainly is also one
of the main ones. I mean things remarkable for their reality
and style, like Albrecht Dürer's, and yet at the same time
with much local colour and chiaroscuro. One does not see these
things often now, for one has to look for them in magazines of
ten and fifteen years ago, for instance, at the time of the war
of '70 - '71.
[“Bleaching ground Scheveningen” JH 163 included
in the letter.]
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 26 July 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 220.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.