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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
The Hague, 14 August 1882
Relevant paintings:


"Sketch by Vincent," Vincent van Gogh
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"Dunes," Vincent van Gogh
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"Weaver facing left with spinning wheel," Vincent van Gogh
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Dear Theo,

You must not take it amiss if I write you again - it is only to tell you that painting is such a joy to me.

Last Saturday night I attacked a thing I had been dreaming of for a long time. It is a view of the flat green meadows, with haycocks. It is crossed by a cinder path running along a ditch. And on the horizon in the middle of the picture the sun is setting, fiery red.[Painting lost]

[Sketch of the work drawn here.]

I cannot possibly draw the effect in such a hurry, but this is the composition.

But it was purely a question of colour and tone, the variety of the sky's colour scheme - first a violet haze, with the red sun half covered by a dark purple cloud which had a brilliant fine red border; near the sun reflections of vermilion, but above it a streak of yellow, turning into green and then into blue, the so-called cerulean blue; and then here and there violet and grey clouds, catching reflections from the sun.

The ground was a kind of carpetlike texture of green, grey and brown, but variegated and full of vibration - in this colourful soil the water in the ditch sparkles.

It is something that Émile Breton, for instance, might paint.

Then I have painted a huge mass of dune ground - thickly painted and sticky.

And as for these two, the small marine and the potato field, I am sure no one could tell that they are my first painted studies.

To tell you the truth, it surprises me a little. I had expected the first things to be a failure, though I supposed they would improve later on; but though I say so myself, they are not bad at all, and I repeat, it surprises me a little.

I think the reason is that before I began to paint, I had been drawing so much and had studied perspective in order to build up the composition of the thing I saw.

Now, since I have bought my paint and brushes, I have drudged and worked so hard on seven painted studies that right now I'm beat. One of them has a figure in it, a mother with her child, in the shadow of a large tree, in tone against the dune, on which the summer sun is shining - almost an Italian effect. I simply couldn't restrain myself or keep my hands off it or allow myself any rest.[Painting lost]

As you perhaps know, there is an exhibition of the Black and White Society. There is a drawing by Mauve - a woman at a weaving loom, probably in Drenthe - which I think superb.

No doubt you saw some of them at Tersteeg's. There are splendid things by Israëls - including a portrait of Weissenbruch, with a pipe in his mouth and his palette in his hand. By Weissenbruch himself, beautiful things - landscapes and also a marine.

There is a very large drawing by J. Maris, a splendid town view. A beautiful W. Maris, among other things, a sow with a litter of pigs, and cows. Neuhuys, Duchâtel, Mesdag. By the last, besides a fine large marine, two Swiss landscapes which I think rather stupid and dull. But the large marine is splendid.

Israëls has four large drawings, a girl at the window, children near a pigsty - the sketch for the little picture at the Salon - a little old woman kindling the fire in the twilight, at the time engraved for the Art Chronicle.

It is very inspiring to see such things, for then I perceive how much I still have to learn.

But this much I want to tell you - while painting, I feel a power of colour in me that I did not possess before, things of broadness and strength.

Now I am not going to send you things at once - let it ripen a little first - but know that I am full of ambition and believe that for the present I am making progress. (In three months, however, I will send something to give you an idea of how I'm getting on.) But that is just the reason for me to persevere and to acquire what I need.

So do not think that I am satisfied with myself from what I say about my work - the contrary is true; but I think this much is gained: in the future when something strikes me in nature, I shall have more means than before with which to give it new vigour.

And I am not displeased that what I shall make in the future will look more attractive.

As far as I can see, the painters who occasionally cannot work for a week or two are not the worst ones. It may be because they are the ones “qui y mettent leur peau,” as father Millet says. That doesn't matter, and in my opinion one must not spare oneself when there is something important to do. If a short period of exhaustion follows, it will soon pass, and so much is gained that one harvests one's studies just the way a farmer harvests his crops. Now for myself, I have not yet thought of taking a rest. Only yesterday, Sunday, I did not do so much - at least I did not go out to paint. I will see to it that even if you come this winter, you will find the studio full of painted studies.

I had a letter from Rappard yesterday; he has been to Drenthe, and judging from the two little sketches he sent me, he has not been idle. He seems to work very hard and well, too - figures as well as landscape.

Well, adieu, I must set off to work again; with a handshake,

Yours sincerely, Vincent

It is now just two years since I began to draw in the Borinage.


At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Source:
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 14 August 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 225.
URL: http://webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/11/225.htm.

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