It's Sunday again, and rainy as usual. We have had a gale
too this week, and there are few leaves left on the trees. I
can tell you, I'm glad the stove is burning. When I happened to
arrange my drawings this morning, namely, the studies from the
model which have been done since your visit (not counting the
older studies or those I drew in my sketchbook), I counted
about a hundred.
I mention the number because I remember that you asked me
during your visit if I had even more studies than the drawings
you saw then. I do not know whether all painters, even those
who look down on my work so much that they think it beneath
their dignity to take the slightest notice of it, work harder
than I do. Nor do I know if they know a better way than to work
from the model, though, in my opinion, they do it too little;
as I wrote you before, I cannot understand why they do not take
more models. (Of course I do not mean people like Mauve and
Israëls - though the latter, in my opinion, sets a
splendid example of always working with a model - but I mean
more especially people like De Bock or Breitner.) I haven't
seen the latter since I visited him in the hospital during his
illness. By chance I heard a rumour that he had become a
teacher of drawing at a high school; from himself I did not
hear a single word.
This week I had a letter from Rappard, who is also
astonished at the behaviour of many painters here, and whose
picture was refused for the Arti [a society of painters in
Amsterdam] exhibition. I ask you, is it just that he and I are
counted for nothing?
For I assure you that he works hard. This summer he was in
Drenthe, and after that he worked quite a while in the hospital
for the blind in Utrecht. It was curious to hear him tell of
some experiences which were almost the same as mine.
But you remember that not long ago I wrote you
(when sending you a sketch in colour of a potato market),
“I must try to paint the bustle of the streets
again.” The result if this is about twelve watercolours
which I am doing right now, so I do not want to say that
I cannot do anything with my studies or that I make them
without a definite purpose, but only that I believe I could do
more with them and make them more directly effective if
I could sometimes consult you about it.
But however that may be, I work with great pleasure these
days, and I hope there will be some things among my pictures
which will please you too when you come.
I believe that if one wants to make figures, one must have a
warm feeling, what Punch calls in its Christmas picture, Good
will to all - that means one must have real love for one's
fellow creatures. I for one hope to try my best to be in such a
mood as much as possible.
It is for just this reason that I am sorry not to have any
intercourse with painters, and that, as I wrote you before, one
cannot sit cosily together round a fire on a rainy day like
today, looking at drawings or engravings and stimulating each
other in this way.
I must ask you something: Are there any cheap Daumier prints
to be had, and, if so, which ones? I always found him very
clever, but it is only recently that I have begun to have the
impression that he is more important than I thought. If you
know any particulars about him or if you have seen any of his
important drawings, please tell me about it.
I had seen some caricatures of his before now, and perhaps
for that very reason had the wrong idea about him. His figures
always impressed me, but I think I know only a very small
portion of his work, and that, for instance, the caricatures
are not at all the most representative or most important part
I remember we spoke about it last year on the road to
Prinsenhage, and you said then that you liked Daumier better
than Gavarni, and I took Gavarni's part, and told you about the
book I had read about Gavarni which you have now. But I must
say that since then, though I have not come to like Gavarni
less, I begin to suspect that I know but a very small portion
of Daumier's work and that the very things which would interest
me most are in the portion of his work which I do not
know (though I already greatly appreciate what I know of
him). And I have a vague recollection, but I may be mistaken,
that you spoke about large drawings, types or heads of people,
and I am very curious to see them. If there were more things of
his as beautiful as a print I found recently, “Les 5 ages
d'un buveur [the five ages of a drinker], or like that figure
of an old man under a chestnut tree which I mentioned to you
before - yes, then he would perhaps be the greatest of all. Can
you perhaps give me some information about it?
Do you remember the figures by De Groux from the
“Uilenspiegel,” which I used to have but have lost,
alas. Well, those two prints by Daumier just mentioned are like
them, and if you can find more of them, those are what I mean
(I care much less for the caricatures).
I am awfully sorry that I don't have those De Groux and
Ropses any more. I gave them away in England with some other
things to Richardson, the travelling representative for Goupil
Well, my boy, one thing I can promise you against the time
of your arrival, besides the watercolours and painted studies,
I shall beg you to take the trouble of looking through a
portfolio with a hundred drawings, all studies of figures. I
already have them now, if I count some old ones in. But in the
time between now and your arrival, I will try to make some
better ones instead of those which are not good enough, and I
will try to put some more variety into them. Goodbye, with all
my heart I wish you some prosperity and happiness. Believe me,
with a handshake in thought,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 29 October 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 239.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.