Herewith I am returning the 2.50 guilders you were so kind
as to lend me.
I think you will admit that times are not easy, and such
experiences (and there are so many worse things - compared with
other kinds of treatment, this may be called generous) - and
such experiences, I say, are not exactly very encouraging.
Art is jealous, and demands our whole strength; and then,
when one devotes all one's powers to it, to be looked upon as a
kind of unpractical fellow and all kinds of other things - yes,
that leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth.
Oh well, we must try to carry on.
I answered him that I did not pretend to be acquainted with
the commercial value of things - that since he as a merchant
told me there was no commercial value in them, I did not want
to contradict him or to deny it - that I personally attached
more importance to the artistic value, and preferred to
interest myself in nature instead of calculating prices and
fixing commercial values - that if, after all, I spoke to him
about the price, and could not give my things gratis for
nothing, this was because, like all other human beings, I have
my human needs, wanting food and a roof over my head, and so
on, and that I considered it my duty to adjust these relatively
insignificant matters. But I told him that I did not want to
impose my work upon him against his wishes, and that I was
willing to send him new drawings, but that I was equally
willing to reconcile myself to losing his custom. But I am
practically sure that what will happen is that this behaviour
of mine will be considered ungrateful, rude and impertinent.
And that as soon as the subject is raised, I shall be
reproached in this way “Your uncle in Amsterdam, who
meant so well by you, and was so kind to you, and gave you such
help ... in consequence of your pretentiousness and
obstinacy... you treated him so ungratefully that it is your
own fault, etc., etc.”
My friend Rappard, in point of fact I don't know whether I
ought to laugh or cry over such an incident. I think it so
characteristic. Of course - those rich merchants are the
decent, honest, righteous, loyal, sensitive fellows, and we,
poor devils, who sit and draw, in the country, or in the
street, or in the studio, at times very early in the morning,
at other times in the dead of night, at times in the blazing
sun, at other times in the snow, we are the fellows
without finer feelings, without practical minds, and above all,
without “distinguished manners.” All right, so be
This uncle of mine in Amsterdam also told me with great
aplomb that De Groux was really “a bad man.” You
will understand how much this altered my opinion of father De
Groux. The only thing I said - and to which he has not made an
answer up till now, this noble merchant - was this:
“Cependant il me semble qu'il s'agit bien moins de
gagner que de mériter.” [And
yet it seems to me that it is much less a question of
earning than of deserving.]
Oh well - I only mention it to open the safety valve of the
engine a bit, so to speak. Otherwise I might go on bearing a
grudge because of the whole affair, whereas there is nothing I
wish more than to stop thinking about it and to forget it
altogether - but these fellows always begin by being so nice;
at first they are so charming that, when it comes to the point,
one is all the more flabbergasted.
Adieu; once more: many thanks, and believe me,
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Anthon van Rappard. Written 4 or 5 June 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number R09.
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