My heartfelt thanks for your money order, no less for your
letter 1. The reason for my disappointment over the
money I expected, about which I wrote, has now been
established. A letter containing money (especially intended to
pay for lithographs) got lost, and there is little hope of its
turning up again, though the matter is being investigated. But
I would rather have it this way than to find that they were not
appreciated at all, as was the case last summer with my
drawings. It is very annoying not to be able to press on with
my work as vigorously as I could have if the money had not been
lost, but things will be straightened out eventually, and in
the meantime I am trying to continue working anyway.
I have little time to write, but all the same I want to tell
you that I think your remarks on the faulty drawing in the
lithograph in question are correct in principle - and that I
now notice it myself.
I should like to write at greater length about your
statement, “One should only put something before the
world if that something fulfills the strictest demands of
technique.” That is what the art dealers say too, and
I do not believe what they say. Think it over a little
2 - that would save me the trouble of writing about
it - and ask yourself whether it is not just as permissible to
put a drawing like this one, just as is drawn from the model
without any subsequent retouching, before the world (although I
admit that there is some faulty drawing in it), as it is for me
to go out into the street in my work clothes if I think it
convenient, and without having to plant myself before a mirror
to see if there's something the matter with my attire before I
leave the house. If you admit that these things are similar,
though you yourself would do neither, then the question remains
whether it is not often more advisable during a campaign to
march quickly than to smarten oneself up.
Further, I cannot agree with what you say about the
way the public looks at things, namely being struck by faulty
drawing before seeing the character. I do believe, however,
that a relatively small part of the public looks at pictures in
exactly the way you describe, but not the big crowd to whom
Herkomer says, “For you, the public, it is really
done” 3 - at least that's what I
So much for that - if I can find time and words for it, I
shall try to make my meaning clearer to you someday.
As I happen to be writing about matters on which I am not
entirely in agreement with you (your remarks about my faulty
drawing do not belong to them; I found every one of them
correct), I want to speak to you about your “big
decoration” and “menu,” and I will say only
this, Old fellow, you'd better do something else; it's
dangerous navigation. You know where you begin, but you don't
know whether you'll have the power to stop. Once you have got
the reputation of being able to do something for “festive
occasions,” there will never be a “festive
occasion” without your being the victim. Look it up in De
Oude Heer Smits,4 who wrote a very witty and
practical little essay about this which will explain it to you
more clearly than I can. This is the time for campaigning; at
least a time when a campaign can be undertaken.
I am not speaking about the nude in itself, but of the
I know Boughton's “The Heir” as a painting; I
saw it at the Royal Academy and later at Goupil's. At the time
I admired it so much that I made a little sketch of it for an
acquaintance in Holland, to give him an idea of it. I do not
know the wood engraving.
I cannot get Renouard's “The Miners” here. I
have gone to all kinds of places to get the last issues of
L'Illustration; and they either did not have any or had issues
in which these prints do not occur.
On condition that you will let me pay for it - not otherwise
- I should like to ask you to look up the issues and to order
them for me, at least if you intend to order them for
If they should not be able to do it in Utrecht, I can order
them here, but only if I know the numbers in which they
occur and the dates. One must always hurry when ordering
separate issues, as the orders are often ignored, or that
particular issue sold out. Thus, because time is of the
essence, it might be more practical if you ordered them in
I once got Renouard's “Enfants assistés”
in this way.
Yes - and now you must not take it amiss if I state my
meaning somewhat more forcibly: the more you make menus and
decorations for festive occasions - however nice or well done
they may be - the less you will remain at peace with your
conscience as an artist. And the more you devote yourself to
serious toiling and moiling, such as the “Asylum for the
Blind,” the “Tile Painters,” the “Girl
Knitting” the more you will feel that though this toiling
and moiling may not score an immediate success, it has its
The Society Kunstliefde [Love of Art] is more in need of
your serious work than of a decoration, however well it might
Now it seems to me that I have a daalder [1.50 guilders] of
yours in my possession with which to buy wood engravings, or
something like that, as the opportunity occurs, and on this
condition I won't return the surplus of your money order, which
is at the moment doubly welcome, for it will be a tremendous
disappointment if the letter is not found. Once again, many
thanks for the early remittance, and be assured that if I say
something about that decoration or other things in which my
opinion differs from yours, I speak that frankly just because I
appreciate your intentions and your work and consider them
However harsh it may sound, I really believe that you will
have the greatest and best influence, e.g. in the Society
Kunstliefde, if you decline all posts of honour and do not
occupy yourself with being of “service” on festive
occasions - from which I do not expect any good anyway, either
for the artists or for the public, and which I do not consider
proofs of prosperity of the societies which celebrate them.
Adieu, believe me, with a handshake in thought,
Ever yours, Vincent
See letter 249 to Theo of 1 December 1882.
Vincent wrote the italicized part of this sentence in
Italicized part written in English.
“Old Mr. Smits,” pseudonym of the Dutch
humorist Mark Prager Lindo (1819-77).
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Anthon van Rappard. Written c. 16 November 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number R19.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.