It is just getting dark, and for curiosity's sake I am sending
you today's drawing, because I wrote you about it. This morning
I began a watercolour of a boy and a girl in
such a soup kitchen, with another figure of a woman in a corner.
That watercolour became too blurred, which was partly
because the paper was not suitable.
But I saw how infinitely better the studio is now for
colour, and of course I will not stop at this first experiment.
So the morning passed, and I spent the afternoon making a
drawing with crayon, the one piece that was left from this
summer. I am sending you the drawing by the same mail. I don't
think it finished enough, but as a “sketch from
life” there is perhaps some life in it, and some human
sentiment. By and by better things will follow.
This drawing still leaves the question of watercolours
undecided, but gives a provisional answer to what you wrote
about the little sketch I sent you to give you an idea of the
effect of the windows in the studio.
There is a soul and life in that crayon - I think
conté pencil is dead. Two violins may look the same on
the outside, but in playing them, one sometimes finds a
beautiful tone in one, and not in the other.
Now that crayon has a great deal of tone or depth. I could
almost say, That crayon knows what I want, it listens with
intelligence and obeys; the conté pencil is indifferent
The crayon has a real gypsy soul; if it isn't asking too
much of you, send me some of it.
Who knows, if now, with the better light, and the crayon,
and the lithographic crayon, I shan't succeed in making
something for illustrated papers. Current events - that
was what they asked for - if they mean such things as, for
instance, illuminations for the king's birthday, I should care
very little for it - but if their lordships the managers would
consent to rank scenes from the daily life of the people under
current events, I should gladly try my best to make them.
When I have some more of that crayon, I shall make a few
more figures of almshouse men.
And from those soup kitchens, of which this is the first,
you will get some quite different compositions.
You will perhaps find this size a little too large, but I
think after having worked some time, always with models, I
shall succeed in making the figures so vigorous that their
being large won't matter, and it will be even better that way.
It need not prevent my making smaller ones, and I can always
reduce the size. There is much that I don't like in this rough
sketch, but I know for sure that in a short time I shall make
When you see this group of people together, can you
understand that I feel at home with them?
Some time ago I read the following words in Eliot's Felix
Holt the Radical:
The people I live among have the same follies and vices as
the rich, only they have their own forms of folly and
vice - and they have not what are called the refinements of the
rich to make their faults more bearable.
It doesn't much matter to me - I am not fond of those
refinements, but some people are, and find it difficult to feel
at home with such persons as have them not.
I shouldn't have thought of it in these terms, but I have
felt the same sometimes. As a painter I not only feel perfectly
at home and contented with them, but I find in them a quality
that sometimes reminds me of gypsies, at least of something as
As I have written so often lately, I probably won't write
again before the tenth; don't send me the money later if you
can help it, for I promised Leurs I should pay something off
about that time; I must do that before I can get some new
things which I shall need. You would do me a great favour by sending that
Adieu, my very best wishes, especially for your patient.
Yours sincerely, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 4 March 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 272.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.