I didn't intend to write so soon again - but as you know, I
am trying to do different kinds of drawings. And now again
today I made another sketch with the rest of that little piece
of crayon - and afterward washed it in with sepia. I think I
find in this crayon all kinds of qualities which make it an
excellent means of expressing things from nature.
This morning I took a walk outside the town, in the meadows
behind the Zuidbuitensingel where Maris first lived, and where
the public ash dump is. I stood there a long time, looking at a
row of the most twisted, gnarled, sorry-looking pollard willows
I have ever seen. They bordered a path of vegetable garden -
freshly dug up - and they were mirrored in a dirty little ditch
- very dirty - but in which some blades of spring grass were
already sparkling. But that rough brown bark, the freshly
spaded earth, in which one could see the fertility, as it were
- it all had something so intensely rich in the dark deep tones
that it reminded me again of this crayon. So that as soon as I
have some more, I hope to try my hand at landscape.
Though the enclosed sketch is very unfinished, it seemed to
me there might be things in it compatible with your intentions
- and again, it is a “sketch from life.” Don't
think I consider it of good quality, even if it isn't detailed
enough - far from it; but the elaborateness which you as well
as I should like to see in it doesn't consist so much of
details added later, but ought to be expressed at once, more
than is the case now. For it must not lose its freshness that
way, and, if only the impression is correct, sometimes there is
expression even in unfinished things. But of course I shall try
to bring more variation into the tones. “Y mettre des
détails” leaves me rather cool, but
“dégrossit” [take away the coarseness] is
certainly my aim, that is, “serrer la forme de plus
près” [concentrating the form more firmly]. Though
this sketch is not sufficiently so, that little bit of sepia
made so much difference in the general effect that, comparing
it to yesterday's, I thought you could see the different ways
in which that crayon can be used.
I think you will see from the figures how the studio has
improved as to light. How beautiful everything out-of-doors is
these days, don't you think so?
You can imagine that I am full of plans.
You know that I am working on many different things, for I
should so much like to know many different techniques; because
it stimulates one to work hard, and creates new ideas.
I wish I had thought of that crayon before, for it is
preferable to many other things. Nor is it as hard as a
conté pencil - that is, it doesn't scratch so.
I don't ask you to send me some because I could not work
without it, but because with it, I could make many other things
in addition to my usual work.
Did I already write you about those two large etchings by
Israëls, a man lighting his pipe and the interior of a
workman's home? How beautiful they are. I think it is so
splendid of Israëls to go on with his etching, the more so
because all the others have given it up, notwithstanding the
enthusiasm with which the etching club was originally started.
At least, most of them haven't made any progress in etching,
and if they make an etching now, it is no better or more
perfect than what they did years ago. But father Israëls,
notwithstanding his grey hairs, is still young enough to make
progress - and great progress, too - and I call this real youth
and lasting vitality.
Confound it, if the others had done the same, what beautiful
Dutch etchings would have been given to the world. I have two
little etchings by Israëls, perhaps his very first, a
little girl with a spade in a garden, and a woman with a basket
on her back; do you know them? I believe the Belgian
Aquafortistes publish it.
So with that little bit of crayon I have already made two
sketches, and some small croquis, too, and there is still some
left. I think perhaps in the future I am going to use little
else for the ordinary work.
Adieu, with a handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
[Sketch `Public Soup Kitchen” F 1020, JH 333 enclosed
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 6 March 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 273.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.