Thanks for your letter of the 9th of March, and for the
If it has been as cold in Paris as it was here last week, it
cannot have agreed very well with her.
When you say that you sometimes wish we could talk together
more, about a variety of things in art, I for my part have that
longing continually, and sometimes very strongly.
So often I should like to know your opinion about this or
that, about some studies, etc., for instance, if they might be
of some use, or if it would be advisable, for some reason or
other, to go more deeply into them.
So often I should like to have some more information about
things on which you are better informed than I, and I should
like to know more about the state of things, I mean what kind
of work the painters are producing. One can write about it to
some extent, but writing takes time, and one cannot always get
to it, nor can one go enough into detail.
And just now, owing to a piling up of studies, it would be
worth a great deal to me if we could talk things over together,
and I should also like so much to have you see how the studio
Well, let us hope that it will not be so very, very long
before you come to Holland.
Be clear in your mind, dear brother, how strongly and
intensely I feel the enormous debt I owe you for your faithful
It would be difficult for me to express all my thoughts
about it. It constantly remains a source of disappointment to
me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be. The
difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be
overcome at once. To make progress is a kind of miner's work;
it doesn't advance as quickly as one would like, and as others
also expect, but as one stands before such a task, the basic
necessities are patience and faithfulness. In fact, I do not
think much about the difficulties, because if one thought of
them too much one would get stunned or disturbed.
A weaver who has to direct and to interweave a great many
little threads has no time to philosophize about it, but rather
he is so absorbed in his work that he doesn't think but acts,
and he feels how things must go more than he can explain
it. Even though neither you nor I, in talking together, would
come to any definite plans, etc., perhaps we might mutually
strengthen that feeling that something is ripening
within us. And that is what I should like.
This morning I was at Van der Weele's, who was working at a
marvellous picture of diggers, horses, and sand wagons, large
size. It was beautiful in tone and colour, a grey morning haze,
it was virile in drawing and composition, there was style and
character in it - in fact it was by far the most beautiful and
strongest thing of his I have ever seen. He had also painted
three very beautiful serious studies of an old white horse, and
also a beautiful little landscape in the dunes.
This week he will probably look in at my studio, which I
should like very much indeed.
Last week I met Breitner in the street; his position in
Rotterdam frees him from much anxiety; however, Van der Weele
had a little note from him just this morning, to the effect
that he was ill again. To tell you the truth, the impression I
had when I saw him again was not very assuring; he had an air
of disappointment, and he spoke in rather a queer way about his
Now I still have to tell you about the surprise I have had.
I received a letter from Father, very cordial and cheerful, it
seemed to me, with twenty-five guilders enclosed. Father wrote
he had received some money, on which he had no longer counted,
and he wanted me to share in it. Wasn't that nice of him,
however it quite embarrasses me.
But, involuntarily, a thought occurred to me. Can it he,
perhaps, that Father has heard, from someone or other, that I
was very hard up? I hope that this was not his motive, for I
think this idea of my circumstances would not be correct. And
it might give Father anxieties which would be quite out of
place. You will understand my meaning better than Father would
if I were to try to explain it to him.
In my opinion, I am often rich as
Crœsus, not in money, but (though it doesn't
happen every day) rich, because I have found in my work
something to which I can devote myself heart and soul, and
which gives inspiration and significance to life.
Of course my moods vary, but there is an average of
serenity. I have a sure faith in art, a sure confidence
that it is a powerful stream, which hears a man to harbour,
though he himself must do his bit too; and at all events I
think it such a great blessing, when a man has found his work,
that I cannot count myself among the unfortunate. I mean, I may
be in certain relatively great difficulties, and there may be
gloomy days in my life, but I shouldn't want to be counted
among the unfortunate nor would it be correct.
You write in your letter something which I sometimes feel
also: “Sometimes I do not know how I shall pull
Look here, I often feel the same in more than one
respect, not only in financial things, but in
art itself, and in life in general. But do you think
that something exceptional? Don't you think every man with a
little pluck and energy has those moments?
Moments of melancholy, of distress, of anguish, I think we
all have them, more or less, and it is a condition of every
conscious human life. It seems that some people have no
self-consciousness. But those who have it, they may sometimes
be in distress, but for all that they are not unhappy, nor is
it something exceptional that happens to them.
And sometimes there comes relief, sometimes there comes new
inner energy, and one rises up from it, till at last, some day,
one perhaps doesn't rise up any more, que soit,
but that is nothing extraordinary, and I repeat, such is the
common human fate, in my opinion.
Father's letter was an answer to a letter of mine, which I
remember quite well was very cheerful, for I told him about the
changes in the studio, and I did not write anything to Father
that could give rise to thoughts of my being in any
difficulties, either financial or otherwise. In fact, Father
doesn't write anything about it, and his letter is very
cheerful and cordial, but the money came so unexpectedly that
involuntarily the thought came into my head, can it be that
Father is worried about me? If I am mistaken in this, it would
be very much out of place to write as if that were the
principal impression his kindness has made upon me - the
principal impression being that I feel very grateful for having
received something which enables me to do several things that
otherwise I couldn't have done. But I tell you my thoughts
about it, because in case you should perceive that Father is
worrying about me, you would be better able to reassure him
At the same time, you see from this that I have had a real
stroke of luck. I intend to spend it on getting my watercolour
things in good shape. I will pay off Leurs and will be able to
arrange for different things in the studio, in order to make it
even more practical.
It sometimes seems to me that the prices of the various
painting and drawing materials are terribly inflated. So that
it thwarts many a person from painting. One of my ideals is
that there would be more institutions like the Graphic,
for instance, where people who want to work can find all the
materials, on condition that a certain ability and energy is
Like Cadart, in his day, enabled many a man to etch, who
wouldn't have been able to etch, because of the expenses, if he
had had to pay them from his own pocket.
I am privileged above many others, but I cannot do
everything which I might have the courage and energy to
undertake. The expenses are so extensive, beginning with a
model and food and housing, and ending with the different
colours and brushes.
And that is also like a weaving loom, where the different
threads must be kept apart.
But we all have to bear up against the same thing - so just
because everyone who paints or draws has to hear it, and if
alone would almost sink down under it, why shouldn't more
painters join hands, to work together, like soldiers of the
rank and file; and why, especially, are those branches of art
which are least expensive so much despised?
I have made two sketches with it again, a cradle, and one
more like the one I sent you already, in which I washed a great
deal with sepia. As to what you write about that sketch of
those two figures, the one above the other, it is mainly an
effect of perspective, and also of the great difference in size
between the little child and the woman on the
What I myself dislike more than that line of the
composition is something which, in fact, you have noticed,
that the two figures are too much of one tone, which is partly
the fault of the crayon, which does not express all shades, and
one would like to strengthen it with lithographic crayon, for
instance. But I think that the principal reason is that I do
not always have time enough to work as elaborately as I should
like. If one works a long time on a drawing, it is possible to
go more into detail, to seek the different tones. But too often
I must work in a hurry. I dare not ask too much from my models.
If I paid them better, I should have the right to demand longer
poses, and could make better progress.
At present, I often think I get more from them than a just
return on what I pay them in money.
However, I do not mean to say that there is not a still more
important reason, namely, that I must become more skilled than
I am before I can be ever so slightly satisfied with myself.
And by and by I hope to make better and more elaborate things
in the same amount of time that I now spend on them.
Well, brother, my best wishes for your patient, I long
sometimes for another description of an aspect of Paris from
you, and — rest assured I'll make shift as best I can,
with what your faithful help gives me — that I try and
try to make an even better use of it, and especially that I
blame myself for being unable to manage to do what I want with
it. Adieu 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 11 March 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 274.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.