This week I have been working hard on a large drawing which
I sent you a little sketch of.
When I was with Rappard, he said, “Those very first
drawings of yours were good after all; you ought to make some
again in the same way.”
Do you remember that in the very beginning I sent you some
sketches, “Winter Tale,” “Shadows
Passing,” etc.? You said at the time that the
action of the figures was not well enough expressed, do you
remember? That was quite true, but now for several years I have
drudged exclusively on the figure to get some action and
structure into it. And because of that very drudgery I had
somehow lost the strong desire to compose and to let the
When Rappard spoke with a certain warmth about that very
first time, it awoke again. Now, superficial though this little
sketch may be, I think you will find something of that very
first sentiment back in it, but now with more action.
These are “Peat Cutters” in the dunes - the
original drawing is about one meter by half a meter.
It is a splendid bit of scenery from which one can draw an
infinite number of subjects. I have been there very often
recently, and made all kinds of studies of it. Rappard saw
them, but when he was here, we did not yet know how to put them
together. I have figured out this composition since then. And
once I had, it came off pretty well, and at four o'clock in the
morning I was already at work on it in my garret.
Having started composing once again, I intend to go on with
it and to carry out some which I have in my head and for which
I have already made the studies. I have made preparations for
it by ordering some stretchers and also a large wooden frame to
be able to work in the frame and shut it off. I
hope that when this is finished, you will not mind taking it
with you some day to show to the illustration people, and that
such a thing will please you more than those single
But I can't tell beforehand, and we shall see how it is when
you come. But, boy, I am so glad that I have been able to start
this before you come. We can speak better about the
I want so much to make something comforting, something that
makes one think.
You know that one of the pictures I think most beautiful of
all is “The Walk on the Ramparts” by Leys. That
style, however, is not the fashion nowadays, but the sentiment
in it has something eternal; one may have different conceptions
of reality, of nature, and yet find again, even now, what was
more generally sought after and felt in Leys's time than now.
But it demands continuous effort to express what one feels and
to get it into shape.
I cannot tell you how that visit to Rappard has cheered me;
I like his work so much, and when I was with him, he said it
had also done him good to be with me. By talking together, we
have got new ideas.
I wish you could meet Rappard again when you come to
Holland. I think in his studio, as well as in mine, you would
get an impression more reminiscent of what one used to see in
the studios than of what one sees at present.
Yet I think it will have your sympathy.
Right now Rappard is working on a kind of smithy, and last
winter he painted “The Asylum for the Blind” and
“The Tile Painters.” All of them have style and are
serious and original, I think.
You understand all this causes me many expenses. Without the
money I got from Rappard, I should not have been able to
And though I have studies for it, I still need models
continually, and the progress depends on whether I have money
to pay them.
I have a few more in mind, but I'm getting short of money
You see, whenever I have a bit of luck, I immediately make
use of it to undertake a thing that would otherwise have
So whenever you can spare it, do send me something extra if
This “Peat Cutters” is quite different from
“Le Paradou,” but I assure you I also feel for
“Le Paradou.” Who knows, someday I may attack such
a Paradou subject.
Write soon if you haven't written already.
When you see the drawing, I don't think you will find it too
large. The proportions of the figures is such that one can put
some vigour into them, and each of them demands a special
study. I have studies for all the figures that appear in it. I
made this drawing with charcoal and crayon and printer's
Well, good luck and write soon. A few days ago I was with
Van der Weele in the dunes. There we found a spot where they
were digging sand from the dunes, a splendid thing with diggers
Adieu, with a handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
[Sketch “Peat Cutters” F 1030, JH 364 enclosed
At this time, Vincent was 30 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 30 May 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 287.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.