It is true that I have written you often lately, but my
letters harp so much on the same thing that I am angry with
myself for not writing you in a somewhat more amusing way. It
will come back someday - I think that when you have been in the
studio again, there will be more animating subjects to write
about. At least I hope so, and there will be, if you feel
sympathy for what I am doing and what you have not yet
This week I saw in Paris Illustré a fine reproduction
of a drawing by Ulysse Butin, “La Mise à
l'Eau.” Fishermen and women pushing a boat into the sea.
I saw it at the very time when I happened to be thinking of
Butin and of Legros, while I was drudging on a thing with a
subject quite different from what they make, namely those
kneeling potato diggers working with their short-handled forks;
not long ago I wrote you about making studies of them. I now
have a sketch of it on the easel with four figures, three men
and a woman. I want something broad and
audacious, with silhouette and relief in it. That is what I am
seeking more and more.
I always remember the strong impression made on me by the
first picture of Butin's I saw (one of his later ones). It was
the one which he himself made an etching of later. I think it
is called “The Jetty,” women on the lookout for
boats which are expected to come into port on a stormy night.
That was the first one I saw of his, and since then I have seen
the one at the Luxembourg and several others.
I find him very honest and serious, and I believe that just
when it seems he has drawn with a hasty hand, his drawing has
remained après tout no less reasonable and correct. He
is one of the men I do not know personally, and yet when I see
his work, I can imagine how he did it.
Don't you like Blommers's picture at the salon,
“November”? I didn't see the picture, only the
reproduction. I think it looks exactly like a Butin, and it has
more passion (and something dramatic) than Blommers's pictures
Right now I am working on no less than seven or eight
drawings of about a meter in size, so you can imagine that I am
up to my ears in work.
But I hope so much that my hand will become more skillful
from this long period of drudgery.
Here follows a little sketch of potato diggers, but on the
drawing they are sitting a little wider apart.
As I write you, I think of that evening - perhaps you
remember it, though it is years ago - when you and I together
spent an evening with Mauve, when he was still living near the
barracks, and he gave us a photograph of a drawing of his, a
Little did I dream at the time that I myself should become a
draughtsman, nor could I think at the time that difficulties
would ever arise between Mauve and me.
I always wonder at our not having made up, the more so
because really, if one considers it thoroughly, there is hardly
any difference of opinion between us. However, it is so long
ago now that my good spirits with regard to my work and the
confidence that it will come out right after all are beginning
to return. I have experienced that before, notwithstanding
everything, but one can't help getting upset and having a
melancholy feeling when such persons disapprove of it or say
that you are on the wrong track.
Will you write soon? As always, your letter will be welcome.
Can you believe that it is not at all easier to draw a figure
of about a foot high than to draw a small one? On the
contrary, it is much more difficult, and getting it in that
size, yet in proportion as strong as the little figures, is
sometimes hard work, I assure you. Adieu, boy, have a good time
and good luck in business. With a handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 30 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 23-28 June 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 296.
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