I received your letter just now, coming home from the dunes
behind Loosduinen, wet through, for I had been sitting in the
rain for about three hours on a spot where everything was
reminiscent of Ruysdael, Daubigny or Jules Dupré. I came
back with a study of twisted, gnarled little trees,
and another one of a farm after the rain.
Everything is already bronze coloured. Everything is
what one can see in nature only during this time of the year,
or when one looks at some pictures by Dupré, for
instance; and it is so beautiful that one's imagination always
falls short of it.
You write about your walk that Sunday in Ville d'Avray; at
the same moment on the same day, I too was walking alone, and I
too want to tell you something about that walk, when our
thoughts probably met again. As I wrote you, I had spoken to
the woman - we felt that in the future it would be impossible
for us to stay together, nay, that we should make each other
unhappy, yet we both felt how strongly we are attached to each
other and then I went far out into the country to have a talk
with nature. Well, I walked to Voorburg and from there to
Leidendam. You know the scenery there, splendid trees, majestic
and serene, right next to horrible green toy summerhouses and
all the absurdities the heavy fancy of retired Dutchmen can
invent in the form of flower plots, arbors and porches. Most of
the houses very ugly; some, however, old and stately. Now at
that very moment, high over the meadows, boundless as the
desert, one mass of clouds after the other came sailing on, and
the wind first struck the row of country houses with their
clumps of trees on the other side of the canal, bordered by the
black cinder path. Those trees were superb; there was drama in
each figure I was going to say, but I mean in each tree. But
the scene as a whole was even more beautiful than those
scourged trees viewed apart, because at that moment even those
absurd little summerhouses assumed a curious character,
dripping with rain and disheveled.
It seemed to me an image of how even a man of absurd
deportment and conventions, or another one full of
eccentricities and caprice, may become a dramatic figure of a
peculiar type, if only real sorrow strikes him - a calamity
befalls him. And the thought crossed my mind, how at moments
when today's deteriorating society is society seen against the
light of a renewal, it stands out as a large, gloomy
Yes, for me, the drama of storm in nature, the drama of
sorrow in life, is the most impressive.
A “Paradou” is beautiful, but Gethsemane is even
Oh, there must be a little bit of light, a little bit of
happiness, just enough to indicate the shape, to make the lines
of the silhouette stand out, but let the whole be gloomy.
I must say that the woman is bearing up well. She is unhappy
about it, as I am, but she is not disheartened and keeps busy.
I had just bought a piece of material to make canvases for my
studies, and have now given it to her to make underwear for the
kids, and some of my things can be altered for them too, so
that she will not leave me empty-handed. So she is very busy
sewing these things.
When I say we part as friends, it is true - but the parting
is final, and after all I am more resigned than I thought I'd
be, because her faults were such that it would have been a
fatal thing to be bound together, for me as well as for
herself, because one is, so to speak, responsible for one
But I ask myself anxiously - how will she be in a year?
I shall certainly never take her into my house again,
but I do not want to lose sight of her, for I am too fond of
her and the children.
And for the very reason that it was and is a feeling other
than passion, this is possible too.
I hope the Drenthe project will be carried out.
You ask me what I should need.
I need not tell you that I intend to work hard. I must do
that in order to renew myself. And no painting materials
whatever are available down there, so as to stocking up on
them, the more one has of the really useful things, the better.
Good materials are never thrown away, and though they are
expensive, one makes up for it later, and a lot of painting
must he done in order to make progress. I hope to waste very
little of the time I shall spend there, and hope to have models
often, which probably will be much cheaper there.
And life is cheaper and I shall be able to do more with the
150 francs there than here.
But I can arrange all this according to the circumstances. I
wish I could have a large amount to spend, because I need so
many things that others have, and which one can hardly do
I don't think it wrong to speculate, if only one doesn't do
it in thin air, or on too unsolid a basis. This in regard to
I certainly expect it will be easier for me to sell there
than here, that's true, so I sometimes think of England; but I
do not know to what extent my work will please the English art
lovers, and as I do not know this, I will first make a small
positive start in selling before I shall think it advisable to
try it there. Once I have sold a few things here, then I shall
hesitate no longer, but start sending things or go there
But as long as I sell absolutely nothing here, I could
easily be mistaken in the right moment if I were not wise
enough to wait till I see an opening here. I hope you will
approve of this idea; that would comfort me, for in England
they are very serious once they start something: whoever
catches the public's fancy in England finds faithful friends
there. Take, for instance, Ed. Frère and Henrietta
Browne, who remain as interesting now is they were when their
work was little known there.
But to have success, one must give good work, and be sure of
keeping up the standard of what one has set.
I was glad to see from your letter that you approve of the
Drenthe plan; that's enough for me, the advantages it will
bring will be apparent later. For me, it is directly connected
with my trying to become a member of the Society of
Draughtsmen, and then going to England - because I know for
sure that if I succeed in putting some sentiment into the
subjects out there, they will find sympathy in England.
Well, I must carry out the Drenthe plan, be it with more or
less money. As soon as I can pay the fare, I shall go, even if
I have only a small supply of painting materials.
Because the moment of the autumn effects is already there,
and I must catch some of them.
But I hope I shall be able to leave something behind for the
woman, to help her through the first weeks. But as soon as I
can go, I will.
I tell you that I intend to help the woman a little at
first; I may not do much, nor can I, but I mention this
only to you.
And you may depend on it that whatever may happen to her, I
neither can nor ever will live with her again, for she is
incapable of doing what she ought to do.
I also dropped Father a line to tell him that I had parted
company with her, but that for all that, my letter to Father
about my continuing to be true to her and being willing to
marry her remained a fact. And another fact is that Father
avoided the issue at the time, and did not reply to the
fundamental question. And I do not know how it will appear to
me in later years - for instance, whether this might not have
been better than leaving her; now we are too close to the facts
to get the right view of the basic interrelation and
consequences of all the things.
I do hope everything will come out right, but her
future as well as my own looks gloomy. I am inclined to believe
there is some latent good in her still, but the trouble is, it
ought to have been roused already. Now, as she has
nobody to rely on, it will be more difficult for her to follow
her good impulses.
Now she never cared to listen; then she will
long to speak with me, and I shall no longer be there. As long
as she was with me, she had no other standard of comparison,
and in other surroundings she will remember things which she
does not care for and which she did not pay attention to.
Now by contrast she will be reminded of them.
Sometimes it is an anguishing thought, that we both feel it
is impossible for us to struggle along together in the future,
and yet are so much attached to each other. Of late she
has been more trustful with me than usual, and she has refused
to play some ugly tricks which her mother had instigated.
Things of the kind you mentioned when you were here, of
starting a row and the like.
You see there is a seed of more seriousness in her, if that
might only stay. I wish she could marry, and when I tell you I
am keeping an eye on her, it is because I advised her to do
If she could only find a man who was not altogether bad,
that would do; the foundation that was laid here would then
develop, namely that of a more domestic, simpler disposition;
and if she sticks to that, in the future I need not leave her
quite to her fate, for then I at least remain her friend, and a
Write soon again and believe me,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 30 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 4 September 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 319.
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