Your letter about the drawings delighted me. 1 As
for the weaving loom, the study of that apparatus was indeed
made on the spot from start to finish, and it was a hard job -
on account of the fact that one must sit so close to it that it
is difficult to take measurements; I did include the figure in
the drawing after all. But what I wanted to express by it was
just this: “When that monstrous black thing of grimed oak
with all those sticks is seen in such sharp contrast to the
greyish atmosphere in which it stands, then there in the
centre of it sits a black ape or goblin or spook that clatters
with those sticks from early morning till late at night.”
And I indicated that spot by putting in some sort of apparition
of a weaver, by means of a few scratches and blots, where I had
seen it sitting. Consequently I hardly gave a thought to the
proportions of the arms and legs.
When I had finished drawing the apparatus pretty carefully,
I thought it was so disgusting that I couldn't hear it rattle
that I let the spook appear in it. Very well - and - let us say
it is only a mechanical drawing - all right, but just put it
beside the technical design for a loom - and mine will be
more spectral all the same, you may be sure of that. As a
matter of fact it is no mechanical drawing - or it may be
except for a “je ne sais quoi.” And - if you were
to put my study beside the drawing of a mechanic who had
designed a weaving loom - mine would express more strongly that
the thing is made of oak grimed by sweaty hands; and looking at
it (even if I had not included him in the drawing at
all, or even if I did add his figure out of proportion),
you could not help thinking occasionally of the
workman, whereas absolutely nothing like it would
occur to your mind when you looked at the model of a loom drawn
by a mechanic. A sort of sigh or lament must issue from that
contraption of sticks now and then.
I very much enjoy seeing your drawings of machines. Why? -
because when you draw nothing but the flywheel, I for
one cannot help thinking of the boy who turns it, and I
feel his presence in a way I can't define. And those who look
upon your mechanical drawings as designs for
apparatuses do not understand your art at
But - if one draws such an apparatus - taken by itself -
then I agree with you that one ought to do it in as
mechanic-like a way as possible, if one wants to profit by it
as a study.
Meanwhile I quite understand your idea that, if it were to
be a black-and-white drawing - which I hope to
make it someday, if I can get hold of the right model - that
little black spook in the background must be the centre, the
starting point, the heart of it, most deeply felt, most
elaborately finished, and all the rest must be kept subordinate
Well, I was pleased to hear that you liked my winter garden
a little [F 1130, JH 465]. Indeed, this garden sets me
dreaming, and since then I have made another one of the same
subject, also with a little black spook in it, which this time
too appears in it not as an example, worthy of imitation, of
the correct drawing of the structure of the human body, but as
a contrast [F 1128, JH 466]. I am sending you a few others too
- a sepia sketch of “Het Broek” - pen-and-ink
drawings, “Pollard Willows” [F 1240, JH 469] -
“Poplar Avenue” [F 1239, JH 464] - “Behind
the Hedges” [F 1129, JH 461] - the
“Kingfisher” [F 1135, JH 468] - “Winter
I sent them rolled up, but please put them into the
portfolio along with the others, especially when you return
them, in order to keep them as flat as possible. I added a
piece of grey paper; they will show up better if you place them
I have heard of more than one painter who was forced to part
in this way with his studies (which he most probably would have
kept himself if he had been able to), but who on the
other hand got some money to tide him over the bad times.
And if I ask you to show them to people as the opportunity
arises, I repeat, I do this because it is not altogether
impossible that you will be able to bring me into contact
with such an art lover. If it does not happen, well, then it
doesn't; but, inasmuch as my life is getting more difficult
instead of easier, it is my bounden duty to look for
opportunities to hunt up chances to sell my work. And I
therefore ask you to show them when there is a favorable
opportunity; if they take no notice of them, all right - I am
prepared for that too. To give a one-man show of my work is
something I do not desire at all for the time being.
As for the people who are interested in drawings - among the
ordinary art-loving public there is always a chance of
finding some feeling - a little faith and belief; but
among the superficially initiated like the art dealers (without
exception) one certainly does not find any
feeling, belief or faith, but only old files of superficial
judgments, generalizations, conventional criticism ...
old files, which I think it would mean losing one's time on -
and losing one's teeth - to blunt one's dental
So - show them, if you find an opportunity, but please do
not do so especially - do not force things - but I
repeat, I for my part have to do it. If I were not
forced to do it, should very much prefer to keep at
least the studies myself, and I would never sell them.
But... you know the rest.
Well, goodbye - I have taken up painting again recently.
Ever yours, Vincent
At times I think of never doing anything but pen-and-ink
drawings and painting.
See letter 364 to Theo.
At this time, Vincent was 30 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Anthon van Rappard. Written mid March 1884 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number R44.
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