Some of the heads I promised you are finished, but they are
not quite dry yet. As I wrote you already, they were painted in
a dark cottage, and they are studies in the real sense of the
word. I already began to send you studies of drawings long
I did not intend to stop doing so.
I work hard, and suppose that only one out of ten or twenty
studies I make is worth seeing; though those few, either more
or less in number, may be of no value now, they
may be later on, perhaps.
Not so much taken separately as in connection with other
However it may be - I will try it once more, so as soon as
they are quite dry, and I can varnish them, I'll send you some
heads and also a little sketch of a woman spooling yarn.
And that needn't be all - seeing that I have applied myself
almost exclusively to painting for more than a full year, I
dare claim these to be somewhat different from the first
painted studies I sent you.
When I see, as I did recently, something like those splendid
woodcuts by Lhermitte, I know very well that I am still far
from doing such a thing myself. But seeing his work encourages
me as to my views and working method, namely always directly
from nature or in the squalid, smoke-blackened cottage. For I
see (for instance, from details in heads, in hands) how artists
like Lhermitte must have studied the peasant figure, not only
from a fairly great distance, but from very close by, not now
when they create and compose with ease and assurance, but
before they could do so.
“On croit que j'imagine - ce n'est pas vrai - je me
souviens,” said one who could compose with a master
Now as for me, I cannot yet show a single picture,
hardly a single drawing yet. But I do make
studies, and that's just why I can very well imagine that the
time might come when I shall also be able to compose easily.
And, moreover, it is hard to say where the study ends and the
I am brooding over a couple of larger, more elaborate
things, and if I should happen to get a clear idea of how to
reproduce the effects I have in mind, in that case I should
keep the studies in question here for the time being, because
then I should certainly need them - it would be, for instance,
something like this:
namely figures against the light of a window.
I have studies of heads for it, against the light as well as
turned toward the light, and I have worked several times
already on the complete figure; spooling yarn, sewing, or
peeling potatoes. Full face and in profile, it is a difficult
But I think I have learned a few things from it.
Goodbye, I couldn't put off writing to you again.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 31 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written mid March 1885 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 396.
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