That colour dealer writes me that I can send him the
pictures. But he wants me to send them as soon as possible,
because there are many foreigners in The Hague just now. He is
perfectly right there.
Now I must beg you to try to send me enough money to have a
box made and to pay the carriage. Deduct it from the next
month's allowance if you like, but I haven't got a cent and I
want to send the pictures at once.
Your visit has really left me no comforting impression; more
than ever I believe that more difficulties are threatening you
in the coming years than you suppose.
I go on insisting that it is fatal that your energy has
manifestly taken another direction, instead of being turned to
making a success of painting for both of us. And yet it is only
a very short time ago that you wrote you had more confidence
now, and that my work was good.
You take it as though I were misbehaving toward you, or were
your enemy, because at present I object to quite a number of
things. And I am very uneasy about the future. For all that, I
cannot speak otherwise than I did.
In my opinion you don't in the least belong among the rising
men. Resent this if you like, and in the future treat me just
as you like because of it.
I will take back my objections as soon as I see quite
different things in you - but that I made them on the occasion
of your visit - yes.
It is too high up in the air for my taste, too little on
solid ground. And, after all, art itself is solid enough, that
isn't the trouble. But being a counting house is a
passing thing, “être un comptoir cela
passe,” is not a phrase of my own but of somebody
whose sayings have come terribly true.
I wish you were or would become a painter.
I say this straight out, more emphatically than before,
because I really believe that the great art-dealing business is
in many respects a speculation like the bulb trade was. And the
situations in it, dependent on chance and freaks of
Make a mistake in a calculation - even supposing it is only
an insignificant slip - and what will become of the enormous
figure of your present turnover? This figure is wholly
dependent on a whim of Messrs. Goupil & Co.'s.
And connoisseurship, the clean aspect of it without
claptrap, is more nearly related to the practice of art
than you would be inclined to think. Dealing in pictures is
quite different when one is entirely on one's own from doing
business in the employ of big distributors. And the same is
true of a lot of other things.
So, in short - work hard - but at the same time try to work
sensibly. The trouble you have taken along with me - for
furnishing money is taking trouble too, and I don't in the
least try to get away from it - this trouble anyway has been an
act of personal initiative, of personal will and energy - but
what shall I have to say and think of it if there is nothing to
compensate for the gradual but undeniable weakening of
In my opinion, at least, now is just the moment to try to do
something with my work. I have looked for addresses in Antwerp,
too, and expect to hear more definitely from there shortly.
Then I could probably send something there, too. But if you
should know of anything, help me carry it through.
You told me yourself, “Where there's a will there's
a way.” Well, I am going to take you at your word a
little, at least as to your really wanting us to make
If I were to demand extravagant things and you refused -
well, all right then - but when it is a question of the most
urgent, the very simplest necessities of life, and it is
increasingly and ever more badly becoming downright starvation,
only then do I think you go too far in your economizing, and
that in this respect it is far from useful.
Ever yours, Vincent
A few more words about Serret and Portier. Tell them the
simple facts, namely that I did have some studies
ready, but that I had to pay a colour dealer who was
getting troublesome just now. That in order to put a
stop to it I wrote him that his colours were invested in my
studies, and that in consequence I requested him to do his best
to sell something for me instead of bothering me. That I
must follow this up and send him some things.
That as to the drawings I said I should show Serret,
I need them myself, as I am in a hurry to do new things. But to
a certain extent I attach importance to his knowing that I
really had them when you came here, and to your telling him
that you saw them in my house - and after that tell him exactly
what you think.
I will not influence your own opinion.
However, that I feel sad at your approving of things as they
are - yes, that is a fact.
But I do not refuse to take such measures - and even if such
a colour-selling gentleman should want to sell up my poor
sticks, he would be welcome to fill my cup to the brim. It is
certain that the colour-dealing gentlemen are quite capable of
However, I am more than tired of talking about it - I've
said my say - and you - you may take my hint as you think
If those fellows want to attack me, and sell me up, seeing
that they emphatically threatened to resort to legal measures
to collect their money, and this in a matter of less than 30
guilders, then I shall not be able to resist them, and I shall
let them have their way, but it will happen as it were under
your very nose, as it is only a short while ago that you were
That I am unable to stop working at the height I have
risen to now, that is a fact - every day I need colours, etc.,
I must push on, and if I want to pay for what I need today,
yesterday's arrears will have to wait.
For your further guidance, here is a survey of my
circumstances for the remainder of the current year, precise
and in detail.
I have to pay three dealers, who are all three troublesome;
I owe one 45 guilders; the second, 25 guilders; the third, 30
guilders 1. These amounts are exactly what remain of
the bills - which were, of course, much bigger - incurred in
the course of one year, and which I am paying off cash down as
much as is possible for me with the utmost exertion.
Accordingly, deficit 100 guilders
Add rent for November 25 guilders
125 guilders or 250 fr.
Now suppose I get from you in September, October, November
and December 4 X 150 fr. = 600 fr. Then 350 fr. remain for me
until New Year's. Add to this that for the current month I
am left with literally nothing, and that I must live during
So from August until the first of January, i.e. nearly
five months, I shall have to live and paint on 350
Which I can do on 150 fr. a month, although not
comfortably, but all right, it can be done by way of a
But in the course of four months 250 fr. must be deducted
for the payment of colours and rent; well, then my work is
hampered and obstructed to such an extent that I am at my wit's
end, and I prefer to tell the fellows: Sell the whole lot!
But let me work!
This month I unhesitatingly threw in all I had in
order to appease these fellows, but the cares arising from it
are bad enough.
And my last word in this matter is that if my work were
bloodless and rotten, I should think you were right to say,
“There is nothing I can do about it.”
But now - seeing that larger and smaller painted studies as
well as new drawings ought to make it clear to you that we are
making progress, I am not so sure that “there is nothing
I can do about it” must inevitably be your last word.
Discuss it with Serret, discuss it with Portier - and tell
them how much I should like to work on, and how small are the
opportunities I myself have of finding buyers, as the painting
of rustics does not take me to the cities but to the
countryside as my field of work.
Total 100 guilders, at the time equivalent to
£8/6/8 (£8.34) or $40.
At this time, Vincent was 32 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written mid August 1885 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 420.
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