I will tell you what Doctor Van der Loo said about Mother in
a few words.
1. that there is nothing the matter with her;
2. that she may live another ten years or so;
3. that she would have to contract some disease or other to
And finally he seems to think it quite natural that at times
she should be a little bit dazed, but he did not attach much
importance to it.
So she can do whatever she likes, and does not need to be
very careful in the matter of making trips or moving.
So much the better in any case. At any rate it is
reassuring. For, speaking for myself, I believe what he says,
and taking into consideration the excellent care Wil takes of
Mother, there is not much chance of her contracting a
I wanted to inform you of this promptly. It sets my mind at
I must say I am longing for Antwerp now. Probably the first
thing I shall do there will be to go and see the pictures by
Leys in his dining hall, if it is open to the public.
You know that “Walk on the Ramparts,” and those
which Bracquemond etched, “The Table” and
“The Servant Maid.”
I imagine it will be beautiful there this winter, especially
the docks with snow.
Of course I shall take a few pictures with me, and they will
be those that I would otherwise have sent to you one of these
A big mill on the heath in the evening, and a view of the
village behind a row of poplars with yellow leaves, a still
life, and a number of drawings of figures.
At present I am rather in a fix with my work here. It is
freezing hard, so working out-of-doors is impossible. It is
better to take no models at all as long as I live in this
house, at least until I come back. Then I save my colours and
canvas so as to have ammunition there. So the sooner I can
go, the better.
The other day I had a letter from Leurs about my pictures.
He wrote that Tersteeg and Wisselingh had seen them, but did
not care for them.
All the same I maintain that I shall bring people to have
other ideas, although Tersteeg and Wisselingh may be
indifferent. I have just read a few books in the style of the
Souvenirs of Gigoux, which my friend in Eindhoven had ordered,
and in which I found very interesting things about the men of
that period, beginning with Paul Huet. And which encourage me
to think that I have not attacked nature in the wrong way, nor
the technique of painting, though I readily admit that I shall
and must change a lot more. As to the heads which I sent you,
there must be some good ones among them. I am almost sure of
it. So let's go on quietly.
I don't think this winter will be tedious. Of course it will
be especially a question of hard work. But there is something
curious in the very feeling that one has to enter the fight.
I am also taking along at least forty small stretchers, of
the size of those study heads which you have. And drawing
material and paper, so that whatever happens, I shall always
have something to do.
As I have been working absolutely alone for years, I imagine
that, though I want to and can learn from others, and even
adopt some technical things, I shall always see with my own
eyes, and render things originally. However, it is quite
certain that I shall try to learn some more. And, if possible,
especially the nude. But I am afraid I shall not succeed in
getting good models, as many as I like and good ones,
but shall have to find the money for it by making other things,
either landscapes or city views or portraits, as I said, or
even signboards and decorations. Or, what I did not mention in
my previous letter among the “jobs on the side”
that would be possible, by giving painting lessons, letting
them begin by painting still life, which I think is a different
method from that of the drawing masters. I have tried it on
those acquaintances of mine in Eindhoven, and I should dare to
I shall certainly leave immediately, as soon as I get the
monthly allowance from you. And if you should by chance be able
to send it a week earlier, I would also start a week earlier.
But of course I do not count on this. I am glad I have now been
to see the Amsterdam museum, for since then I have noticed that
what I saw there has been useful in my work.
Write soon if you have time. As I am busy packing my things,
my thoughts are of course more there than here.
I painted continuously here to learn painting, to get
firm notions about colour, etc., without having much room in my
head for other things.
But when I got off to Amsterdam for a few days, I enjoyed
seeing pictures again immensely.
For sometimes it is damned hard to stand completely outside
the world of painters and pictures, and to have no contact with
others. Since then I have felt the longing to go back to them,
at least for a time. Having been entirely out of it for a few
years and having wrestled with nature sometimes helps, and one
may get a new store of courage and also of health by it, of
which one can never have too much, for a painter's life is
often hard enough.
As to my work, I shall have to act according to
circumstances. I mean, if I can get in touch with an art
dealer, I must try and get him to show some things of mine. But
all is not lost that is delayed, and especially if I may
succeed in making new studies of heads or figures, I will soon
show you some of them.
The one landscape I am taking with me, and if possible both,
but the one with the yellow leaves, I believe you would like
too. I am enclosing a hasty scratch of it.
The horizon is a dark streak against a light streak of sky
in white and blue. In that dark streak, little patches of red,
bluish and green, or brown, forming the silhouette of the roofs
and orchards, the field greenish. The sky higher up, gray, with
the black saplings and yellow leaves against it. The foreground
all covered with yellow leaves, in which are two little black
figures and a blue one. To the right, a birch trunk, white and
black, and a green trunk with red-brown leaves.
Good-by. With a handshake,
Ever yours, Vincent
She died in 1907, some twenty-two years later.
She lived to see her “wayward” son's name grow
in all the civilized countries of the world.
[Sketch “Lane with Poplars” JH 960 enclosed with
At this time, Vincent was 32 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 15-20 November 1885 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 434.
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