[Letter from Van Rappard to Vincent]
I was greatly pleased to receive a sign of life from you,
though the sign was not quite the one I should have liked.
The news of your father's death was so unexpected that I was
very eager to get some further information - which has not been
forthcoming, however. As far as I can remember, the reason I
did not see the news in the first place in the Nieuws van den
Dag1 was my careless way of reading newspapers - I
always skip the ads. At all events I know that very, very
shortly after receiving the formal notification I called on a
friend who had already read it in the newspaper!
Did you think that I was so little interested in your father
or what happens in your home that an ordinary act of politeness
would be enough to announce something as poignant as this?
Then you are very much mistaken.
In connection with what you sent me this time, I want to
refer to your last letter, in which you spoke of the art of
expressing oneself well in words. I want to point out to you
that, however badly I may do so orally, I can do it well in
writing, if I take sufficient pains. What I wrote you about
your manner of working expresses exactly what I mean - although
I did not exactly take great pains to do that, the only
result is a somewhat less than beautiful style! I hoped that I
was mistaken in my opinion of your manner of working, and I
hope so still; but for this very reason I was deeply sorry to
see such a complete confirmation of my opinion in what you sent
me that I myself was terrified by it. 2
You will agree with me that such work is not meant
seriously. Fortunately you can do better than that, but why
then did you see and treat everything so superficially? Why
didn't you study the movements? Now they are only posing. How
far from true that coquettish little hand of the woman in the
background is - and what connection is there between the coffee
kettle, the table and that hand that is lying on top of the
handle? What on earth is that kettle doing? - it isn't
standing, it isn't being lifted up - so what then? And why
isn't that man to the right allowed to have a knee, a belly and
lungs? Or are they located in his back? And why must his arm be
a yard too short? And why must he do without one half of his
nose? And why must that woman on the left have some sort of
little tobacco-pipe stem with a little cube at the end for a
And after that, while working in such a manner, you dare
invoke the names of Millet and Breton? Come on! in my opinion
art is too sublime a thing to be treated so nonchalantly.
Adieu, always believe me
Your friend, A. G. A. v. Rappard
“Daily News”, an Amsterdam newspaper of the
time with a large circulation.
Vincent had sent him the lithograph of his “Potato
Eaters,” the picture he had been working on for many
months, and which had “taken a whole winter of
painting studies of heads and hands.” (see letter 404
to Theo). The sketch is spoken of for the first time in
letter 398 written in April 1885, the first stage of
the picture in letter 399. After the latter the
lithograph was made. The final composition is
mentioned in letters 401, 402, 403, 404, 405 and 407.
At this time, Vincent was 32 year old
Anthon van Rappard. Letter to Vincent van Gogh. Written 24 May 1885 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number .
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