Nuenen, 2nd half June 1885
I just received your letter. It is drier and prosier than
However, since you say in it, “I want to answer your
esteemed letter at once in order not to encourage you in your
opinion that there is any idea of a rupture, at least on my
part,” I feel impelled to repeat again that you should
know once and for all that there is at your disposal, or at the
disposal of any painter whatever who wants to come here to make
studies, a spare bedroom in the house where I have my studio.
And I for my part want to advise you, as well as Wenkebach,
whom I shall probably see tomorrow, to come here once in a
while, as there are enough beautiful things here. If you are
inclined to appreciate this, very good; if not, very good just
the same. But if you come, each goes his separate
Here is my explanation of the lithograph. I did it entirely
from memory and in a single day; I thought a certain
composition somewhat forced, and was using an altogether
different process in an attempt to find a new idea to put it
together. Besides, it was only an experiment and nothing more,
and I used corrosives on the stone later on.
Originally - although the faulty drawing of an arm or a nose
that made you fly into a rage remains - the chiaroscuro was
much better, as it is in the composition that I painted later.
And as for the latter, although there are faults in it too,
there are still things in it that keep me from regretting that
I painted it.
I cannot say that your letter of today was the least bit
useful or necessary to me. Only I assure you that your saying
your belief in me was shaken and all that leaves me pretty
indifferent - you are no exception in this as far as certain
others are concerned.
In reply to your remarks, however, this. It is a fact that
your work is good; but this does not mean, amice, that you are
always right in thinking that there are no other ways and
methods of arriving at something good and sound than yours; I
should like very much to talk things over with you - but please
don't gather from this that it would mean consulting you - but
our discussions are becoming less and less successful. Speaking
of self-knowledge - who has it? Here again it is a matter of
“la science - nul ne l'a,” only de
la science - everyone greatly needs it for himself, as
regards his good or bad propensities - and I started with
myself. But don't think that you never deceive yourself because
of a lack of it, don't think you never hurt others horribly and
undeservedly with superficial judgments…
I know, everyone does this, and yet we must try to
put up with each other. But -for you to speak about
self-knowledge - no, my friend, I am awfully sorry that
you should touch upon the subject, as I am afraid it is
the very weakest side of your character, from a human point of
view. Oh well - but I will try to state clearly what I think
about when I think about you.
As far as your work goes - there you are! - I think your
present work is excellent - but here comes a thought exactly as
it is in my mind, without concealing anything - I have known
you for a pretty long time. There was a time - immediately
before and immediately after your illness - when
you were much less dry as a human being than you have
been at other times - fuller, milder, broader, more generous -
more straightforward and ingenuous.
Now you are speaking to me and behaving to me exactly as a
certain abominably arrogant Rappard studying at a
certain academy did at one time.
I am sorry that this acquaintance has come back to
me, and I am still more sorry for the loss of you as a friend,
which you were in the exceptional period when I found you
changed and improved; and seeing that I have observed this, I
can't help thinking, What about his work?? - will that too be
broader, fuller, nobler for only a short time?? Do you
know the answer to that?
I have taken only half a sheet of paper to express this
thought, but you will see from it that I am afraid at times
that your work too may lose the nobler quality. I think I am
stating this idea clearly and simply.
Whatever my faults of character may be, it is my sincerest
desire to do well in my efforts as a painter, and I also have
the sincere desire to treat others well - I have too much heart
to be as frivolous in my work as you are always
reproaching me with being. I need not take what you wrote to
heart, and I don't do so. And as for your saying that I am in
need of someone who will tell me some home truths, that may be
true, but it may also be true that I myself am the one
to tell me some home truths, and that I can do without other
people, especially if they are as prosy as you are.
Greetings. But your letter, as a whole, was unfair, even
though there are details in it that are more or less
You do not write me anything about your work, nor do I about
At this time, Vincent was 32 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Anthon van Rappard. Written 2nd half June 1885 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number R53.
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