My dear Theo,
I have just brought back a canvas on which I have been
working for some time, representing the same field again as in
the “Reaper.” Now it is clods of earth and the
background of parched land, then the rocks of the Alpines. A
bit of green-blue sky with a little white and violet cloud. In
the foreground a thistle and some dry grass. A peasant dragging
a truss of straw in the middle. It is again a
harsh study, and instead of being almost entirely yellow, it
makes a picture almost entirely violet. Broken violet and
neutral tints. But I am writing you because I think this will
complement the “Reaper” and will make clearer what
that is. For the “Reaper” looks as though it were
done at random, and this will give it balance. As soon as it is
dry, I shall send it along with the copy of the bedroom. I
earnestly beg you to show them together if anyone sees
the studies, because of the contrast of the
Then this week I have also done the “Entrance to a
Quarry,” which is like something Japanese; you remember there are Japanese drawings
of rocks with grass growing on them here and there and little trees.
From time to time there are moments when nature is superb,
autumn effects glorious in colour, green skies contrasting with
foliage in yellows, oranges, greens, earth in all the violets,
heat-withered grass among which, however, the rains have given
a last energy to certain plants, which again start putting
forth little flowers of violet, pink, blue, yellow. Things that
one is quite sad not to be able to reproduce.
And skies - like our skies in the North, but the colours of
the sunsets and sunrises more varied and clearer. Like in a
Jules Dupré or a Ziem.
I also have two views of the park and the asylum, where
this place looked very pleasing. I tried to reconstruct the thing as
it might have been, simplifying and accentuating the haughty,
unchanging character of the pines and cedar clumps against the
Anyway - if it should be that they remember me, which is a
matter of indifference to me - there will be something in
colour to send to the Vingtistes. But I am indifferent to that.
What I am not indifferent to is that a man who is very much my
superior, Meunier, has painted the
“Sclôneuses” of the Borinage and the
shift going to the pits, and the factories, their red roofs and
their black chimneys against a delicate grey sky - all things
that I have dreamed of doing, feeling that it had not been done
and that it ought to be painted. And still there is an infinity
of subjects there for artists, and one ought to go down into
the mine, and paint the light effects.
I often think that Gauguin would have lost nothing by
staying here, for I can see clearly in the letter he has
written me that he is not altogether at the top of his form
either. And I know quite well what that is due to - they are
too hard up to get models, and can't have been living as
cheaply as they first expected. However, if he has patience,
next year may perhaps be splendid, but then he will not have
Bernard with him, if he is in the army.
Don't you feel now that the figures by Jules Breton and
Billet and others will remain? Those men overcame the
difficulty of models, and that is a great deal. And a picture
by Otto Weber of the good period (not of the English) will
certainly hold its own too. One swallow doesn't make a summer,
and a new idea does not destroy finished and perfect work. That
is the terrible thing about the impressionists, that the
development of the thing hangs fire, and for years they remain
held up by obstacles which the previous generation triumphed
over, the difficulty of money and models. And so Breton, Billet
and others might well make a joke of it and say in surprise,
“But look here, when shall we see these country men and
women of yours?” As for myself, I feel a disgrace and a
I have copied that “Woman with a Child Sitting by a
Hearth,” by Mme. Dumont Breton, almost all in violet. I am certainly going
on copying, that will give me a collection of my own, and when this is large and complete
enough, I shall give the whole to a school. I can also inform
you that in the next package you'll become better acquainted
with good Tartarin's Alpines than you are now. Apart from the
canvas of the “Mountains,” you have not seen them
yet except in the background of the canvases.
I have a sterner study than the previous one of the
mountains. A very wild ravine where a small stream winds its
way along its bed of rocks. It is all violet.
I could certainly do a whole series of these Alpines, for
having seen them for a long time now, I am more up to it. You
remember that fine landscape by Monticelli which we saw at
Delarebeyrette's, of a tree on some rocks against a sunset?
There are many effects like that just now, only I can never be
outside at the hour of sunset, but for that I should have tried
one of them.
Is Jo's health still good? I think that altogether this year
has been happier for you than the previous ones. As for me, I
am feeling well just now. But that spurs me on to work and
to seriousness, like a miner who is always in danger makes
haste in what he does.
Mother and our sister will be getting ready to move.
I am enclosing a few words for Isaäcson,
Bernard and Gauguin. There is no hurry of course about sending
it on to them, the first time they come to see you will do. In
the evening I am bored to death. Good Lord, the prospect of
winter isn't very cheery.
I hope you have received the canvases I sent off about ten
days ago in good order.
I am going to make a long trip into the mountains to look
for likely spots. Goodbye for now - above all, send the paint
and the canvas if it hasn't already been sent off, for I have
no more canvas at all, nor zinc white.
Many kind regards to Jo.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 8 October 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 610.
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