van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(19 May 1877)
... I am not, after all, making a collection. Yesterday Uncle Cor sent me a batch of old paper, like the sheet I'm using to write to you, won't it be wonderful for working on? There's a lot of work to do already and it isn't easy, but with steadfastness one should get used to it. I hope to keep in mind the ivy “which stealeth on though he wears no wings” as the ivy creeps along the walls, so the pen must crawl over the paper. Every day I do some walking. Recently I went through a very pleasant district - when I walked down the Buitenkant to the Dutch railway station one could see men working there and alongside the Ij with sand carts - and went along all sorts of little narrow streets with gardens full of ivy. It had a feel of Ramsgate about it. At the station I turned left, where most of the windmills are, on to a road along a canal with elm trees. Everything there reminds me of Rembrandt's etchings. One of these days I shall make a start with Streckfuss's Algemene...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(5 August 1879)
... which is almost half full already. In Brussels I bought from a Jewish book dealer another big sketchbook of old Dutch paper. Shall I see you? How welcome you would be. I promise you Dickens's Les Temps Difficiles if you will come to fetch it; otherwise I will send it to you when I have a chance. À Dieu. A handshake in thought, and believe me always, Yours truly, Vincent ...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(July 1881)
... for you to carry, bring some with you then. I mean, white Ingres paper. I bought some of it from Brussels and worked on it with pleasure, and it is very well suited to pen drawing, especially for a reed pen. Now I have been without it for quite a time, and here I can only get smooth paper without any grain (unless I take Whatman or Harding, but that is too expensive for sketches - the Ingres paper costs 10 centimes a sheet, I think). Well, try your best to put as large a package of it as you can in your bag, and you will give me more pleasure than with anything else. I have made another drawing in the Liesbosch , and now it has become quite hot - too hot to sit on the heath by day - so I work at home now, and am copying the drawings by Holbein from the Bargues . Remembering what you told me once, I have tried to draw a few portraits after photographs , and I think this is good practice. As I asked you before, write whenever you can and receive a handshake in...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 12 October 1881)
... trying to get a horse and a donkey. That thick Ingres paper I mentioned is especially good for painting in watercolour, and it is much cheaper than any other. Still, I am not in a hurry for it because I brought a supply from The Hague, but alas, it's plain white. Well, you see I am hard at work. Uncle goes to The Hague tomorrow and will perhaps talk over with Mauve the question of my going up to see him again. And now adieu. I have walked very far today and am very tired, but I would not let the letter go without enclosing a word. I hope things are well with you, a handshake in thought, Yours sincerely, Vincent ...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(12-15 October 1881)
... day or so, I am replying right away. I'm so glad you've sent the Ingres paper. I've still got some left, but not the right colour. I was happy to hear what Mr. Tersteeg said about my drawings, and certainly no less glad that you saw progress yourself in the sketches I sent you. If it is indeed so, I mean to work to such an effect that neither you nor Mr. T. will have any reason to take back your more favourable opinions. I shall do my very best not to let you down. The artist always comes up against resistance from nature in the beginning, but if he really takes her seriously he will not be put off by that opposition, on the contrary, it is all the more incentive to win her over - at heart, nature and the honest draughtsman are as one. (Nature is most certainly “intangible,” yet one must come to grips with her and do so with a firm hand.) And having wrestled and struggled with nature for some time now, I find her more yielding and submissive, not that I have...

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