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I have just come back from a trip to The Hague. I am home
alone tonight, as Father and Mother are still at Prinsenhage. So
it is a good opportunity to tell you about everything.
I left here Tuesday, and now it is Friday night.
At The Hague I went to see Mr. Tersteeg, Mauve and De Bock.
Mr. Tersteeg was very kind, and said he thought I had made
progress. As I had again copied the whole series of Exercices
au Fusain, 1 - 60, I brought them with me, and it was
especially in reference to them that he made the remark; he at
least attaches some value to my making them, also to my
occasionally copying a figure by Millet, Boughton or others,
which most people do not approve of at all.
So then I got some satisfaction from that work, too.
I spent an afternoon and part of an evening with Mauve, and
saw many beautiful things in his studio. My own drawings seemed
to interest Mauve more. He gave me a great many hints which I
was glad to get, and I have arranged to come back to see him in
a relatively short time when I have some new studies. He showed
me a whole lot of his studies and explained them to me - not
sketches for drawings or pictures, but real studies, things
that seemed of little importance. He thinks I should start
I enjoyed meeting De Bock; I was at his studio. He is
painting a large picture of the dunes which has much that is
fine in it. But in my opinion the fellow must practice drawing
figures in order to produce even finer things. It seems to me
he has a real artist's temperament and that we have not heard
the last of him. He raves about Millet and Corot, but didn't
these two work hard on figures - yes or no? Corot's figures
aren't so well known as his landscapes, but it cannot be denied
that he has done them. Besides, Corot drew and modelled every
tree trunk with the same devotion and love as if it were a
figure. And a tree by Corot is something quite different from
one by De Bock. One of the best things I saw of De Bock's was a
copy of a Corot. It's unlikely that it would be taken for an
original, but it was very seriously done - more seriously than
many a false Corot less noticeably different from the real
Then I went to see Mesdag's Panorama with him; it is a work
that deserves all respect. It reminded me of a remark, I think
by Burger (or Thoré) about The Anatomy Lesson by
Rembrandt: le seul défaut de ce tableau est de ne pas
avoir de défaut. [This picture's only fault is that it
has no fault.] The three drawings by Mesdag at the exhibition
had perhaps more faults, but aroused immediate sympathy, at
least it was so with me.
Speaking of the exhibition, there was a splendid drawing by
Israëls, “Sewing Class at Katwijk”; Mauve,
“A Plough” - splendid - “Sheep in the
Dunes,” and then a single figure - a labourer resting in
the field at twilight. Artz had three drawings there if I
remember correctly: a scene in an almshouse, old men and women
eating porridge - very important, very well and seriously done;
also two studies of heads, full of character - a man and woman
from Scheveningen. Among Weissenbruch's was a drawing of water
lilies, so simple, so full of style, of understanding and love,
that many drawings by others were lost beside it. But this
exhibition shows clearly that there are many clever landscape
painters among the younger artists.
Including Duchâtel [Du Chattel] and Neuhuys. Albert
Neuhuys had a large figure drawing which was splendid, a girl
and two children.
Clara Montalba's work was new to me. Hers is a peculiar
talent - in some respects it reminds me of Rochussen.
At Mr. Tersteeg's I also saw many fine things by Valkenburg,
Neuhuys, etc., etc. J. Maris had beautiful things at the
exhibition, for instance, two little girls in white at a piano
and a mill in the snow. I met Willem Maris at De Bock's. What a
beautiful sketch the latter has by him, a road in winter with a
little figure under an umbrella.
By chance Bosboom saw my studies and gave me some hints
about them. I only wish I had more opportunity to receive such
hints. Bosboom is one of those people who has the ability to
impart knowledge to others and make things clear to them. There
were three or four good drawings of his at the exhibition.
I stayed in The Hague until Thursday morning, then I went to
Dordrecht because from the train I had seen a spot I wanted to
draw - a row of windmills. Though it was raining, I managed to
finish it, and so at least I have a souvenir from my little
At Stam's I found Ingres paper twice as thick as the
ordinary kind, one can work better on it. But alas, it's white.
Would there be any chance of your sending some of that same
kind, but the colour of unbleached muslin or linen? Like a few
of the sheets that were in that lot you bought me before, and
like those on which the Exercices au Fusain are printed. Before
beginning to draw on the white paper, one must first wash the
whole page with a flat tone.
So I have been to The Hague; perhaps it was the beginning of
a renewed and closer acquaintance with Mauve and others. I hope
so. A handshake in thought; my warm thanks for your faithful
help in this matter - because of the expenses perhaps I never
would have gone, or at least postponed it.
De Bock was very pleased with the drawings by Millet which
he bought from you.
At this time, Vincent was 28 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written Aug/Sep 1881 in Etten. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 149.
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