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[See illustrations Page 1 below]
Though it is only a short time since I wrote to you, I have
something more to tell you now.
For there has been a change in my drawings, both in the way
I set about them and in the results.
Also, as a consequence of some of the things Mauve told me,
I have started working with live models again. Luckily I have
been able to get several people to sit here for me, including
Piet Kaufman, the labourer.
Careful study and the constant and repeated copying of
Bargue's Exercises au Fusain have given me a better insight
into figure-drawing. I have learned to measure and to see and
to look for the broad outlines, so that, thank God, what seemed
utterly impossible to me before is slowly becoming possible
now. I have drawn a man with a spade, that is un bècheur
[a digger], five times over in a variety of poses, a sower
twice, a girl with a broom twice. Then a woman in a white cap
peeling potatoes and a shepherd leaning on his
crook and finally an old, sick peasant sitting on a chair by
the hearth with his head in his hands and his elbows on his
And it won't be left at that, of course. Once a few sheep
have crossed the bridge, the whole flock follows. Now I must
draw diggers, sowers, men and women at the plough,
ceaslessly. Scrutinize and draw everything that is a part of country
life. Just as many others have done and are doing. I no longer
stand helpless before nature like I used to.
[See illustrations Page 2 below]
I have also started to introduce the brush and the stump.
With a little sepia and India ink, and now and then with a
What is quite certain is that the drawings I have been doing
lately bear little resemblance to anything I have done
The size of the figures is about the same as that of an
Exercices au Fusain.
As for landscape, I don't see why it need suffer in any way
as a result. On the contrary, it will gain. Enclosed are a few
small sketches to give you an idea.
Of course I have to pay the people who pose. Not much, but
because it happens every day it is one more expense until I
manage to sell some drawings.
But since a figure is hardly ever a complete failure, I am
sure that the outlay on the model will be fully recovered
For nowadays anyone who has learned to tackle a figure and
hang on to it until it is safely down on paper, can earn quite
a bit. I need hardly tell you that I am only sending you
these sketches to give you some idea of the pose. I dashed them
off today in no time at all and can see that there is much
wrong with the proportions, more so anyway than in the actual
drawings. I've had a nice letter from Rappard, who seems to be
hard at work. He sent me some very good landscape sketches. I
wish he would come back here for a few days.
[See illustrations Page 3 below]
This is a field or rather a stubble, where they are plowing
and sowing. Have made a fairly large sketch of it with
a gathering thunderstorm.
The other two sketches are poses of diggers. I hope to do
several more of them.
[See illustrations Pages 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 below]
The other sower has a basket.
I am tremendously anxious to get a woman to pose with a seed
basket, so as to find a little figure like the one I showed you
last spring and which you can see in the foreground of the
first little sketch.
Well, as Mauve says, the factory is in full swing.
Ever yours, Vincent.
Illustrations of the complete letter.
At this time, Vincent was 28 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written September 1881 in Etten. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 150.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.