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This morning when I wrote you I was still in doubt about
something that worried me exceedingly, but about which I am now
reassured for a time. I must tell you some bad news, which is
that Mauve is far from well - of course the usual thing.
But also some good news - I have the assurance that it is
only due to his illness that he has treated me so very unkindly
of late, and that it was not because he thought my work was
I have already told you in a previous letter that I had a
visit from Weissenbruch. At present Weissenbruch is the only
one allowed to see Mauve, and I thought I would go and have a
talk with him. So today I went to his studio, the attic which
you know too. As soon as he saw me, he began to laugh and said,
“I am sure you have come to talk about Mauve”; he
knew at once why I came, and I did not have to explain.
Then he told me that the reason for his visiting me was
really that Mauve, who was doubtful about me, had sent
Weissenbruch to get his opinion about my work.
And Weissenbruch then told Mauve, He draws confoundedly
well, I could work from his studies myself.
And he added, “They call me `the merciless sword,' and
I am; I would not have said that to Mauve if I had found no
good in your studies.”
Now as long as Mauve is ill or too busy with his large
picture, I may go to Weissenbruch if I want to find out
anything, and Weissenbruch told me that I need not worry about
the change in Mauve's attitude toward me.
Then I asked Weissenbruch what he thought of my pen
drawings. “These are the best,” he said.
I told him that Tersteeg had scolded me about them.
“Pay no attention to it,” he said. “When
Mauve said you were a born painter, Tersteeg said No, and I
will take your part too, now that I have seen your
I do not care so much about that “taking my
part,” but I must say that sometimes I cannot bear
Tersteeg's saying to me over and over again, “You must
begin to think about earning your own living.” I think it
is such a dreadful expression, and then it is all I can do to
keep calm. I work as hard as I can and do not spare myself, so
I deserve my bread, and they ought not to reproach me with not
having been able to sell anything up to now.
I tell you these details because I do not understand why you
have neither written nor sent me anything this month.
Is it possible that you have heard something from Tersteeg
that has influenced you?
I can assure you once more that I work hard to make progress
on things which would be easy to sell, that is, watercolours,
but I cannot succeed immediately. If I succeed in making them
by and by, it would still be rapid progress, considering the
short time I have been working. But I cannot succeed right
away. As soon as Mauve is better and comes to see me again or I
go to see him, he will give me some useful hints on the studies
I am making meanwhile. Lately Mauve has done very little for
me, and once he himself said, I am not always in a mood to show
you things; sometimes I am too tired, and then you will damn
well have to wait for the right moment.
I think it a great privilege to visit such clever people as
Weissenbruch occasionally, especially when they take the
trouble, as Weissenbruch did this morning, for instance, to
show me a drawing they are working on but which is not yet
completed, and explain how they are going to finish it. That is
just what I want. Whenever you have an opportunity to see
anyone paint or draw, watch carefully, for I think many an art
dealer would judge many pictures differently if he knew how
they were made. It is true one can understand it somehow by
instinct, but this much I know - I got a clearer insight into
many things by having seen artists at work and by trying some
I should like to have some more of that Ingres paper
someday; perhaps the weather will soon be good enough to work
outdoors, and then it will be of great use to me. I am getting
more sparing with my studies and should like to get back those
Adieu, dear fellow, a handshake in thought; poor Mauve, he
will not get better until his large picture is finished, and
after that he will be exhausted.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 28 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 13 February 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 175.
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