van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
The Hague, 5 August 1882
Relevant paintings:

"Sketch by Vincent," Vincent van Gogh

"Sketch by Vincent," Vincent van Gogh

Dear Theo,

Still quite under the spell of your visit, I write you a word or two, not a little pleased that I can go ahead vigorously with my painting.

I should have liked to see you off at the station the next morning, but I thought you had already given me so much of your time that it would have been indiscreet to ask to see you again that morning. I am so thankful that you have been here. I think it a delightful prospect to be able to work a whole year without anxiety, and a new horizon has been opened to me in painting through what you gave me.

I think I am privileged over thousands of others because you removed so many barriers for me.

Of course many a painter cannot go on because of the expenses, and I cannot express to you in words how thankful I am to be able to go on working regularly. I began later than others, and I must work doubly hard to make up for lost time; but in spite of my ardour, I should have to stop if it were not for you.

I will tell you what I have bought.

At the same time I stocked up on watercolours and renewed my brushes. Then, for oil painting, I now have everything which is absolutely necessary, and also a stock of paints, large tubes (which are much cheaper than the little ones); but you will understand that I limited myself to the simple colours in watercolour as well as in oil: ochre (red - yellow- brown), cobalt and Prussian blue, Naples yellow, sienna, black and white, completed with some smaller tubes of carmine, sepia, vermilion, ultramarine, gamboge.

But I refrained from choosing “nice” colours which one ought to mix oneself.

I believe this is a practical palette with healthy colours. Ultramarine, carmine, or the like are added when strictly necessary.

[Vincent drew a sketch of his palette with the colours here.]

I will begin with little things, but this summer I hope to practice making large sketches in charcoal, so I can paint them later on a somewhat larger scale.

And therefore I ordered a new and I hope better perspective frame, which can be fixed in uneven ground in the dunes by two poles, in this way, for instance:

[A sketch of him using his perspective frame drawn here.]

What we saw in Scheveningen together - sand, sea and sky - is something I certainly hope to express sometime.

Of course I didn't spend everything you gave me immediately, though I must say that the prices of the different things were much higher than I had anticipated, and on second thought, there are always more things needed than one at first expected. If I ask you kindly to send the usual allowance about the twentieth, it is not because I shall have spent all I have, but because I think it better to keep something in my pocket, in case I should need some more things while working - it guarantees my working in a very quick and orderly fashion.

The moist-colour box fits into my paintbox, so that I can carry everything necessary for watercolour and painting in one piece.

I attach great importance to having good stuff to work with, and I should like my studio to look well - not with antiques or tapestry or rugs, but simply because of the studies on the wall and because of good material; but this will come in time through hard work. Speaking about the village-policeman-style - I myself feel less like a policeman than like a kind of Delft bargeman, for instance, and I have no objection to making my studio look like a kind of comfortable barge.

You can see this sample has a grain as rough as a piece of canvas, what you brought has a prettier colour and is delightful, for studies of banks and ditches or soil, for instance. But I am very glad I discovered this new kind, too.

Well, boy, thanks for everything, a handshake in thought. I'm back to work again. Give my warmest greetings to Father and Mother; thank them for what you brought me from them, and tell them I shall write soon, but as we agreed, not about anything personal.

Adieu, I wish you a pleasant time and a good return to your work, believe me,

Yours sincerely, Vincent

At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 5 August 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 222.

This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.
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