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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
I will tell you what I have bought.
First, a large-size moist-colour box containing 12 pieces or
tubes of watercolours, with a double cover, one of which can be
used as a palette; there is also room for about six brushes. It
is an article which is of great value for working in the open
air, and really absolutely necessary, but it is very expensive;
and I had always put it off and worked with loose pieces on
saucers, which, however, are very difficult to take with you,
especially if one has to carry other things besides. So this is
a fine thing which, now that I have it, will last a long
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
[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
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,
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
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.