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During the few days since you left, I have made some
experiments with painting. And I thought you might be curious
to know how it turned out. I wish you could spend an hour with
me in the studio again, that would be the best way to tell you
how it went. But as this is of course impossible, I shall only
tell you that I now have three painted studies. One of a row of
pollard willows in a meadow (behind the Geest bridge); then a
study of the cinder path near here; and today I was at the
vegetable gardens on Laan van Meerdervoort again, and saw a
potato field with a ditch; a man in a blue smock and a woman
were picking up potatoes, and I put their figures in.[Paintings lost]
It was a white, sandy field, partly dug up, partly still
covered with rows of dried stalks, with green weeds in between.
In the distance, dark green trees and a few roofs.
I did this last study with special pleasure. I must tell you
that painting does not seem so strange to me as you would
perhaps suppose; on the contrary, I like it very much, as it is
a very strong means of expression. And at the same time one can
express tender things with it too, let a soft grey or green
speak amid all the ruggedness.
I am very glad I have the necessary materials, for already I
had often suppressed the desire to paint. It opens a much
Now I should prefer to go on making quite a number of
painted studies, and hang them in my studio without speaking to
anybody about the change. And in case someone wonders at seeing
things painted by me, I should say, Did you think that I had no
sentiment for it, or was unable to do it?
But I have attached great value to drawing and will continue
to do so, because it is the backbone of painting, the skeleton
that supports all the rest. I like it so much, Theo, that it is
only because of the expenses that I shall have to restrain
myself rather than urge myself on. These studies are of medium
size, a little larger than the cover of an ordinary paintbox,
because I do not work inside the cover, but thumbtack the paper
for the study onto a frame which has canvas stretched on it,
and which I can carry easily in my hand. I will draw
larger things before I paint them, or I will make grisailles of
them if I can discover the technique - I will try to find
It becomes too expensive if one is not economical with the
paint; but, boy, it is so delightful to have so many new and
good materials; once more, many, many thanks. I will certainly
try and take care that you never regret it, but have the
satisfaction of seeing progress. I write you just this little
word to tell you I have made a beginning. Of course the studies
must get even better. I know they have many faults, but I
believe that in these first ones you will already see something
of the open air, which proves that I love nature and that I
have a painter's heart. Enclosed, a small scratch of the Laan
van Meerdervoort. Those vegetable gardens there have a kind of
old Dutch character which always appeals to me greatly.
Well, goodnight, it is already late, with a handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
I am reading Zola's La Curée
When I finished this letter, it seemed to me something was
I thought, I ought to be able to write him that I have started
to paint a scene of sand, sea and sky like the one we saw
together at Scheveningen.
[A sketch of the work was drawn here.]
So I kept my letter, and this morning I marched to the beach
and have just returned from there with a rather large-sized
painted study of sand, sea and sky, a few fishing smacks, and
two men on the beach. There is some dune sand
in it, and I assure you that this will not be the last one. I
thought you would like to hear that I had started it.
I repeat, I shall see to it that when you come back in half
a year or in a few months or a year, the studio will have
become a painter's studio. These pen-and-ink sketches have been
made in a great hurry, as you can see. Now that I am making
some progress, I will try and strike while the iron is hot -
that means I shall go on painting. If you can send the usual
amount about the twentieth, I can certainly go on painting for
some time. I think that after a month of steady painting, the
studio will have quite a different aspect. Hoping this will
please you, I shake hands with you again and warmly wish you
prosperity in everything.
[Gardens on Laan van Meerdervoort, JH 175, enclosed in this letter.]
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 10-12 August 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 224.
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