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You must not take it amiss if I write you again - it is only
to tell you that painting is such a joy to me.
Last Saturday night I attacked a thing I had been dreaming
of for a long time. It is a view of the flat green meadows,
with haycocks. It is crossed by a cinder path running along a
ditch. And on the horizon in the middle of the picture the sun
is setting, fiery red.[Painting lost]
[Sketch of the work drawn here.]
I cannot possibly draw the effect in such a hurry, but this
is the composition.
But it was purely a question of colour and tone, the variety
of the sky's colour scheme - first a violet haze, with the red
sun half covered by a dark purple cloud which had a brilliant
fine red border; near the sun reflections of vermilion, but
above it a streak of yellow, turning into green and then into
blue, the so-called cerulean blue; and then here and
there violet and grey clouds, catching reflections from the
The ground was a kind of carpetlike texture of green, grey
and brown, but variegated and full of vibration - in this
colourful soil the water in the ditch sparkles.
It is something that Émile Breton, for instance,
Then I have painted a huge mass of dune ground - thickly
painted and sticky.
And as for these two, the small marine and the potato field,
I am sure no one could tell that they are my first painted
To tell you the truth, it surprises me a little. I had
expected the first things to be a failure, though I supposed
they would improve later on; but though I say so myself, they
are not bad at all, and I repeat, it surprises me a little.
I think the reason is that before I began to paint, I had
been drawing so much and had studied perspective in order to
build up the composition of the thing I saw.
Now, since I have bought my paint and brushes, I have
drudged and worked so hard on seven painted studies that right
now I'm beat. One of them has a figure in it, a mother with her
child, in the shadow of a large tree, in tone against the dune,
on which the summer sun is shining - almost an Italian effect.
I simply couldn't restrain myself or keep my hands off it or
allow myself any rest.[Painting lost]
As you perhaps know, there is an exhibition of the Black and
White Society. There is a drawing by Mauve - a woman at a
weaving loom, probably in Drenthe - which I think superb.
No doubt you saw some of them at Tersteeg's. There are
splendid things by Israëls - including a portrait of
Weissenbruch, with a pipe in his mouth and his palette in his
hand. By Weissenbruch himself, beautiful things - landscapes
and also a marine.
There is a very large drawing by J. Maris, a splendid town
view. A beautiful W. Maris, among other things, a sow with a
litter of pigs, and cows. Neuhuys, Duchâtel, Mesdag. By
the last, besides a fine large marine, two Swiss landscapes
which I think rather stupid and dull. But the large marine is
Israëls has four large drawings, a girl at the window,
children near a pigsty - the sketch for the little picture at
the Salon - a little old woman kindling the fire in the
twilight, at the time engraved for the Art Chronicle.
It is very inspiring to see such things, for then I perceive
how much I still have to learn.
But this much I want to tell you - while painting, I feel a
power of colour in me that I did not possess before, things of
broadness and strength.
Now I am not going to send you things at once - let it ripen
a little first - but know that I am full of ambition and
believe that for the present I am making progress. (In three
months, however, I will send something to give you an idea of
how I'm getting on.) But that is just the reason for me to
persevere and to acquire what I need.
So do not think that I am satisfied with myself from what I
say about my work - the contrary is true; but I think this much
is gained: in the future when something strikes me in nature, I
shall have more means than before with which to give it new
And I am not displeased that what I shall make in the future
will look more attractive.
Neither do I believe that it will hinder me if my health
should give way a little from time to time. As far as I can
see, the painters who occasionally cannot work for a week or
two are not the worst ones. It may be because they are the ones
“qui y mettent leur peau,” as father Millet says.
That doesn't matter, and in my opinion one must not spare
oneself when there is something important to do. If a short
period of exhaustion follows, it will soon pass, and so much is
gained that one harvests one's studies just the way a farmer
harvests his crops. Now for myself, I have not yet thought of
taking a rest. Only yesterday, Sunday, I did not do so much -
at least I did not go out to paint. I will see to it that even
if you come this winter, you will find the studio full of
I had a letter from Rappard yesterday; he has been to
Drenthe, and judging from the two little sketches he sent me,
he has not been idle. He seems to work very hard and well, too
- figures as well as landscape.
Well, adieu, I must set off to work again; with a
Yours sincerely, Vincent
It is now just two years since I began to draw in the
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 14 August 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 225.
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