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A few words to congratulate you on September 10 [their
Mother's birthday]. I do not know if I have already told you
that I have had a letter from Willemien, who describes the
country around Nuenen very prettily.
It seems to be very beautiful there.
I have asked her for some particulars about the weavers, who
interest me very much. I saw them when I was in the
Pas-de-Calais - it was indescribably beautiful. However, I need
not paint weavers yet, though I certainly hope to sooner or
It is autumn now in the woods, it quite absorbs me.
There are two things in autumn which particularly appeal to
There is sometimes a soft melancholy in the falling leaves,
in the tempered light, in the haziness of things, in the
elegance of the slender stems.
But I also love the other, more sturdy and rugged, side -
those strong light effects, for instance, on a man who stands
digging and perspiring in the midday sun. Enclosed a few
sketches I made this week.
I was thinking again about those workmen on Montmartre whom
you described in your last letter. I knew there was somebody
who had made those things remarkably well.
I mean A. Lançon. I looked over his wood engravings
in my collection - how clever that man is. Among them I found
“Gathering of Ragpickers,” “Soup
Distribution,” “Snow-Clearing Gang,” which I
think are splendid. He is so very productive that they seem
simply to drop out of his sleeve.
Speaking of wood engravings, this week I found some
beautiful new ones in L'Illustration. It is a series by Paul
Renouard: “Les prisons de Paris”; what beautiful
things are among them!
At night when I cannot sleep, which often happens, I always
look at the wood engravings with renewed pleasure.
Another famous draughtsman is G. Mahoney, who illustrated
the Household Edition of Dickens.
I think that painting will teach me to interpret the light
better, which should bring a great change in my drawings,
How many difficulties have to be overcome before one can
express something, but those very difficulties are the
Enclosed is another sketch of the woods. I made a large
study of it.
I feel such creative power in myself that I know for sure
that the time will arrive when, so to speak, I shall regularly
make something good every day.
But very rarely a day passes that I do not make something,
though it is not yet the real thing I want to make.
Well, sometimes it seems to me that I might soon become
productive. I would not be at all surprised if it should happen
I feel that at all events painting will indirectly rouse
other things in me too.
Look, for instance, at this little sketch of the potato
market on the North Wall. That bustling of the
workmen and the women, with the baskets being loaded from the
barge, is very intriguing to look at. Those are the things I
should want to draw and paint vigorously - the life and
movement in such a scene, and the types of people. But I am not
surprised that I cannot do it at once, and that up to now I
have often failed when I tried. By painting I shall certainly
become more proficient with the colours and better able to take
on such a subject.
Well, to have patience and to work on, that is the question.
I am sending you the little sketch - I make a lot of them in
this way - just to tell you that indeed, things like that scene
of the workmen on Montmartre, for instance, preoccupy me too. A
general knowledge of the figure is needed for it, which I try
to acquire by drawing large figure studies. And I firmly
believe that if I continue doing this, I shall learn to express
the bustle of labourers in the streets or in the fields.
That potato market is such a curious place. All the poor
people from the Geest, from the Ledig Erf, and all those places
in the neighborhood, come running out. There are always such
scenes - one time it is a barge full of peat, then one with
fish, then one with coal or something or other. I have a great
many sketches of Ireland by English artists. I think the
quarter I'm writing you about must be very much like an Irish
I always try my best to put all my energy into my work, for
my greatest desire is to make beautiful things. But making
beautiful things costs trouble and disappointment and
I enclose another view of the wood in the evening after the
rain. I cannot tell you how splendid that effect was in nature,
with the green turned to bronze, and here and there the fallen
I wish you could walk here some evening in this splendid
autumn wood. What I bring back from it this year will be just a
scanty harvest. However, I hope to bring a few things, and in
time it will grow more and more.
In the meantime all my paint has been used up. I sincerely
hope that you yourself are not hard up. But at all events I
hope you will send the usual allowance around September 10.
This afternoon I must go to the potato market again. It is
impossible to paint there because of the people; they already
give me trouble enough. I wish one could have free access to
the houses and sit down by the windows without ceremony. Well,
it is Saturday night, and so there will certainly be something
characteristic going on worth looking at. I wish you all good
luck, know that I think of you daily. Adieu, with a
Yours sincerely, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 9 September 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 229.
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