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Just a little word to tell you I received your letter and to
thank you for it.
And I was very glad to hear the good news about your
patient. That's good.
In every love there are many different loves - and when the
woman recovers, it will be quite different again - and that is
something delightful, too. The principal thing is to continue
and to persevere, he who wants variety must remain faithful.
And he who wants to know many women must stick to one and the
Spring is coming fast here.
For the moment the studio is in a terrible mess.
Enclosed is a little scratch, made in a hurry, on a scrap of
paper, while they were putting up the shutters I mentioned. Why
am I sending it to you, unimportant as it is, in its unfinished
condition? Because I believe you will see one thing clearly
from it, that now I can get a quite different light effect in
my studio than the too-strong light of those three large
The lower part of window Number 1 in the scratch is closed,
and the rest, partly so - now it looks like the door of a
little room in an almshouse, for instance.
Window Number 2 is closed at the top, and looks like a
little window which the figures are sitting by.
The background to the left is dark, for window Number 3 is
Just think of the difference between the effect of the crude
light which the three windows would be letting in at this
moment if they weren't shuttered, and you will understand how
infinitely better I can work now. Besides the glaring light,
there used to be an enormous reflection which neutralized all
It often made me desperate, when, for instance, I saw a
woman puttering around a small room and found something typical
and mysterious in the figure, which absolutely disappeared when
I had the same woman in the studio. Thus the old man was also
much more striking in a dark passage than in my studio.
And it was very aggravating, and the space the three windows
took up was so large that the light couldn't be dimmed
sufficiently by screens or cardboard.
But now I am going to overcome all that.
However indistinct the little sketch may be, it has been
done from nature, in a great hurry, while they were working on
the window; and from it you will see that one can now get fine
effects, and vary them greatly. I am sending you this rather
than explain the thing in words.
Well, now the light in the studio is somewhat under my
control, and when I have seen a little figure in some other
house, I can easily reconstruct the effect back home if I pay
attention to the way the light strikes it, and regulate my
light accordingly. How much light was there? Did it strike the
figure in front, from behind, to the right or left, from above
or from below?
I think it will please you when you come. The closet is also
excellent. It has been a rather difficult job, as the shutters
were too large for the windows and had to be cut down. But now
everything is finished so far, and only now can I really enjoy
the studio, and it is, in fact, in keeping with what I want.
Later on, perhaps, they will make me another little room in the
attic - when there is some leftover lumber again. They could
make quite a picturesque and intriguing little room there, but
it is of secondary importance.
But the studio is ten times better.
However, the expenses have been rather more than I expected,
as so much of the old shutters had to be altered.
Therefore I must ask you, as I have promised a payment on
the first of March - if you can, send it a day sooner rather
than later. I know you will understand that the studio has been
quite changed by it; oh, I am so delighted with it - it has
worried me so because I couldn't get it right.
I mentioned the good news about your patient, but her
wanting to go back to her own country doesn't seem quite right
to me; but as you say, little can be said about the future
before she has recovered. May spring do her good!
Well, boy, I am writing in a hurry, as I still have a great
deal of cleaning up to do; I am so very happy about that
improvement in the windows.
As far as I can tell, it is quite effective. You will
remember from your visit last summer that the light was too
crude, and couldn't be changed. From this little sketch you
will probably see how it can be varied infinitely, and that the
effects one sees in little houses can be reproduced here. And
the special advantage is that in the small houses one can't get
the right distance for drawing the figures, and in the studio,
Adieu, with a firm handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
I think tonight I shall probably dream of fellows in
sou'westers and oilskins, on which the light falls and makes
piquant highlights, accentuating the shape.
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 25 or 26 February 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 269.
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