Coming home from Scheveningen just now, I find your letter,
for which many thanks.
Many things in it please me. In the first place, I am glad
that the darkness of the future cannot change our friendship or
interfere with it; further, I am glad that you will come soon,
and that you find progress in my work.
The division of your income, directly and indirectly, among
no less than six persons is certainly remarkable. But the
subdivision of my 150 francs among four human beings, with all
the expenses for models, drawing and painting material, house
rent, is also rather remarkable, isn't it? If those 150 francs
could be increased by the work next year - I reckon the year
begins with your visit - that would be delightful. We must find
ways and means.
It is a pity that my painting is not more advanced, yet I
shall have to explain It to you all over again.
When you were here last summer, you gave me the money to get
the necessary supplies. I had to pay Stam and Leurs then. I
bought new things for which I paid cash, and set to work.
Besides, after some time, you wrote that you expected some
money to come in, and that then “the colours and the
paintbox should not be lacking.” But it was not to be,
for since that time you yourself had some bad luck, as you
remember. However, in the beginning of the winter, or rather
toward the end of autumn, I received some extra money. But
there was Leurs to pay off again. I had continued painting
through those autumn days even when it was so stormy in
Scheveningen. Winter was at the door and I was afraid to incur
new expenses, as there was more to pay for coal, etc., and
little of the extra money was left.
Well, then I took models again, and certainly since then, at
least up to now, it has been a period in which I feel I've made
progress in the figure.
But it was absolutely impossible to buy colours or to make
watercolours while making those figure studies, for you will
remember that several times you expected to be able to send
something, for instance in March, but then you yourself were
obliged to get an advance.
And you had to provide for the woman, and there was the
incident with H. P. v. G.,1 and later business was
Well, sometimes I tried to carry on when there was the least
chance of managing it. I've borrowed money from Rappard, I've
had an extra remittance from Father. But what was the result?
It was like the beetle which is bound to a thread and can fly a
little way, but is inevitably stopped by something. I began
things, but after paying the bills, I was hard up for weeks at
the end of the month, sometimes almost without a penny.
So that I haven't always been able to do what was, and is,
in my mind. Well, we must not lose courage, we must try
I just came home with a few marine studies which might serve
as a basis for watercolours, like that very small one of the
last bathers which I once sent you in a letter. We shall do our
utmost, but times are hard. What I have just started, what is
really more necessary than anything else, is painting figure
studies, but I don't see how I can afford it.
I have also had the studio altered.
As a matter of fact, I have been living on hope for a long
But you will come soon - that's a good thing; at all events
you will see what I still have here then, and you will also see
that I have not been idle.
But I must try to get some new strength; if that succeeds,
it will be high time to use it.
Now, what is most pressing this year is the painting. I
remind you once more of what I already wrote last year, which
has slipped your mind, I think: here I have to pay the regular
retail price for colours.
Wouldn't it be possible for you to get me colours from
Paillard or someone, in a certain quantity at the wholesale
price from the manufacturer himself? -Undoubtedly that would be
a step toward the possibility of the colours not being lacking.
And I should be very glad if we could arrange it so that you
deducted 10 francs from your remittance every time. That would
be 30 francs a month, 90 francs in three months, and I
shouldn't have to trouble you for a few tubes every now and
then, but if I had the net price list I could give a
three-month order. Will you think this over? I think it would
be a good arrangement. Paillard or Bourgeois or whoever it may
be, it doesn't matter. As an art dealer, you might perhaps be
entitled to the wholesale price.
I had another plan to try to get somebody else to let me
have colours wholesale, but after talking it over with him, I
heard he cannot do it.
You must try to come soon, brother, for I do not know how
long I shall be able to hold out. Things are getting too much
for me. I feel my strength failing. I tell you plainly that
under such circumstances, I am afraid I shall never hold out.
My constitution would be good enough if I hadn't had to fast so
long, but it was always a question of fasting or working less,
and I chose the former as much as possible, till I have become
too weak now. How to bear up against it? It influences my work
so obviously and clearly that I don't see the way to get on.
You must not speak to others about it, brother, for if certain
persons knew it, they would say, “Oh, of course it's what
we foresaw and prophesied long ago.” And not only would
they not help me, they would cut off all possibility for me
patiently to regain my strength and to get over it.
Under the present circumstances, my work cannot be other
than it is.
I assure you that it is nothing but prostration from overwork
and too little nourishment. Some people who have spoken of me
as if I had some kind of disease would start it again, and that
is slander of the worst kind; so keep it to yourself without
speaking about it when you come here. But to a great extent I
cannot help the dryness in my work, and it will change when I
can get well again. What I most long for is your coming, so
that we may look over the work together and see each other
Good-by, and meanwhile try to write a little more often, I
need it so much. And many thanks for this last letter; have a
good time if possible.
It will again be a question of fasting these next days till
your letter arrives. Write as soon as possible.
Hendrik van Gogh, the bad debtor.
At this time, Vincent was 30 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 24 or 25 July 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 304.
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