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"Cottage," Vincent van Gogh
The Hague, c. 2 August 1883
Thanks for your letter of yesterday and the enclosure.
Fortunately they have also changed the other note for 23
guilders. So I have been able to pay off the most pressing
debts, though not all, for there was so much to pay at once for
the colours I had used in the meantime.
I wonder if you intend to do as you did last year, first go
home for a few days, and then come straightway here. Promise me
that you won't mention misgivings about the future at home, or
the small chance of selling my work. At least not immediately;
first let's talk things over and see what there is.
Theo, I am enormously eager to paint the potato diggers. I
think it would be a good thing. And even if it weren't sold, it
would help us make progress, as some people sometimes change
their opinion when they have seen something they did not
Well, I made a few studies for it already, but I haven't
been able to take enough models; and I feel sure of doing them
much better now if I could spend more money on them.
It is exactly the right time now, therefore there can be no
question of taking a holiday, for I keep at work as best I can.
But your idea of doing as Weissenbruch does is the same as
mine. However, I literally cannot carry it out, because
going to the polders for two weeks would cost me more than it
would to stay home for two weeks, and I don't even know how to
struggle through those first two weeks at home.
But for the rest, as I already wrote you, I am also quite
absorbed in landscape; I am making landscape studies or marines
to give myself a change from the figure and it does me good.
But after all the figure calls me back, and so strongly that I
try to do whatever circumstances allow; if I could go on as I
liked, autumn would not pass without my doing those potato
I don't know whether the studies I paint from the drawings
will be satisfactory, but “quand bien même,”
I will try to make something of it.
Models are not easy to get at present, because there is a
great deal of work in the fields; I wish I could spend more on
them, for then it would be possible to overcome that
difficulty. Well, as soon as I can possibly afford it - now it
is absolutely impossible - I will try to get two fellows for a
whole day out in the dunes to pose for the potato diggers. That
would be the shortest and safest way.
In the days which must elapse before you come, I hope to
paint a few more things.
But you will understand that the work is rather important,
and I could not drop it now for the very reason that so much of
it is already done. When you come, you will see for yourself
that it is necessary to go on steadily. You are right in saying
that what I wrote you about the finances weighs on your mind,
but on the other hand, we cannot now be far from the moment
when I shall make something that is saleable, even if it be for
a small price.
The work becomes more and more clear to me.
And when I think it over, it is only a question of hurrying
or slackening speed, and we shall make up for it later, even
for the past; but after all it is a damn thorny, difficult and
hard time we are going through now.
If it were possible for me to get enough money to have
sufficient colours and models this season, things would clear
up more than a little, I think. At all events, it's fine that
you will be here soon.
Recently a very heavy care has fallen on my shoulders. Last
year I repeatedly tried to paint figure studies, but the way
they turned out made me desperate. Now I have begun again, and
now there is nothing that keeps me from carrying it out,
because drawing comes so much more easily to me than last year.
I used to get in a muddle then whenever I lost hold of my
sketch while painting; and it took me a long time to make that
sketch, so that when I could only have the model for a short
time, I made an absolute mess of it.
But now I don't care in the least if the drawing is wiped
out; and I am now only doing them directly with the brush, and
then the form stands out enough for study to be of use to me.
Therefore I say that I see the way before me more clearly. I
know that I'll have to make many studies, but they won't cost
me more trouble than the drawings, and therefore a great deal
of painting must be done this year, and then there will come
more light. I am fully convinced of that. So next winter I
intend to paint the same kind of studies of heads as those
which I sent you a few drawings of. I would even do it at once
now if it were not more important to get hold of figures in the
field while the season is in full swing.
Van der Weele is out of town during the holidays - I heard
he got the silver medal at Amsterdam for his picture,
“The Loaders of Sand.” When he comes back to town,
I hope to see a great deal of him, because I believe those
potato diggers will intrigue him, and perhaps he would give me
some useful hints for the execution of my plan. And Rappard,
too, when he comes back.
You will see the difference when the first two I made now
remain in their present condition.
There is an exhibition of drawings which was held last year
in the Gothic Hall, but I think it very meager this year; there
is little one has not already seen before, and then generally
of a better quality. I counted a few drawings by J. van Berg
among the best there. Generally it is such that Schipperus and
the like are among the best.
As to the painting of those potato diggers, I just saw Van
der Weele's last picture being painted, and at Rappard's I saw
all the studies for the pictures he made last year. So that I
can well imagine beforehand what the difficulties I shall have
to overcome for the ultimate picture will be.
If I can afford it, I shall make a few studies for it in the
dunes before you come, namely, I shall go with my model to
those fields behind Loosduinen early in the morning or in the
evening twilight. I think I can make something of it.
The composition of the drawing will probably be altered a
little, and especially the effect more thoroughly studied, but
in general I would keep it as it is. I think the figures must
stand out strongly, and all the rest in a violet-grey haze.
In the drawings I think the division of dark and lighter
planes too complicated, the figures being partly light and
partly dark, and the ground likewise. Either the ground and the
figures must be brought more into harmony and form a dark
silhouette against a light sky - or sky and ground must form
together a misty grey whole, against which the toneful planes
of the figures stand out.
Both these effects exist, but that of the drawing is not
right the way it is now, for it is too dry, and too meager, and
because the figures have too many tones in common with the
ground, they do not stand out, and the sky is not part of it.
Well, the tone must become quite different, but the composition
needs very little alteration.
It gives me a certain restful feeling to think that we shall
see each other soon, and can consult together about how to go
on with the work. Meanwhile, I will try to make a few new
things, and therefore I should very much like to receive the
money a few days before the tenth if possible. Then I would try
to make those studies in the dunes before you come. I cannot
afford it now, as I had so much to pay. You remember what you
wrote about the possibility of being disappointed in your share
of the profits in business. Well, I hope that catastrophe will
not occur, but we must consider it a piece of good luck if it
turns out well, and we must not lose a minute of time that it
is still before us.
I should be very astonished if, in the long run, some people
did not alter their opinion about my doing or planning absurd
things. I think you will see what I mean by the studies, and
you will remember some of our previous talks on art. We must
try to keep courage and persevere. A thing that gave me a good
deal of courage recently is that though I had not painted for
several months, I believe there is progress in the present
painted studies compared to last year's. It is because
matters of drawing and proportion which gave me a lot of
trouble then have been mastered now, so that when sitting
before nature, instead of having to think of two things at
once, drawing and painting, I only have to think of the
painting. Of course when intensifying the painting, one has to
think of both at once, but even that is different.
Well, I shall live these days in the hope of your coming. If
I have some luck with my painting, perhaps things will become a
The two weeks between now and your coming will not be easy
to get through, however.
If possible, think of what I asked you, to send something a
few days before the tenth, for then I could try to make those
figure studies in the dunes before you come. Adieu and once
more thanks for your letter, and good luck in everything;
Yours sincerely, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 30 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 2 August 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 308.
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