"Water Mill at Gennep," Vincent van Gogh
I am sure you will be interested to hear particulars about
the call to Helvoirt that Father has received. Father told the
people at Helvoirt that he would not even consider it
unless the salary at Helvoirt were brought on a level with the
salary at Nuenen. And Father wrote today that they do not seem
to object to making up the difference in salary - I think they
will have to add 150 guilders. So - although nothing has been
settled yet - considering the willingness of the worthy
natives, there is definitely a chance that as the result of his
own words, Father will have to consider it seriously. This is
important to me, as I should certainly not like to go
with them to Helvoirt. So I wanted to state precisely how
Though it has been freezing pretty hard here for the last
few days, I am still at work out-of-doors, on a rather large
study (more than 40 inches) of an old water mill at Gennep, on
the other side of Eindhoven.
I want to do it entirely out-of-doors, but it will certainly
be the last I shall paint out-of-doors this year.
Since I wrote you, I have also been working on other
studies, including two heads of poldermen.
I now have three people in Eindhoven who want to learn to
paint, and whom I am teaching to paint still-lifes.
I can safely say that since your visit I have made progress
in the technique of painting and in colour. And that I shall
continue to do so, “il y a les premiers pas qui
coûtent” in painting; it is easier later, and I
have a number of trumps in my hand. And I think tricks can be
made with them.
You know that I took steps to make it up with Mauve and
Tersteeg after what happened in the past.
I am not sorry I did so.
But they have refused to have anything to do with me, very
“definitely” refused. This does not discourage
I consider it like sending a picture to an exhibition and
having it refused.
At first one must meet with opposition a few times.
So I repeat, I am not sorry for the advances I made, and
shall probably repeat them, not at once, but before long.
Now I must tell you that I should be very glad if you did
not stay entirely neutral in this, but, on the contrary, if you
helped me get what I want. I have owned myself to be in the
wrong, not only to Mauve, but also to Tersteeg. I did it the
more readily because I believe that later they will see for
themselves that, on their part, they have absolutely
misunderstood some things. Which they don't see yet.
So on my part this time I went so far as to acknowledge
unreservedly and unmistakably that I had been in the wrong as
to the past, and for the rest I proposed to show them my
work as it gets better - which means that at any rate I
am absolved from having to make further apologies in the
future. Once is enough, and really it was not
necessary for me to go as far as that - namely
unconditionally. Getting them to be open-minded
on their part is another question - come to my aid in
this matter if you feel inclined to do so. If not -
don't worry - but then I shall return to the attack after a
I do not know how you have taken my last letter, which was
not meant unkindly. My affairs can prosper, and in both
our interests, I wish we could concentrate all the power a our
I sent both Tersteeg and Mauve a few words in answer to
their refusal, to tell them that “I perhaps agreed
with Tersteeg, it was better for me to look for new friends
than to try to renew old relations, that this was exactly my
own idea too, but that except and besides that, I had enough
confidence in the future not even to give up the renewal of old
relations, perhaps even better than before.”
This was my answer to Tersteeg, and it is also my answer to
you. I believe it possible to be on better terms with
you too than we are at present.
But speaking frankly - I think you have been too neutral
toward me this past one and a half or two years, and above all
things I desire more cordiality, our friendship having
been too cool and too inactive for my taste. You may find this
conceited if you like, but it isn't; I pointed this out to you
before, and again now, for serious, practical reasons.
[Written separately] Margot Begemann will be returning to
Nuenen one of these days; I have always remained good friends
with her, and it is on my advice that she has not given way to
the pressure exerted by her sisters, who showed clearly that
they preferred for her to stay away, and who are still annoying
her by suggesting that she has made a mess of things. On the
contrary, her family is under an obligation to her, for at the
time her brother went bankrupt, she put her own money into the
This meant doing a bad turn.
It may be that they all did this with the best of
intentions, but…There was Louis Begemann; he too had
objections, but he behaved and went on behaving in such a way
that she as well as I could talk things over with him, and its
not turning out worse was due to his being humane and
calm, so that he could help when the thing I knew about
happened, whereas the others only hindered. And we were
quite of one mind as to the measures that had to be taken
As a matter of fact, I had already warned him three days
before, and told him: I am uneasy about your sister.
It cannot be denied that at various times she did good turns
for almost all the people in the surroundings, either in
case of sickness or when they were in some trouble or other.
And it is a fact that she and I became attached to each other
during Mother's illness. Only the other day she wrote me: If
there should be sick people at Nuenen, do go and look them up,
and see if they can be given help. In short - there are a
thousand things like that in her character. And the very
mildest thing one can say of it is that in this case a most
deplorable misunderstanding has arisen.
As for you, on looking back I feel sure that now you
would not speak the way you did that evening any
But that concerned only me, and I could stand it, so
on my part there is no question of reproaching you in this
However, only by way of explanation to you alone, I
tell you that her sisters spoke to her in the same
way you spoke to me, who can stand it; in her case it made
her desperate. You were not the least bit at fault in
this, for you spoke to me, and I do not take such
things lying down, and you did not speak to her.
But the real fault lies with her sisters, or rather
one of the sisters in particular, who appears to be more
hard-hearted, as in fact she is still sulking and
bearing a grudge.
You…you would have to tell me yourself that
you are bearing a grudge - before I should suspect you of
No more than I bear a grudge against you.
At this time, Vincent was 31 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written November 1884 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 385.
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