Highlighting art - theory - Turn off highlighting
Nuenen, 2nd half September 1884
I wrote you today and your letter from Terschelling crossed
I am greatly pleased to hear that you are going to bring
back rather a lot of things from your trip, and from what you
say about your studies I am confident that you will bring along
useful things. I still regret that I have not seen that
picture “Fish Market,” even in its first stage.
As I told you already, what I said about it may be wrong in
so far as my words - “If you keep the division of
the space substantially as it is now, it is my opinion that it
can be saved only by a division of light and brown, a vigorous
effect of chiaroscuro” - may apply to something quite
different, may flatly contradict your intention - if you wanted
to make a grey picture, for instance. And yet - I suppose your
sketch conforms to the picture with regard to the amount of
canvas space taken up by your figures as compared to the
canvas space taken up by the houses, street, sky. And then it
struck me at once that the figures would be crushed by the
rest, and that there would be too much of a struggle
between the figures and the surroundings.
Well, I'm damned sorry I didn't see the picture itself in
its first stage.
All the same I did not lose sight of the fact - as you
suppose - that it is you who are making the picture, not
I - but I base my argument on something you will hardly deny,
namely that you are making a PICTURE.
And a picture - whoever the artist may be - you or anyone
else - should express preferably one thing only and that
Speaking of Van der Weele, I remember saying to him about
the picture which he got a medal for in Amsterdam - and this
contrary to the opinion of others - that I greatly appreciated
his having succeeded so well in preserving the unity of
STYLE despite all the different things that appeared in it, and
that it really and truly was a picture, i.e.
something quite different from a realistic study from
But - after all - I know nothing of your original concept,
except from that hasty little sketch, and I don't doubt in the
least that there will be praiseworthy things in it. But all the
same I stick to what I said, and I want to point out again that
I am afraid that your foreground, for instance,
cannot carry all the things standing in it - it will
either become paint or else unfixed and woolly - what is
called mou. This very summer the same thing happened to
me with a weaver's interior that I could not go on with because
the whole thing came too much to the forefront - because the
picture began with what ought to have been the second
plane - the first plane, the solid foundation, was missing. And
I reproached myself in the same way that I am now speaking to
It is something that happens very often to nearly all
painters, and it may happen that it can be remedied only by
transferring the whole to a larger canvas.
By the way, do you know “Ordered off” by Frank
Hol in the London News? I brought it back from Utrecht together
with a “Shepherd” by Thompson.
Good-by. I hope you will come in October; if possible, write
in advance the exact date when you are coming.
With a handshake,
Ever yours, Vincent
1. See letter 369 to Theo.
At this time, Vincent was 31 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Anthon van Rappard. Written 2nd half September 1884 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number R46.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.