You would greatly oblige me by trying to get for me:
Illustration No.2174, 24th October 1884.
It is already an old number, but at the office you will
probably be able to get it. In it there is a drawing by Paul
Renouard, a strike of the weavers at Lyons. Also one from a
series of Opera sketches (of which he has also published
etchings) - called “The Harpist,” which I like very
Then he has also done just recently, “The World of the
Law Courts,” which I got from Rappard, you know it
probably from the “Paris Illustré” by
But I think the drawing of the weavers the most beautiful of
all, there is so much life and depth in it that I think this
drawing might hold its own beside Millet, Daumier, Lepage.
When I think how he rose to such a height by working from
the very beginning from nature, without imitating others, and
how he is none the less in harmony with the very clever people,
even in technique, though from the very first he had his own
style, I find him again a proof that by truly following nature
one's work improves every year.
And I am daily more convinced that people who do not in the
first place wrestle with nature never succeed.
I think that if one has tried to follow attentively the
great masters, one finds them all back at certain moments, deep
in reality - I mean that their so-called creations will
be seen by one in reality, if one has the same eyes, the same
sentiment as they had. And I do believe that if the critics and
connoisseurs were better acquainted with nature their judgment
would be more correct than now, when it is the routine to live
only among pictures, and to compare them mutually. Which of
course, as one side of the question, is good in itself, but it
lacks a solid basis if one begins to forget nature and looks
only superficially. Can't you understand that I am perhaps not
wrong in this, and to say more clearly still what I mean, is it
not a pity that you, for instance, seldom or hardly ever enter
those cottages, or associate with those people, or see that
sentiment in landscape, which is painted in the pictures you
like best. I do not say that you can do this in your
position, just because one must look much and long at nature
before one comes to the conviction that the most touching
things the great masters have painted still find their origin
in life and reality itself. A basis of sound poetry, which
exists eternally as a fact, and can be found if one digs and
seeks deeply enough.
“Ce qui ne passe pas dans ce qui passe,” it
exists. [“ The durable within the transitory”]
And what Michelangelo said in a splendid metaphor, I think
Millet has said without metaphor, and Millet can perhaps best
teach us to see, and get “a faith.” If I do better
work later on, I certainly shall not work differently
than now, I mean it will be the same apple, though riper; I
shall not change my mind about what I have thought from the
beginning. And that is the reason why I say for my part: if I
am no good now, I shall be no good later on either, but if
later on, then now too. For corn is corn, though people from
the city may take it for grass at first, and also the other way
In any case, whether people approve or do not approve of
what I do and how I do it, I for my part know no other way than
to wrestle so long with nature that she tells me her
All the time I am working at various heads and hands.
I have also drawn some again, perhaps you would find
something in them, perhaps not, I can't help it. I repeat, I
know no other way.
But I can't understand that you say: perhaps later on we
shall admire even the things done now.
If I were you, I should have so much self-confidence and
independent opinion that I should know whether I could see
now what there was or was not in a thing.
Well, you must know those things for yourself.
Though the month is not quite over, my purse is quite empty.
I work on as hard as I can, and I for my part think that by
constantly studying the model, I shall keep a straight
I wish you could send me the money a few days before the 1st
for that same reason, that the ends of the month are always
hard, because the work brings such heavy expenses, and I don't
sell any of it. For the rest, nature outside and the interiors of the
cottages, they are splendid in their tone and sentiment just at
present; I try hard not to lose time.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 31 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 24 January 1885 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 393.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.