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Thanks for the early remittance of this month's money,
which, coming early, in fact helps me more. Thanks also for the
splendid wood engraving, after Lhermitte, one of the few things
of his I know, for I have only seen the following: a group of
girls in a cornfield, an old woman in a church, a miner or some
such type in a little bar and “La Moisson” [The
Harvest], and that's all, and none of these giving an idea of
his real technique the way these woodcutters do. If Le Monde
Illustré gives a composition of his every month - this
one forms part of a series “Les Mois Rustiques” - I
should like very much to have the whole series, and I shall be
very glad if you will send them. For of course I never see
anything here, and after all I need to see some beautiful
things now and then; so just deduct 20 francs someday, but send
me such things whenever they appear in the magazines.
As to what you write, that if I had anything ready which I
thought suitable, you would try and send it in for the Salon, I
appreciate your being willing to do so.
This in the first place, and further, that had I known it
six weeks ago, I should have tried to send you something for
Now I have nothing that I should care to send in; lately I
have, as you know, painted heads almost exclusively, and they
are studies in the real sense of the word - that is to say,
they are meant for the studio.
However, today I at once started to make some, which I will
send you. Because I think it might be useful if, when you meet
a good many people on the occasion of the Salon, you have
something to show - even if it's only studies.
So you will receive an old model, and a young woman's head,
and probably more than one of these two models.
As to what you write of your feelings about various
conceptions of heads, I believe that these which come straight
out of a cottage with a moss-covered thatched roof will not
seem absolutely inappropriate to you, though they are nothing
Had I known it six weeks ago, I should have made of it a
woman spinning or a woman spooling yarn - a whole figure.
To return for a moment to the subject of the women's heads,
genre Jacquet, not the earlier ones, but those of the present.
Take the reaction against it, which certainly has a motive. Or
consider the people who paint heads of girls such as our
sister, for instance; I can perfectly well understand there are
painters who do so. Whistler did it well several times;
Millais, Boughton - only to mention people of whom I saw
something of the kind at one time; I know but little of Fantin
Latour, but what I saw I thought excellent, Chardin-like. And
that's saying a lot.
I, for my part, however,
am not the personality to have had
much chance of getting on a sufficiently intimate footing with
girls of that sort for them to be willing to pose for me.
Especially not with my own sisters.
And perhaps I am also prejudiced against women who wear
dresses. And my territory is more those who wear jackets and
skirts. But I think what you say true - namely, that they
can very well be painted, and that it has its raison
d'être as a reaction against the present-day Jacquets,
and Van Beers, etc. but - Chardin (let's summarize the aim of
that reaction in his name, Fantin Latour at least would approve
of this) was a Frenchman, and painted
“Françaises.” And in my opinion the
respectable Dutch woman very, very often lacks the charm
that French women frequently have. Consequently the so-called
respectable class of Dutch women is not so very particularly
attractive to paint, or to think of. But on the contrary,
certain ordinary servant girls are again very Chardin-like.
Just now I paint not only as long as there is daylight, but
even in the evening by the lamp in the cottages, when I can
hardly distinguish anything on my palette, so as to catch, if
possible, something of the curious effects of lamplight in the
evening, with, for instance, a large shadow cast on the
It is a fact that in the last few years I certainly have not
seen anything as beautiful as those woodcutters by Lhermitte.
How completely according to intention and full of feeling his
figures are in that composition. Again, many thanks for it.
Ever yours, Vincent
The Chardin-esque is in my opinion a peculiar expression of
simplicity and goodness - both through and
through - and I have some doubts about whether something
like either quality might be found, for instance, in one of our
sisters. But if Wil were a Frenchwoman instead of being a
clergyman's daughter, she might have it. But one is
nearly always driven from one's course to the opposite
side of the world.
At this time, Vincent was 31 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 1 March 1885 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 395.
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