I want to tell you that I am working on the potato eaters,
and I have painted new studies of the heads; the hands
especially are greatly changed.
What I am trying to do most is to bring life into
I wonder what Portier will have to say about it when it is
The Lhermittes are superb. I am quite enthusiastic about
They are full of sentiment, calculated both in general and
in detail, but especially broadly conceived and treated
vigorously. I do hope that you will watch for the new months of
the series being published. Tell me, please, what the best way
to send a picture of a somewhat larger size is and which
address it must be sent to.
I will not send the potato eaters unless I know for
sure there is something in it.
But I am getting on with it, and I think there are
completely different things in it than you can ever have seen
in my work. At least, so distinctly.
And then I drop in every night to correct some details on
But in the picture I give free scope to my own head in the
sense of thought or imagination, which is not so much the case
in studies, where no creative process is allowed, but
where one finds food for one's imagination in reality, in order
to make it exact.
But you know I wrote to Mr. Portier, “Jusqu'à
présent je n'ai fait que des études, mais
les tableaux vont venir” [Up to now I have only
made studies, but the paintings will come]. And I
will stick to that.
I intend to send soon a few more studies from nature
It is the second time that a saying of Delacroix's
has meant so much to me. The first time it was his theory about
colours, but later I read a conversation he had with other
painters about the making, namely the creation of a
He pretended that the best pictures are made from memory.
Par coeur! He said. And about that conversation I read that,
when all those worthy people were going home in the evening,
Delacroix, with his usual vivacity and passion, loudly called
after them in the middle of the boulevard, Par coeur! Par
coeur! Probably to the great astonishment of the respectable
passers-by. Just like Jacque who, after he had spent the
evening with a friend, kept on sending him messages by his boy,
after midnight, and all through the night, “J'ai encore
par la présente l'honneur de vous assurer que votre M.
Ingres n'est qu'un imaginier, et que Daumier le surpasse
infinitement” [Herewith I have the honour to assure you
once again that your Mr. Ingres is only an image maker, and
that Daumier surpasses him infinitely], or something like
I will not send the picture before I have heard from you, in
fact it is not quite finished yet.
But the most difficult things - the heads, the hands, and
the ensemble - are finished. Perhaps you will now find in it
what you wrote some time ago, that though it is personal, yet
it will remind you of other painters - with a certain family
resemblance. Which you did not find in my studies then, but I
think if you compare my studies with the other studies, there
would also be a resemblance.
Once more thanks for the Lhermittes, and the other
illustrations; Le Chat Noir wasn't as good as I expected,
though the title is good. I was glad to find some particulars
about the life of Jules Dupré in the Vie Moderne. I
sometimes think that perhaps Mistigris (le plus malin des
paysagistes) in Balzac's Comèdie Humaine might have been
Dupré in his youth. But I do not know whom Balzac meant,
and in fact the person plays no prominent part in the book. Do
you know who also often works in that way of draawing with
ellipses which Gigoux mentioned? Henri Pille. “Ne pas
prendre par la ligne, mais par le milieu” - is an
important truth. Meunier, Mellery and Rappard also often draw
in that way, and Allebé.
Goodbye, with a handshake,
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 32 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written late April 1885 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 403.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.