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"Old church tower at Nuenen," Vincent van Gogh
"Raising of Lazarus sketch," Vincent van Gogh
Nuenen, 2nd half August 1885
Today I had a visit from Wenkebach, a painter from Utrecht,
who is a friend of Rappard's. He is a landscape painter and I
have often seen his name mentioned; he received a medal in
London at the same time as Rappard. He has seen my work, those
cottages which I am going to send you and also the drawings of
I told him I was sorry to say there had been a
misunderstanding between Rappard and me, which I could hardly
explain otherwise than that he had been gossiping about my work
with other people from The Hague, and as he had not seen
anything of it for a long time, he had involuntarily been
turned against me. I showed Wenkebach figures which Rappard
used to like, and at the same time the new ones, and showed him
that indeed I had changed in some respects and would change
even more, but that what I made now was certainly not
Then he said that he did not doubt that Rappard would take
back what he had written.
Then I showed him that, as to colour, I certainly do not
want to always paint dark. Some of my cottages are even
But that my aim is to proceed from the primary colours -
red, blue, yellow - and not from grey.
We had a long discussion about colour, and among other
things he said he had noticed how Jaap Maris in old
watercolours also frequently used ruddy, brownish-grey, red
colours. So that if one puts them beside one of his present
drawings, they become quite red.
It is the same with Israëls.
Perhaps I do more harm than good by telling you this,
because it is only part of the conversation, and I ought to
tell the whole of it. But we have discussed it before, so you
will perhaps understand it in its real connection. In order to
get an honest, sound palette, and to stick to
it, it is necessary to practice the strongest colour scales
too, and to continue to use them, especially in these days when
imitators (not the masters themselves) of the great painters in
grey want to paint more and more, always and everything
So Wenkebach said, for instance, that he liked the picture
of the old tower for its technique too; I painted it last year,
with a lot of bitumen in it. He said he found it quite
The same with other old things. That water mill, the plough
with oxen, the avenue of autumn trees.
But what pleased me most of all was that he liked the
He called them Millet-like. But I know for sure that I will
get them even better if only I have some luck with the money
and can continue working on them at full speed; but that is
what rather worries me, and for this month I am
absolutely cleaned out. I am literally without a
We shall have hard times; it is not all my fault, but only
by perseverance do we have a chance to reap, after some time,
what we are sowing.
And it worries me enough that you have all those money
troubles; I wish I could lighten them for you somewhat.
When you come over to Holland, wouldn't it be advisable to
try Tersteeg once more?
Tersteeg is a man who dares; once he is convinced, he
is all right. And the same with Mauve.
If there were many people who persevered in studying
the figure, I should say there is little chance of finding
But they aren't so very numerous, and yet they aren't less
necessary than before.
It is hard for you to keep it up all by yourself, and I
cannot do anything to lessen the expenses; on the contrary, I
wish I could take even more models. What is to be done?
One must not call it engaging in a hopeless struggle, for
others have won, and we shall win too.
As to Rappard, I just wrote to him, I want him to retract
completely what he has written. But you see, Theo, how much
depends on being consistent in one's work.
I wrote Rappard that actually we have to fight other things
than each other, and that at this moment those painting rural
life and the life of the people must join hands because union
At any rate, one cannot do it alone; a whole group that is
of the same mind can do more. You too must be of good courage,
for perhaps we shall make more friends and then will become
more animated, and perhaps the mutual discord will change into
a peasant uprising against the kind of painters one finds on
every jury nowadays, who, if they could, would even now
obstruct the ideas which Millet pioneered.
Goodbye, send me something if you can, even if it's only 10
francs to help me through these last days of the month.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 32 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 2nd half August 1885 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 415.
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