Vincent van Gogh - Backyards of Old Houses in Antwerp in the Snow 1885

Backyards of Old Houses in Antwerp in the Snow 1885
Backyards of Old Houses in Antwerp in the Snow
Oil on canvas 44.0 x 33.5 cm. Antwerp: December, 1885
Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

« previous picture | Nuenen - van Gogh's paintings | next picture »

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Anthon van Rappard. The Hague, Tuesday, 6 June 1882.
My dear friend Rappard,
I gratefully enclose the 2.50 guilders you were good enough to lend me. I’ve had a reply to my drawings, but received even less for them than I expected, although my expectation was no more than 30 guilders for 7 items. I received 20 guilders with a sort of reprimand to boot: ‘did I imagine that such drawings had the least commercial value?’
You must admit that the times aren’t easy, and that such experiences (and there are so many worse things; this is generous compared with other treatment) and, I say, that such experiences aren’t exactly very encouraging.
Art is jealous and demands all our time, all our strength, and then, when you give it all that, you’re made out to be a sort of impractical type and I don’t know what else — that leaves a bitter taste.
Well, we must keep hacking our way through. I replied that I didn’t pretend to be well-informed as to the commercial value of things, that now that he, as a dealer, told me that they were of no commercial value, I had no desire to contradict or question that, that for my part I attached more importance to the artistic than to the commercial value, and would rather immerse myself in nature than calculate prices. And that when I talked to him about the price and didn’t give him the things for nothing, that was because I, like everyone else, had my basic needs for food, accommodation, &c., and saw it as a duty to ensure that I took care of these relatively minor matters. But that I didn’t want to force my work on His Hon. against his will, and was prepared to send him new drawings if he wanted, but was also prepared to accept the loss of his custom. I have little doubt, though, that my course of action will be viewed as ungrateful, rude and impertinent.
And I’ll be accused as follows, when it suits the purpose: ‘With your pretensions and obstinacy you behaved so ungratefully towards your uncle in Amsterdam, who had your best interests at heart and was so kind to you and helped you so much, that it’s your own fault’ &c. &c. &c.
My dear friend Rappard, I really don’t know whether to laugh or weep at this sort of thing. I find it so typical. Of course, the rich dealers are the good, honest, genuine, loyal, sensitive characters, and we poor devils who sit there drawing, whether out of doors, on the street, or in the studio, sometimes in the early morning, sometimes deep at night, sometimes in the heat of the sun, sometimes in the snow, we’re the people without sensitivity, with no understanding of practical matters, without ‘manners’ above all. Fine by me!
That uncle of mine in Amsterdam also informed me with considerable aplomb that Degroux was in fact a bad person. You will understand how much this has changed my opinion about père Degroux. All I said to him, to which as yet he has given me no reply, the noble dealer, what I said to him was: ‘It seems to me much less a matter of earning than of deserving.’
Anyway — I mention it to you as a way of opening the safety valve on the machine, otherwise I might remain bitter about the business, and my dearest wish is not to think about it any more and to forget it. But these people begin so kindly and manage to be so winning at first that you’re all the more amazed when you eventually see their true colours.
Adieu, thanks again, and believe me
Ever yours,