To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, on or about Thursday, 28 May 1885.
My dear Theo,
I’ve just received Germinal, which I started on immediately. I’ve read 50 pages of it — which I think splendid. I also walked there once. Here’s a croquis of a head that I just brought back. You received the same one in the last studies I sent, the largest one among them, but painted smoothly.
This time I haven’t smoothed out the brushstroke, and besides the colour is very different too. I haven’t yet made a head that’s so much painted with the soil, and more will certainly follow now.
If all goes well — if I earn rather more so that I can travel more — well then I’ll also, I hope, paint the miners’ heads sometime. However, I’ll keep working until I’m absolutely and utterly sure of my case — such that I’m working even faster than now and will also be able to bring home 30 or so studies in the space of a month, say.
I don’t know whether we’ll earn money, but if it’s just enough to work a tremendous amount then I’m content; doing what one wants is what matters.
Yes, we must do the miners one day! What did Portier say about the potato eaters? I know myself that there are flaws in it; all the same, precisely because I see that the heads I’m doing now are becoming more powerful, I dare assert that the potato eaters will also hold up in association with subsequent paintings.
Last year I was often desperate about colour, but now I’m working much more confidently. You must just write and tell me what you think best; whether I should keep the work I’m doing now for Antwerp or that I send it to you and Portier as soon as possible. Because it’s all the same to me. I have 7 heads and 1 watercolour ready now, so I could make another small consignment. Regards, thanks again for Germinal, I’m still reading it as I write. It’s splendid.