From Kröller-Müller Museum:
In the summer of 1882, Van Gogh is able to buy his own oil paints for the first time, thanks to a financial bonus from his brother Theo. He chooses ‘a practical palette with healthy colours’ that he doesn’t have to mix himself. He also purchases a perspective frame that can be set up on uneven ground. One of the first paintings he subsequently makes is Girl in a wood.
He selects browns, yellows and greens from his ‘practical palette’, and uses the perspective frame to correctly depict the narrowing of the tree-trunks towards the background and the distances between them, so that ‘air’ is introduced into the composition. He explains to Theo that he thereby aims to ensure ‘that one can breathe and wander about in it – and smell the woods’.
He most likely painted it on his knees. This is apparent from the low perspective, but research has also found that pieces of oak leaves from the forest floor have become lodged in the paint.
To Willem and Caroline van Stockum-Haanebeek. London, between about Thursday, 16 October and Friday, 31 October 1873.
Dear Caroline and Willem,
Many thanks for your letter of this morning. It was a wonderful surprise, I’m happy you’re doing so well. Our Anna has passed her examinations in English and in needlework, you can imagine how delighted she and all of us are. Pa and Ma have suggested that she stay at school until next April, and in that case attempt French, but if she’d rather not she needn’t do it. I’d like it so much if something could be found for her here; we’ve talked about this before, as you know.
You already know that Theo is coming to The Hague, I think it a good change for him, even though it will be difficult for him to leave beautiful, convivial Brussels. I also received a letter from your Pa some time ago and have already answered it, so you’ll probably have heard that things are continuing to go well for me here, and also know a thing or two about my new lodgings.
What you say about winter is quite right, I think so too. I myself almost don’t know which season I like best; I believe all of them, equally well. It’s striking that the old painters almost never painted the autumn and that the moderns have such a particular preference for it. Herewith a couple of small photos which I hope will be to your liking. Here there are practically no albums like those we have in Holland, but rather so-called ‘scrapbooks’ in which one puts photographs, as I’ve done in this letter (which explains why we don’t put the photos in mounts here), the advantage of which is that one can arrange all shapes and sizes on the same sheet however one wants. I would advise you to buy a kind of writing-book with blank pages and to put these in it, for a start.
‘A baptism’ is after Anker, a Swiss, who has painted all manner of subjects, all equally sensitive and intimate.
‘Puritans going to church’ is after Boughton, one of the best painters here; an American, he’s very fond of Longfellow, and rightly so. I know 3 paintings by him based on ‘The courtship of Miles Standish’. Seeing the paintings prompted me to read Miles Standish and Evangeline again, I don’t know why, but I never knew they were as beautiful as I find them now.
‘The good friar’ is after Van Muyden, a Swiss painter, having ‘as yet more modesty than talent’.
Mr Post in The Hague has this painting. If you visit our gallery ask to see his (Van Muyden’s) ‘Refectory’. There are no more than 4 or 5 copies of this photograph, because the negative is broken. Show it to Mr Tersteeg when you have the opportunity. ‘The honeymoon’ is after Eugène Feyen, one of the few painters who paint intimate modern life as it really is and don’t turn it into fashion plates. I know the photo of ‘The landlady’s daughter’ and I find it very beautiful. It’s good that you find Bouguereau beautiful. Not everyone is as capable as you are of noticing and feeling good and fine things. And now I’ll stop; I’m enclosing another picture of autumn, by Michelet.
I hope you’ll be able to read this; I just kept on writing without thinking that one should take care to make a letter legible. Adieu, I wish you both the best; many regards to those in the Poten17 and to any other friends you might see.