To Theo van Gogh. Cuesmes, Tuesday, 7 September 1880.
As for the sheets, etchings &c. that you sent me some time ago, I received them safely and I thank you very much for them. You did me a great service by sending them.
I’ll tell you, then, that I’ve sketched the 10 sheets of Millet’s Labours of the fields (in approximately the dimensions of a sheet of the Bargue Cours de dessin) and that I’ve completely finished one of them, namely The woodcutter. I would be further on with them if it weren’t for the fact that I first wanted to do Bargue’s Exercices au fusain, which Mr Tersteeg has been so kind as to lend me, and now I’ve finished the 60 sheets.
Furthermore, I’ve drawn The evening prayer after the etching that you sent.
I’d very much like to be able to show you them, to have your opinion on all of it, as well as on some other drawings, such as a large sepia after T. Rousseau, Oven in Les Landes. I’d done it twice before, small, in watercolours, before succeeding with it. I would, as I’ve already told you, really like to do Ruisdael’s The bush, too. You know that these two landscapes are in the same style and sentiment.
For quite a while I’ve been scribbling down drawings without making much progress, but recently it’s been going better, it seems to me, and I’m confident that it will go better still. Especially in view of the fact that Mr Tersteeg and you, too, have come to my aid with good models; because I believe I do much better for the time being by first copying some good things than by working without that foundation.
However, I couldn’t help sketching, in fairly large dimensions, the drawing of the miners going to the pit, of which I sent you the croquis, changing the arrangement of the figures slightly. I really hope that after copying Bargue’s two other series as well I’ll be able to draw a more or less reasonable miner or female thrutcher, when one of these days it will be possible for me to have a model with some character, and as far as that’s concerned, there are some here.
I find the lithograph after Bosboom, Interior of a cowshed, very beautiful. You well understood my thinking when you added Hébert’s Malaria to our collection.
If you still own the book with the etchings after Michel, lend it to me too sometime, but it’s not urgent; I have plenty to work on for the time being, but I’ll be very eager to see those landscapes again, because now I see things with a different eye from the time when I wasn’t yet drawing. I hope you won’t be too unhappy with the drawings after Millet when you see them; these little wood engravings are wonderful. As I’ll already have 20 sheets after Millet, all told, you can well understand that if you could obtain some more for me I’d be very keen to do them, as I’m trying to study this master seriously. I’m well aware that the large etching of the diggers is rare, but keep an eye open for it nevertheless, and tell me at what price one could still get it. One of these days I’ll earn a farthing or two with some scratch of a miner, and I’d be very keen to have that sheet, as well as The bush, as soon as I could buy it, even though it might be a bit expensive. The other day I bought 2 volumes of the Musée Universel for 2.50 francs, in which there are a fair number of interesting wood engravings, including 3 Millets.
I couldn’t tell you how much Mr Tersteeg has pleased me by agreeing to let me have Bargue’s Exercices au fusain and Cours de dessin. I’ve worked on the first ones for a fortnight or thereabouts, from very early in the morning until evening, and day by day I’ve believed I could feel that it was making me stronger. But not with less, rather with more eagerness, I’m now doing The labours of the fields. It’s The sheep-shearers that are on the go now.
So accept my sincere thanks for sending them, and be sure that anything you might be able to find by that artist couldn’t be more useful to me. As for The sower, I’ve drawn it 5 times now, twice small, 3 times large, and yet I’ll go back to it again, that figure haunts me so.
When you write to me, sooner or later (which by way of distraction would give me great pleasure), could you give me some information about A. Legros’ etchings? If my memory serves me right, I once saw about a dozen of them in England that were very fine.
For today, I’ll end this letter by thanking you again and shaking your hand.
Also accept my congratulations on the occasion of 10 September.
Address C. Decrucq.
3 rue du Pavillon
Cuesmes (near Mons)
Here are the Millets that I have:
Reapers binding sheaves
Woodcutter and his wife in the forest
Fields in winter.
Labours of the fields, 10 sheets
Four times of the day, 4 sheets
Don’t you still have an old woodcutter alone in the woods in your collection of wood engravings?