Vincent van Gogh - Basket of Apples 1885

Basket of Apples 1885
Basket of Apples
Oil on canvas 33.5 x 44.0 cm. Nuenen: September, 1885
Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Saturday, 18 February 1882.
My dear Theo,
It’s now 18 February and I still haven’t heard anything from you this month. Because you wrote something in your last letter about not feeling well, I thought you might perhaps be ill. But Mr Tersteeg told me you’d recovered, at least he hadn’t noticed anything wrong with you. You understand that I’m extremely short of money. Mr Tersteeg bought a little drawing from me for 10 guilders, which helped me to get through the week.
But he wants them small and only in watercolour and I can’t do that yet. One milestone has been passed, however. I work as hard as I can, but don’t forget that I’ll go under if I have too much worry and strain.
So write by return of post if you can, send me something, and believe me, with a handshake,
Ever yours,

This week, in addition to the one Mr Tersteeg bought, I’ve made around 3 studies that are still not right in execution, though the drawing is better, thank goodness.
It means a great deal to me to feel that I’m beginning to draw better, and that keeps my spirits up.
Drawing is the most important thing, no matter what they say, and far and away the most difficult as well.
This is why I dare to say that I’ll make something saleable within the year. Because I don’t count the one Mr Tersteeg bought, I’ll be much better at it when I’ve improved my drawing so that it no longer causes me such trouble. Adieu, old chap, be sure to write soon!

To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Saturday, 25 February 1882.
My dear Theo,
I received your last letter with the 100 francs enclosed in good order, and I sincerely thank you for sending it.
I’d have sent you news of its safe receipt immediately, but I’ve been very busy with a couple of drawings for which I had a model.
For I’ll have you know that if you’re busy, so am I, and will be so more and more, because I’m getting more of an eye for my work, and so can tear myself away from it only with a great effort in order to write or to go and visit someone if necessary.
What made me happy was that you write that you may be coming to Holland soon. When you’ve seen what I’ve been doing recently, perhaps we’ll have a better idea of the future. When you come, I hope we’ll have some quiet time together in the studio, and I also hope that you’ll write to me in advance, so that I can arrange with the model not to come during the days of your visit.
You write about Pa’s birthday, I must say that I feel so good to have done with everything, it’s such a tranquillity, which I need so much in my work, my head can’t hold more than it does. And now I dread starting up a new correspondence, so much so that I’m quietly leaving things as they are for the present. When I was still at home I worried about it, but now that things have come to this, what can one do? Ignore everything and pretend that nothing happened – Pa and Ma might be able to do that, but I can’t – I feel that, sadly, something did in fact happen.
When I think of Etten, a kind of shiver runs down my body as though I were in a church.
In short, what can be done, and again, what can be done?
Besides, you mustn’t blame me, Theo, or think that I’m carping, but you wrote something to me which you perhaps thought would make me happy, but it didn’t make me happy.
You said that that small watercolour is the best thing of mine you’ve seen – well, that isn’t true, because those studies of mine you have are much better, and the pen drawings of last summer are also better, because that little drawing means nothing; anyhow, I only sent it to you to show that my working with watercolour at some point wasn’t an impossibility.
But there’s much more serious study and more substance in those other things, despite the fact that they still look yellow-soap-like. And if I had something against Mr Tersteeg (but I don’t have anything against him), then it would be the same thing. Namely that he encourages me not to undertake difficult study from a model but rather to adopt a procedure that’s actually only half suited to the rendering of what I want to express, according to my own character and according to my own temperament.
It goes without saying that I’d be very happy to sell a drawing, but it makes me much happier if a true artist like Weissenbruch says of an unsaleable (???) study or drawing, that’s faithful and I’d be able to work from that. You see, although I place great value on money, especially now, still, for me the No. 1 thing is to make something that’s reasonable. Well, something like what Weissenbruch said of a landscape, a peat moor, Mauve said it of a figure, namely an old peasant sitting by the fireplace, thinking or daydreaming, as though seeing things from the distant past taking shape in the glow of the fire or the smoke.
It may take a longer or shorter time, but the way is really to penetrate deeply into nature.
To be true is what remains, says Gavarni. One may be caught up for a time in petty pecuniary vexations, but one will surmount them, and the drawings that were rejected earlier will then be sold. I’ve written to C.M. to tell him that I’d taken a studio here, and he wrote back saying that he expected to be coming to The Hague soon and would come and visit me.
Recently I was also given regards from my old friend Wisselingh from London, who’s also supposed to come, and he was glad that I was working. Well, I hope you’ll succeed in escaping, because I’m longing to see you. I think that when you’ve seen my recent studies you’ll agree completely with my taking a model regularly. The better I get to know the models, the better I can draw them, of course. And I’ve been rather lucky in finding models.
Today, now as I’m writing to you, I have a child that has to rest once in a while for half an hour, and I’m using that half-hour for this letter.
Thanks again for what you sent, and a handshake in thought, adieu,
Ever yours,

P.S. I’ve made two studies of the child today. It’s getting dark now. Good-night.