To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, between about Monday, 6 and on or about Thursday, 9 March 1882.
My dear Theo,
In your letter of 18 February you said: ‘When Tersteeg was here we naturally spoke about you, and he told me that whenever you needed anything you could feel easy about going to him’ &c. But why, then, when I asked Tersteeg for 10 guilders the other day, did he give it to me with so many reproaches, and I’d almost say insults, that I almost couldn’t restrain myself, though I did restrain myself. I’d have thrown the 10 guilders in his face if it had been for me, but I had to pay the model, who’s a poor, sick woman whom I may not keep waiting. So I kept quiet. However, for half a year I won’t go to Tersteeg any more or talk to him or show him my work. I’m not telling him that, but I’m saying it to you.
My dear Theo, you say ‘be sure and stay good friends with T., for he’s almost like an elder brother to us’.
But my dear fellow, he may be friendly to you, but for years I’ve been confronted with his unfriendly and hard side. He would be right in reproaching me if I didn’t work, but it’s disgraceful to upbraid someone who works hard and constantly at difficult, painstaking work with such rebukes as ‘I’m absolutely certain that you’re no artist’, ‘for me it counts heavily against you that you started too late’, ‘you have to earn your bread’.
Then I say, stop! Easy does it.
One can’t always be friends, one must also quarrel occasionally.
As regards the arrangement between you and me, that I receive money from you, I’d like to speak to you about it again in the presence of Mauve and no one else, when you come to The Hague, which will be soon, I hope.
Mauve’s large painting will be finished soon, and then Mauve will again have a thing or two to say to me about making watercolours. But Tersteeg really cannot talk so that one can work from it. The summary of what Mauve has said to me so far is: Vincent, when you draw you’re a painter. And that’s why I’ve worked, and worked hard, for weeks now, on drawing, on proportion, on perspective, but Tersteeg doesn’t appreciate that enough, and merely talks about ‘saleability’. For this I don’t deserve his reproaches – though I’m inclined to restrain myself because I do respect His Hon., and he can’t stand being contradicted. That’s why I say, in half a year we’ll speak to each other again – for half a year we won’t speak to each other.
If you can, send me the money for this month soon. I’m progressing with my work, but I can’t work without money, or with too little.
With a handshake.
I’d prefer to have no midday meal for half a year and save money like that than receive 10 guilders now and then from Tersteeg, along with his reproaches.
I’d like to know what the painters would say to his argument ‘take fewer models to economize’ at the very moment when, after much hunting, one has found models who aren’t too expensive.
Working without a model is the bane of the figure painter, especially at the beginning of his career.
If Tersteeg told you he was surprised at some of the things I’d said to His Hon., then perhaps he’ll also be surprised at this, but I wish that he’d consider whether he doesn’t sometimes go a bit too far. Last winter I asked him to speak to Mauve about me. He also treated that very high-handedly and wrote to me ‘that certainly won’t be possible’. Yet it was possible, as it later turned out, and so Tersteeg isn’t always right. And if T. hadn’t said that so decidedly last winter, perhaps I’d have become acquainted with Mauve sooner.