From the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London:
In 1883 Van Gogh settled in Nuenen, a village in North Brabant in the Netherlands, where his father was a minister. There he observed the lives of peasants as he established himself as a painter of working people. This is one of over 40 heads he painted that winter.
Dark, coarse and unidealised, the study was executed before the artist received any form of artistic training.
To Theo van Gogh. Dordrecht, Sunday, 15 April 1877.
My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter of yesterday, which I answer today, having an hour of time.
Remembered that when we were at the Van der Hoop Museum we talked about the book by Bürger, which you’ll be receiving in the post, in it you’ll also find a woodcut after G. Doré, Judith and Holofernes, and one after Brion &c. for your scrapbook. Do go on with it, because you’ll turn it into something beautiful in time.
Do accept my small contribution, I need so much to commune with you by way of such trifles; when I come back to my room I’m reminded of you again and again by the illustrations on the wall.
The love between brothers is a great support in life, that is an age-old truth, let us seek that support, let the fire of love between us not be extinguished, but let instead the experience of life make that bond ever stronger, let us remain upright and candid with each other, let there be no secrets – as things stand today.
Thanks for your last letter. ‘It’s not over yet’, you say – no, it cannot be over yet. Your heart will need to trust itself and to pour forth – you’ll be torn between the two – her and my Father – I think that our Father loves you more than she does – that his love is worth more – these words are ‘fine gold’:
The child puts great faith in his Father
As befits the father’s worth.
For who is closer than thy Father, is he nearer
In Heaven or on earth?
By all means go there again if things get to be too much for you.
This week I got a letter from Uncle Vincent, who wrote that he thought it unnecessary to continue the correspondence, that he cannot help me in this matter. A letter came at the same time from Mr Gladwell, in which he wrote about Harry – who must have endured much anguish, being very hard pressed to make him act as he did.
Mr Görlitz is in Etten today to talk to Pa about the vacancy for a teaching post at Leur. I sincerely hope he’ll get it. Today was the first early sermon, which I attended, the sermon was very beautiful, about Jesus showing himself to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias, John 21.
Herewith a few poems by Uhland which I found moving. Do write soon, old boy, give my warm regards to your housemates, and accept a handshake in thought from
Your loving brother,
Flowers from Etten, brought by Görlitz.