From The Metropolitan Museum of Art NY:
This painting from February/March 1885, with its restricted palette of dark tones, coarse facture, and blocky drawing, is typical of the works Van Gogh painted in Nuenen the year before he left Holland for France. His peasant studies of 1885 culminated in his first important painting, The Potato Eaters (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).
To Theo van Gogh. Amsterdam, Monday, 9 July 1877.
My dear Theo,
Well, what do you say about Anna? It surprised me, and it seems to be serious too, and will certainly take place, one would venture to say. It could be good. The difficulties of holding a subordinate position, especially when one perseveres in it for a longer period, as she has in fact done for years in all honour and virtue, are very great and sometimes become a hard struggle, and the seemingly easy becomes extremely difficult.
There’s nevertheless much poetry in it, and such years are a treasure not easily lost, and when one denies and humbles oneself, especially the first time, one has a wonderful feeling of inner peace, but I would understand very well if the future was sometimes dark for her too – it might be sensible of her, for her part, to have already decided to take this step. And I also maintain that she truly loves him, I believe that and trust in it absolutely, otherwise things wouldn’t have gone this far. And so I sincerely hope that she won’t be disappointed but that this, with God’s guidance, will be the path to her lasting happiness. May the Lord grant that she find peace, that dear sister, and bless her, and give her good things in life. On this occasion I congratulate you, too, as I have Anna and Pa and Ma.
How are you, old chap? I had wanted to write to you earlier and answer your last letter. I have a lot to do and the work isn’t easy.
Then again, I go to church a lot, there are beautiful old churches here, and outstanding preachers, I often hear Uncle Stricker, and what he says is very good, and he speaks with much warmth and feeling. I’ve heard the Rev. Laurillard three times, you would like him too, because he paints, as it were, and his work is at once lofty and noble art. He has the feeling of an artist in the true sense of the word, as someone like Andersen had when he says, for example:
Every evening came the moon and whispered in my ear,
Telling of the quiet night and what its eye
Had lit on from its watch-post in the sky.
It who knows centuries – through ages did it roam,
Casting, high above the Flood and crest of foam,
On the floating ark a soft silver glow,
Just as it now lights my lonely window
Then, too, when the folk of Israel knelt down
To weep by the waters of Babylon
It illumined with sad twinkling down below
The unstrung harp, hanging on the willow.
The moon still shines now, and the sun and the evening star, which is fortunate, and they often speak of God’s Love and call to mind the words, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
Am busy making a summary of the history of the Reformation, there’s much that is stimulating and appealing in the history of those days.
The room in the Trippenhuis where Rembrandt’s Syndics are hanging is open again; coming from church yesterday I walked over there for a while, hanging right next to the Rembrandt is that portrait by Van der Helst.
Adieu, Theo, a hearty handshake in thought, I wish you the very best, and believe that often thinking of you is
Your most loving brother
Herewith a small contribution for your scrapbook, is it coming along? Give my regards to your housemates and if someone or other should ask after me.