Vincent van Gogh - A Pair of Shoes 1887

A Pair of Shoes 1887
A Pair of Shoes
Oil on canvas 34.0 x 41.5 cm. Paris: early 1887
Baltimore: The Baltimore Museum of Art

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, on or about Monday, 11 June 1883.
My dear Theo,
Your letter and the contents were truly welcome, many thanks for them.
And I was pleased to see that you were taking things calmly, and indeed I had expected nothing else. I mean as regards the objections raised.
Well, since I last wrote I’ve slaved away at that drawing of the dung-heap. It’s a splendid sight.
The first drawing of it has already undergone so many changes — now white here, then black again at various places — that I transferred it to a second paper because the first was too worn. And am now working again on that. I have to get up early in the morning, for that’s when I see the effects I want. If only I could get it as I have it in my mind.
Well, the second is the same size as the two earlier ones of the peat-cutting and the sand quarry, and can go in the frame. There is effect in it at the moment, but I fear I’ll spoil it again. But one mustn’t be afraid of that, otherwise one will never get anywhere. And in the meantime I’ve also done a large study of a woman sewing.
But I’ve had a disappointment with the Orphanage in that I have not been given permission to draw there — there were, they said, no precedents of that kind and, furthermore, they were going to clean and lay new floors in the wards. Well, it’s not too bad for there are other orphanages, it’s just that in this one I know a man who has modelled for me regularly, and that would have made it easier for me to do sketches. Last winter I saw the old men’s home at Voorburg. Smaller, of course, but almost more typical.
On that day, it was near evening, the old boys were sitting on benches and chairs around an old cannon stove, very real.
Perhaps I’ll try that one in Voorburg now I can’t do it here.

Also went to Scheveningen for a day and saw a fine sight of fellows there with a cart full of nets that had been tanned and spread out on the dunes. I’ll definitely tackle that or the nets being mended in a large drawing sometime.
It certainly is an improvement, Theo, that I had those stretching frames and frame made for charcoal drawings or whatever it may be, for working with them is a pleasure.
What you say about spending too much time with painters being not good but some time being all right is true, I believe. And for that reason, too, I’m glad Van der Weele comes to call.
Yes, one sometimes feels a longing to discuss it with people in the know. And especially when one works and searches in the same spirit, one can give each other great strength and stimulus, and one isn’t easily discouraged. One can’t always live outside the fatherland, and the fatherland isn’t just nature; to that must be added human hearts that seek and feel the same. It’s only then that the fatherland is complete and one feels at home.
This is now the composition of the dung-heap. I don’t know how much sense you can make of it. In the front women emptying dustbins, behind them the sheds where the dung is stored, and the fellows at work with wheelbarrows &c.
The first one I did was a little different: there were two other fellows in the foreground with sou’westers, which they often wear in bad weather, and the group of women was more in the dark.
Yet that light effect really is there, since the light falls from above between the sheds onto the figures that are on the paths.
It would be a splendid sight to paint. I think you understand all about it, I wish I could talk to Mauve about it. But perhaps it’s even better not to. For getting advice from another person doesn’t always help someone to make progress, however clever the person may be, and the cleverest aren’t always clever when it comes to explaining something clearly. Again, I don’t know myself what is desirable. For the present, painting is far from being my main goal, and perhaps I’d get it ready for an illustrated magazine quicker on my own than if someone who would never consider illustrated magazines gave me advice.
I get on with Rappard best of all.
Adieu, old chap, best wishes in everything and thanks for the timely dispatch.
Ever yours,