To Theo van Gogh, The Hague, on or about Friday, 13 July 1883.
My dear Theo,
Before going to Scheveningen I wanted to have a brief word with you. I’ve confirmed with De Bock that I’ll have a pied-à-terre at his place. I may also drop in on Blommers now and again. And then my plan is to regard Scheveningen as absolutely the main thing for a while, going there in the morning and staying there for the day, or otherwise, if I must be at home, allocating that being at home to the afternoon when it’s too hot and then going back there in the evening. I’m sure this will give me new ideas, and rest, not through sitting still but through a change of surroundings and activity. Otherwise, I’m still deeply absorbed in work here. Had the Orphan man again today for something that suddenly occurred to me and that I wanted to press ahead with before beginning on something else. I must tell you that I’ve been to the orphanage again after all on a visiting day. That was when I saw the gardener and drew him from the window. Well, I didn’t want to let that go, and now I’ve got it down in roughly this form, as far as I can remember.
Yesterday evening I received a present that gave me enormous pleasure (from those two surveyors — for a second one has since joined in), namely a highly authentic Scheveningen jacket with a standing collar, picturesquely faded and patched.
I’ve sorted out my painting materials as far as was practicable, and replaced what I lacked and equipped myself with tram tickets &c.
This morning I saw the negatives of three photos. I’m looking forward to the prints, and have hopes that in this small form they’ll be something with which we’ll be able to make approaches to the illustrated magazines. I’m also considering having today’s gardener done as well, for that figure is much, much more detailed than in this scratch, and the setting isn’t as dull as here. I hope to be able to send you prints of the photos next week.
But, old chap, I would ask you to do your utmost to send me a little more, if at all possible, for I’m already broke because of one thing and another I absolutely had to have to be able to start in Scheveningen. It needn’t be very much, but just something to tide me over so that I’m not absolutely without a thing to drink in the dunes.
The photos are Sower, potato grubbers and Peat diggers; the last seemed to me to come out the best.
Don’t you think that was kind of the surveyors? They’re kind, cheerful fellows who’ve given me a lot of companionship.
They’re beginning to make really charming sketches, but are both about to take their final examinations, one to be a surveyor and the other an engineer.
When I’ve got my bearings in Scheveningen I’ll bring the woman along now and then to pose, or at least to indicate the position and size of figures.
I long for you dearly, old chap, I hope there’ll be something in the work that will give you some pleasure and which you think shows some progress. Bock saw some painted studies from last year and thought they had something, but they please me less and less, I hope to do better ones this year.
On Sunday the photographer is coming to the studio to talk about which of the figures I have would be best for photos.
I’ll be in no little difficulty if you absolutely cannot send anything extra. I’ve only taken what was definitely indispensable for the painting box, but have nonetheless been left with next to nothing.
The Scheveningen jacket is a nice surprise. I once wrote to you that things might turn out as they did years ago when I was also living in The Hague — that at first it would be a miserable time but become more agreeable later on. In many respects it has already become more pleasant and agreeable of late. Well, adieu, do what you can, and believe me, with a handshake
Something I also wanted to say to you is that the figure studies for the large drawings are, in my view, much better than the drawings themselves.
That quite a large number of those figures are something that I at least have in my studio and, I believe, will continue to be of use in the year ahead. It isn’t that I’m dejected about the past year between your last visit and now, but if the income could have been a little more, we’d have made more progress with painting.
It’s a question of not losing heart and not weakening.
I’ll have everything in order by the time you come so that we can regularly look through it easily.
But make sure you spend a long time with me, brother.
When times are difficult we must give each other moral courage at the least, so that we don’t give up when trials come.
And if we can preserve our serenity, there’s hope of achieving something good that stands firmly on its feet. In the company of other painters I try to appear offhand and not doubting for a moment.
If next year we can have painted studies, painted as steadily as the present ones are drawn steadily, then I think we can consider the battle won for the time being.
Until then it will be a close thing, and if we can muster some strength we’ll have to exert it to the utmost, and in no case can we have too much of it.
I think friend Rappard won’t be disinclined to give us a helping hand now and then.
He told me recently that he had come back from my studio with new ideas — and I too from his — but the strength I can muster at the moment doesn’t amount to much.
Although I haven’t heard a syllable from C.M. in reply to my letter and croquis of Peat diggers and sand quarry, I’m not giving him up completely.
Last year he was in a bad mood about the last consignment of drawings and wrote me a disagreeable note. To that I replied that Rappard had seen the same drawings and instead of thinking them inferior to my earlier ones he found them decidedly better. I was already ill at the time, and received C.M.’s reply in the hospital. He had looked at them again, yes, there were good things in them and when I had something else we would see. But I didn’t want to take him up on that right away, until now. His not wanting to have any contact now must be due to things he has heard about ‘misconduct’, that I live with a woman and children without being married. For a time C.M. also wanted little to do with Franken, his own brother-in-law, for similar reasons; I know because I was once walking in Paris with C.M. and he said to me ‘that’s where my brother-in-law lives but I can’t go there because he lives with “a low woman”.’ However, I’ve deliberately kept C.M. in reserve for just such an emergency, and I think it might be good if you were to show him some of the best studies and say to him plainly that there’s hope of victory if we can only get some more rope and persevere, and that I’m not just asking for money but, in accordance with our first agreement last year, would like him to give me money for studies which I myself would be very glad to buy back from him later, or exchange for a watercolour or painting.
In fact, I also have a certain promise from Uncle Cent that he would take drawings from me, but I’ve never spoken to him about it again, and it’s two years ago now.