Vincent van Gogh - The Banks of the Seine with Boats 1887

The Banks of the Seine with Boats 1887
The Banks of the Seine with Boats
Oil on canvas 48.0 x 55.0 cm. Paris: Spring, 1887
Private collection

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh, The Hague, Sunday, 29 and Monday, 30 July 1883.
My dear Theo.
One of the things that have sometimes made me consider moving could be remedied in another way. Yesterday and the day before I walked in the neighbourhood of Loosduinen — went from the village to the sea, for instance — and found numerous cornfields, not as beautiful as those in Brabant, but still they must have reapers, sowers, gleaners there, one of the things that I’ve missed this year and that have made me feel a need for something different at times.
I don’t know whether you’re familiar with those parts, I for one had never been there before.
I painted a study on the beach. There are some sea walls or breakwaters — moles, jetties — and very good ones too, made of weathered stones and plaited branches. I sat on one and painted the rising tide until it came so close that I had to pack up my things.
Well, there between the village and the sea stand bushes of a deep, bronze-like green blown about by the sea wind, and so real that more than one makes one think: Oh, now this is Ruisdael’s Bush. One can now get there by the steam tram and so it can be reached even if one has baggage or must bring wet studies home.
See, this is a scratch of the path to the sea.
I thought of you particularly on that walk. I don’t doubt that you’ll agree with me that in the last 10 years the dunes in the vicinity of the city and Scheveningen have lost much of what was real and, another thing, are taking on a more frivolous character, more so each year. Now, not just 10 but 30 or even 40 or 50 years ago was when the painting of the dunes &c. in their true character started. At that time things were more Ruisdael-like than now. If one wants to see something that evokes a Daubigny, a Corot atmosphere, one must go further along to where the ground is almost untouched by the footsteps of visitors, etc. Scheveningen is undoubtedly very beautiful but nature there has long ceased to be virgin — well, I found the virginity of nature to be outstanding on the walk I told you about.
This is something like that mole.
Rarely of late has the stillness, nature alone, so appealed to me. Sometimes it’s precisely those spots where one no longer feels anything of what’s known as the civilized world and has definitely left all that behind — sometimes it’s precisely those spots that one needs to achieve calm. Only I would have wished to have you there too, because I think you would have gained the same impression of finding yourself in surroundings just like I imagine Scheveningen was at the time when the first Daubignys appeared, and surroundings, I think, that were more of a stimulus to embark on something manly.
Perhaps when you come it would be nice if we were to be there together with nothing of civilization around us, only a poor shell cart on the white road, and then bushes that all looked like ‘Ruisdael’s Bush’.
Then the landscape, mostly very simple flat planes: areas of weather-beaten dune land just slightly undulating.
I believe that if we were there together, that spot would put you and me into a mood in which we wouldn’t hesitate about the work but firmly feel what our intentions should be. Was it due to a chance correspondence between a rather sombre mood and those surroundings, or will I have the same impressions there again in the future? I don’t know, but if I again feel the need to forget about the present and to think of the age of the beginning of the great revolution in art of which Millet, Daubigny, Breton, Troyon, Corot are the leaders, then I’ll go back to that same spot.
I do wish you could be there once. Perhaps when you come we can go walking there; one is in Loosduinen in no time with the steam tram, and can even go on to Naaldwijk these days. The flat areas there behind Loosduinen, it’s just like Michel, and the lonely beach too.

When, since our recent letters, I reflect less on the future than on the more or less present, I still have hopes that when you come we’ll take the decision that I should do a number of small watercolours for you just to try it out, and perhaps smaller paintings.
If only we can achieve enough leeway for me to be able to carry on painting continuously this year.
That walk alone at a remote spot in the dunes made me much calmer because of a feeling that one hadn’t been alone but had talked to one of the old figures from the time of the beginning, Daubigny. It wouldn’t surprise me if you were also to remember that landscape if you walked there.
While writing this letter I’ve started a watercolour of that bush; I’ve painted a study of the other thing, that jetty. And in any event, this way I have a souvenir of the walk that I can show you when you come. And if you like we can walk there together when you come.
For the rest, I’m not yet exactly back to normal. It may be that my stomach is somewhat weakened, which is what I conclude from the symptom of dizzy spells in the head, etc., which are sufficiently troublesome to make doing something about them an urgent matter. But enough of this.
That’s as far as I wrote yesterday. Now today — Monday — I’m happy to inform you that the torn note has been accepted in Paris and that I’ve lost very little on it, having received a total of twenty-three guilders. Now I have a matter to discuss with you that I hope you’ll approve of. In a previous letter I told you it was my firm opinion that it would be irresponsible if we didn’t do our best to take advantage of the net prices for paint, instead of paying the retail price as if there was nothing to be done about it. Thus losing 33 1/3 %. But because you didn’t answer on this point last year, I thought there might be difficulties about getting something in the name of G&Cie that was intended for private use, and for my part I took steps for which I had already prepared the way superficially to achieve the same result without your being involved, and I hope for heaven’s sake that you won’t doubt that this is practical. You know that I give lessons to a surveyor. Well, his father is a chemist and deals in paints; he’s a stockist for Paillard, and supplies Mauve among others.
I’ve never had anything for teaching the son, but the father has often expressed his readiness to help. I took him up on this and said the following to him. That I had no doubt that there must be a fair number of tubes in his stock that were no longer in demand.
That I could use them even so, and that I would take them from him for Paillard’s net price, on condition that in future he also supplied me with the saleable tubes on the same terms. At first he raised objections, but then he took another look at his stock and I reached an agreement with him along the above lines.
I’m taking nearly 300 tubes from him, including several carmine and ultramarine, for instance, for less (10 guilders off the whole lot, which would cost over 50 guilders at Paillard’s net price) than Paillard’s NET price, so the 300 tubes will cost me 40 guilders. For which I also gain the right to order all the paint I need in future for Paillard’s net price, thus saving 33 1/3 %. And I get that discount of 33 1/3 not only on oil paints but on watercolours too. We can discuss this again when you come. Naturally, I needn’t take or pay for the 300 tubes all at once, but in as many instalments as I wish — monthly, for example. But I’m glad of it, because 33 1/3 % will make quite a difference, especially in the long run.
This will make it less impracticable to carry on painting. Today I bought a field easel and painting canvas. The first is nice, because one doesn’t get as dirty as when one works on one’s knees outdoors.
At the moment I have about 7 watercolour studies of this summer, landscapes. I got some nourishing things with what you sent, but I have little appetite because my stomach isn’t working properly, and I fear it will be some time before that clears up. I’ll be glad when you come, because I think it will be good for a lot of things.
It would be good if you could send towards 1 Aug.
At all events I’m glad that I’ll have some painted studies as well when you come. I have a model — a country lad — who lives here in the neighbourhood and to whom I’ve already spoken about painting studies. He can arrange to go off into the country with me, for instance into the dunes, very early in the morning. Adieu, best wishes in everything, and regards. Believe me
Ever yours,