To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Tuesday, 21 August 1883.
Your letter arrived today and gave me leeway in many respects. Accept my thanks for the step taken with C.M. — I’ll thank C.M., send him some studies, otherwise, especially about the woman, nothing. But just one more thing.
I’ll write you a letter in the next few days which I’ll write at my leisure, and I’ll do my best to write briefly and still say what I believe is necessary.
You could then keep this letter so that — when you’re with someone who might be persuaded to take studies by me — you can explain to them my precise idea and intention. My idea being this above all — a single drawing by me won’t be entirely satisfactory in itself, even in the future. A number of studies, no matter how diverse, will still complement each other. In short, in my view it would be better for the art lovers themselves if they took several rather than just one. And if it comes down to a question of money, I would rather have an art lover who bought regularly at a low price than one who only bought occasionally, even if he paid well.
Perhaps if you again proposed to C.M., say, in your words or mine, what was raised last year, the outcome might be that he might see more in my idea if I expressed myself more clearly.
Anyway, more about this later.
I can also tell you that I’ve had a visit from Rappard and that he saw the larger drawings and spoke warmly of them. When I told him that I felt a little weak and thought this might be because doing them isn’t easy, he seemed not to doubt that this was one of the understandable matters. We talked about Drenthe. He’s going there again shortly, and he’s going still further, namely to the fishing villages on Terschelling. For my part I’d very much like to go to Drenthe, especially after Rappard’s visit. So much so, indeed, that I’ve looked into whether moving all the things would be easy or difficult.
Through Van Gend & Loos one could even take along the furniture (the stove and bed) by taking half a goods wagon, in which case hardly any packing cases would be needed. Of course I’m considering that because, although the things I have aren’t worth very much, it would still be a big outlay if one had to set up house all over again.
But my intention would then be to go with the woman and children.
We’d be faced with the costs of moving and the travel costs.
Once there, I believe I would stay for good in the heathland and the peat districts, where more and more painters are coming, and in time a kind of painters’ colony might develop.
Life there is so much cheaper than here that I believe it would save me 150 or 200 guilders a year in any case, on housing especially in any case. And having paid my debt with the money from C.M., it might be desirable to make the move quickly. A journey there to assess the situation would seem to me unnecessary, really.
I have a map of Drenthe in front of me. On it I see a large white area with no names of villages. It’s crossed by the Hoogeveen waterway, which ends suddenly, and I see the words Peat moors written on the map straight across the blank area. Around that blank area a number of black dots with the names of villages, a red dot for the small town of Hoogeveen.
On the boundary a lake — the black lake — a name that gives pause for thought — I imagine various dredging workers on the banks.
Several village names, like Oosterheuvelen, Erica, also make one think. Anyway, let me know what you think of the possibility of a rapid move to that region. If it were to happen, I’d begin by going by information from Rappard’s experiences there. Then follow his advice to go further into the remoter part whose appearance on the map I’ve described. One of these days I’ll try to get hold of a detailed map of Drenthe showing the types of terrain.
We’d be faced by immediate expenditure, but in the end I believe we’d gain a great deal by it. More than that, I consider it important that I’d be in a region that’s sure to be very stimulating and sure to incline one naturally towards everything serious, and my work can only be improved by it.
How much would the expenditure be? I’ll work it out more precisely for you in the next few days. I assume the whole family counts as 2 1/2 people (but they may insist on 3). The travel costs aren’t given in my timetable, but will be less than 10 guilders per person, I assume. Gend & Loos estimated that a 1/2 wagon to Assen would be 20 guilders.
One would have to be prepared, though, to stay at the inn for a few days, which costs around 1 guilder per person per day. Here the rent above all, and moreover the cost of everything, is nerve-racking. And the heaviest expense, the cost of models, would most certainly be different over there in the sense that for the same amount I could get more and better models or the same number for less money.
I think that if I were to settle somewhere there, Rappard would come even more often to that area than now, and we’d be company for each other.
As I say, my thoughts have become fixed on Drenthe, particularly since his visit and what we discussed in connection with the work. For that matter I can also look for a cheaper house here if need be, and I do find it beautiful here too. But still, I would like to be alone with nature for once — without the city. I can hardly tell you how much pleasure what you say about the work gives me — I’m glad you say that doing something else as well would really be the wrong policy. One would then lapse into the half measures that make someone a half person. What we must work at is getting yet more of a manly element into it. I don’t think you’ll have to retract your view that you already see something of that, particularly not when I have my strength back. It’s a nuisance that my stomach can’t take even normal things, or what I’d have an appetite for if I gave in to it — only sour apples. I don’t give in, but enough, there is more weakening than is right. I’m also expecting a letter from Rappard about Drenthe. In any case, I’ll write to you again soon about a plan to simply stay here when I have information from my landlord about a place in Voorburg that he says I may be able to get cheaply. Adieu, many thanks again.