Vincent van Gogh - Still Life with Apples 1887-1888

Still Life with Apples 1887
Still Life with Apples
Oil on canvas 46.0 x 61.5 cm. Paris: Autumn-Winter, 1887-1888
Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Anthon van Rappard. Nuenen, Sunday, 21 September 1884.
My dear friend Rappard,
I just wrote to you today, and your letter from Terschelling crossed mine.
I’m very pleased that you’ll be bringing quite a lot back from your trip; I gather from what you say about your studies that you’re indeed bringing very useful things. I’m still sorry that I didn’t see that painting of the fish market, the initial composition at least.
What I wrote about it can, as you say, be wrong in so far as what I said — ‘if you keep the division essentially as it is, you would in my view have to solve it by means of a division of light and shade, a choice of chiaroscuro’ — can be something altogether different, can be diametrically opposed to your intentions if, say, you were to want to make a grey painting. All the same — your croquis will be accurate and in accordance with the painting as regards the canvas area that your figures occupy as against the area of canvas covered by houses, street, sky. And then it struck me immediately that the figures will be overwhelmed by the rest, and it will become too much of a battle between figures and surroundings. Anyway, I’m damned sorry I didn’t see the initial composition itself. By the way, it’s not — as you suppose — that I’ve lost sight of the fact that it’s you, not me, who’s making that painting.

I base my reasoning on what you won’t contradict, that you are making a PAINTING.
And a painting — whoever it’s by — by you just as well as by anyone else — ought to say just one thing and that quite clearly.
Talking of Van der Weele, I remember saying to him about his painting that he got the medal for in Amsterdam — contrary to what other people said — that I really appreciated how, with all the different things in it, he had managed to keep unity, STYLE in it so well, and that it really was a painting, that is, something very different from a realistic study from nature. Anyway — after all — I didn’t see your initial composition except in the little scratch, and I don’t in the least doubt that there’ll be very creditable things in it. But I continue to say what I said all the same, and point out again, for instance, that I fear your foreground can’t carry all the things that are in it, and will either become paint or else irresolute and woolly — what they call weak. I had just the same thing this summer with a weaver’s interior that I couldn’t take any further because the whole thing came too far forward, that the painting began with what should have been the background — the foreground, the solid basis, was missing. I reproached myself with exactly the same as I said to you.
It’s something that very often happens to pretty well every painter, and can sometimes only be remedied by transporting the thing to a larger canvas.
Tell me, do you know ordered off by Frank Holl from the London News? I brought it with me from Utrecht, at the same time as a shepherd by Thompson.
Regards. I hope you’ll come in October — if you can, write beforehand and tell me exactly when. With a handshake.
Ever yours,