To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, Tuesday, 30 September 1884.
My dear Theo,
I send you herewith two photographs — you’ll get another two of weavers later.
I was planning to have 12 photographs taken, a series of Brabant scenes, including the 6 that I’m making for Hermans.
I was planning to send them to a few illustrated magazines to see if I could get work, or at least become known.
But I’ve decided against it, since the photographer only produces prints that reflect none, or at least far too little of the original chiaroscuro, moreover retouches a great deal and badly, and even so still often leaves things dark that are light in the painting and vice versa.
I’ll have another proof made of the weavers, though, just as cartes de visite. Because I’m so far away from the illustrated magazines here I must find some means of establishing a few connections in ways other than by word of mouth. I hope to make various drawings this winter, of those very same aforesaid compositions, and try sending them to the London News, say — which as you may have noticed is now often better than the Graphic and, among other things, just published a very fine Frank Holl and a fine landscape with sheep.
I’ve worked really hard recently; I believe, in conjunction with other agitation, even overworked. At least I’m in a sad mood, and all these things have affected me to such an extent that I have many days when I’m relatively powerless. I can’t eat and I can’t sleep, that’s to say not enough, and that makes one weak.
But I’ll get over it, particularly because I have fairly good tidings from Utrecht. But I’m still very concerned because I fear it will be a long time before she recovers completely.
Perhaps it will also take me a long time before I get over it.
I still deeply regret, Theo, that I’m on one side, you on the other, of a certain barricade that may no longer be visible in the form of paving-stones, but which still definitely exists and persists in society.
In that lithograph by Daumier or De Lemud, whichever of them it may be, the main subject is precisely a person whose story I remember. There were two brothers and they were on the same side and both fell, one a day after the other, for the same cause. That might have been so in our case, but now it’s as good as certain that it will never happen. For my part I’m well aware that, come what may, the future will always be very difficult for me, and I know as good as for certain that things won’t go what people describe as well for me in the future. I believe that Pa also feels something of the fact that it’s more fate than deliberate design when there’s sometimes such a decided difference of opinion. But I wish to hit no one; wish that Pa hadn’t sometimes gone and stood right in front of me.
Anyway, I sometimes think now and again that painting can in any event forestall many disasters, and that otherwise it would be even worse. I presently have no other plans for the future except to continue with my Brabant subjects until I’ve got them so far that I could dispose of them in Belgium, say, and sell a few drawings elsewhere. Then, when I feel on rather firmer ground, I’d like to go back to the miners again. I’d be forever gratified if you were gradually to arrange it in such a way that we can’t hit each other, even though the gun barrels are pointing in opposite directions. I don’t ask of you that you sympathize with my work, for instance, but if you ever hear of a resource, tell me. Rappard has been in Drenthe and on Terschelling again, and appears to have netted a goodly catch of studies. He’s probably coming here again for a while in October.
The painting of the sower is the same size as the woman spinning; the colour of the soil is neutral but slightly pink, light green further away.
The man’s smock is blue and the trousers brown. The gaiters dirty linen. I fancy that the head shows up against the sky better in the painting than in the photograph.
Listen, Theo — about the barricade — you know there’s been a time in my life when I was also in the Guizot people’s camp — I’ve also believed all sorts of fine and good things about Pa and Haanebeek, about Grandfather, about ‘the Guizots’ in short.
But when I regretted it, you know that I also turned around with energy and tenacity.
The newer men of today don’t want me, though — that’s all right, I DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT — both as people and as painters, I prefer the generation of around 48 to around 84, but as to 48, not the Guizots but the revolutionaries, Michelet — and also the peasant painters of Barbizon.