To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Monday, 18 September 1882.
My dear Theo,
As I write to you, I’m already down to my last guilder. I hope to hear from you soon but, bearing in mind what you last wrote to me I think it very possible that you may not be able to spare the usual precisely on the twentieth. If that’s the case, I want to ask you to send whatever you can spare, be it more or less, even if it’s only a small part. A model is coming on Friday afternoon, a man from the almshouse, and I wouldn’t like to send him away unpaid.
I had some extra expenditure because my painting box got broken when I jumped from a high bank and, trying to grab my things as quickly as possible, had to get out of the way of a skittish horse in the Rijnspoor yards where they stockpile the coal.
It’s very beautiful there — I had to ask permission to paint there, since it’s not a public area, and now hope to be there often. Meanwhile, on that occasion I painted the mounds of coal there, where men were pottering about, and there was a horse and cart.
I also did a study of a courtyard with a bleaching ground and sunflowers.
It’s splendid outdoors. The leaves are all manner of bronze colours — green, yellow, reddish — all warm and rich.
I do so wish that you could see everything together — since your visit the studio has taken on a completely different appearance. It’s true that I’ve had to spend quite an amount, but now there are a good number of painted studies on the walls.
The courtyard and all that coal were so beautiful that I couldn’t resist them, although this week I wanted to draw because of the paint.
I would very much like, and am working towards this, to put things in my studio that will remind me when I see them each morning of this or that outdoors. So that I immediately know what to do with the day — and immediately take pleasure in something, or have the feeling: I must still go here or there sometime.
As regards sending you a painted study, I have nothing against that — but before I do, we must agree on a couple of things.
Someone like Mauve — any artist — undoubtedly has his own distinctive colour range. But no one had it on the first day, and in studies done out of doors it isn’t immediately apparent, even with painters who are much more experienced than I am.
Especially the studies by Mauve, which I find very beautiful precisely because of their soberness, and because they’re done with such fidelity. Yet they lack a certain charm which the paintings derived from them have in great measure.
And in my case the position is that, for example, the seascape I brought home most recently is already very different in colour from the first or second I started with. So you must make no judgement about my colour on the basis of what I can send now.
And if I would really prefer to wait until things are riper before sending, it’s because I believe I’ll change a great deal in colour. And in composition too.
So that’s the first thing, and the second is that studies done out of doors are different from paintings intended to go out into the world. In my view the latter stem from the studies, but may, and indeed must, differ from them markedly. For in the painting the artist presents a more personal idea, and in a study his aim is simply to analyze a piece of nature. Either to give his thought or conception precision, or to arrive at a thought.
Thus studies belong more in the studio than in the trade, and shouldn’t be looked at from the same viewpoint as paintings.
Well, I believe that you’ll take the same view and will naturally take these things into consideration. But write and tell me what you’d like me to do, and rest assured that as regards sending or not sending yet I’ll do what seems best to you.
But what I would like most of all would be for you to see everything together — is there any possibility that you could come again in the winter sometime?
If so, I certainly think it would be better if I don’t send. Anyway. But rest assured that I pay close attention to whatever you say about the work with a view to saleability and bear it in mind, and don’t imagine that I treat your opinion lightly.
I regard making studies as Sowing, and making paintings as reaping.
I believe that one thinks much more healthily when the ideas arise from direct contact with things than when one looks at things with the aim of finding this or that in them.
It’s the same with the question of the use of colour. There are colours that are naturally beautiful seen together, but I do my best to make it as I see it, before I set to work to make it as I feel it. And yet, feeling is a big thing, and without that one would produce nothing. Sometimes I can yearn for harvest time, that is, the time when I’ll be so permeated by the study of nature that I myself will create something in a painting, yet analyzing things isn’t a burden to me or something I dislike doing. It’s already late — I sleep so badly at present — but it’s that wonderful nature of autumn that’s on my mind, and the worry about getting something out of it.
However, I wish I could get some sleep now and then, and do my best, for it makes me nervous, but nothing helps.
But how are things with you? I do hope you don’t have too many worries, because that doesn’t help really. I believe that I would soon be miserable if I didn’t have so much fresh air and enjoyed painting less. But being outdoors and working on something that stimulates are things that renew and sustain one’s strength. It’s only at times when I’m overtired that I feel thoroughly wretched, yet as to my health, I believe I’ll recover.
Adieu, accept a handshake in thought, and write and tell me what I should do — send you a painted study, or not yet. And rest assured that I think of you every day, and believe me