To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Sunday, 29 October 1882.
My dear Theo,
It’s Sunday again, and again as rainy as usual. On top of that we’ve had a gale this week and the leaves are thinning out on the trees. Believe me, I’m glad that the stove is in place.
This morning, when I at last got round to sorting out my drawings, namely the studies from the model done since about the time of your visit (not counting the older studies nor what I draw in my sketchbook), I found about one hundred. I just mention this figure because I remember that on the occasion of your visit you asked me if I had other studies as well as the drawings you saw then. I don’t know whether all painters work harder than I do, even those who look down on my work very loftily, so much so that they consider it beneath them to take the slightest notice of it. Nor do I know whether they know a better way than working with models, although in my view they do that too little, as I’ve written to you more than once, saying that I couldn’t understand why they don’t make more use of models. (Of course I do not mean people like Mauve or Israëls, although the latter sets an excellent example in my view by always working with a model, but more gentlemen like Bock and Breitner, say.) I haven’t seen anything at all of the latter since I visited him in hospital when he was ill — by chance I heard something about his having become a teacher at a secondary school — but I haven’t had the slightest sign of life from him himself. This week I received a letter from Rappard,4 who’s also surprised by the behaviour of many painters here, and had the experience, among other things, of having one of his paintings refused at Arti. I say only this: if the likes of he and I are rated as nothing, is that fair? For I assure you that he works hard; he was in Drenthe this summer, and after that he worked for a long time in the hospital for the blind in Utrecht.
I found it curious to hear from him of several experiences that were roughly or exactly the same as my own. But anyway.
As I’ve written to you before, I often long for you. If I saw more of you and we were able to discuss the work more, I could make several things that should be possible to make
from the studies I have. I’m convinced of that.
Still — you remember that not long ago I wrote (when I sent you a small scratch of a potato market): ‘I must have another go at tackling that bustle on the street’. The result is now some 12 watercolours that I’m working on at the moment. So I do not mean by the above that I can’t achieve anything with my studies or that I do them without any aim, but only that I believe I could achieve more with them and make them more immediately effective if I could discuss things with you more often. But be that as it may, I do work with great pleasure these days, and I do have hope that there will be some things which you too will take pleasure in, when you next come.
I believe that if one wants to do figures one must have a warm sense within oneself of what Punch in the Christmas illustration calls Good will to all, that is, that one must have a real love of people. At least I hope to do my best to be in that kind of a mood as much as possible.
That’s exactly why I find it such a pity that I don’t get on better with painters, and, as I wrote to you in the past, that on a rainy day like today one can’t just sit cosily by the stove, look at drawings or prints and liven each other up that way.
I must ask you whether there are cheap prints by Daumier for sale, and if so, which. I’ve always believed him to be highly gifted, but it’s only recently that I begin to suspect that he’s of even greater importance than I thought. If you know anything special about him, or know of important things among his drawings, do write about them if you will. In the past I saw caricatures by him, and perhaps because of them got an idea about him that wasn’t the right one. His figures always struck me the most, but I believe that I know only a very small part of his work and that, for instance, the caricatures are definitely not his most typical or main work.
I remember that we talked about this last year on the road to Princenhage, and you said then that you thought Daumier more beautiful than Gavarni, and I took Gavarni’s side and spoke to you of the book about Gavarni that I had read and that you now have. But I must say that, although I still like Gavarni just as much, I begin to suspect that I know only a very small part of Daumier’s work AND THAT IN THE PART OF HIS WORK I DO NOT KNOW are the very things that would interest me most of all (however much I already appreciate what I know by him). And I also dimly remember — but I may be wrong — you telling me about large drawings, types or portraits from the common people, and I’m curious about them. If there were more things by him as beautiful as a print by him I recently found, The 5 ages of a drinker, or as that figure of an old man under a chestnut tree I told you about before, well, then he was perhaps the master of them all. Can you give me any information about this? Do you still remember the figures by Degroux from the Uylenspiegel that I had in the past but not any more, alas? — well, those two prints by Daumier that I just mentioned look like them —and if you know of any more like them — (I care much less about the caricatures) that’s what I’m after. I’m terribly sorry that I no longer have the Degroux and Rops. I gave them away in England, along with other things, to Richardson, the traveller for the house of G&Cie.
Well, old chap, and I promise you this for when you come, apart from the watercolours and painted studies, I’ll ask you to take the trouble to look through a portfolio with one hundred drawn studies — all figures. I have them already, especially if I include some old ones. In the interval between now and your visit, however, I’ll try to make better ones to replace others that can be left out, and try to put even more variety into them. Adieu in the meantime, I sincerely wish you good fortune and happiness, and believe me, with a handshake in thought,