Vincent van Gogh - The Fourteenth of July Celebration in Paris 1886

The Fourteenth of July Celebration in Paris 1886
The Fourteenth of July Celebration in Paris
Oil on canvas 44.0 x 39.0 cm. Paris: Summer, 1886
Winterthur: Villa Flora

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Anthon van Rappard. The Hague, Friday, 17 or Saturday, 18 November 1882.
My dear friend Rappard,
Please accept my cordial thanks for your postal order and no less for your letter.
As for the disappointment about money that I was waiting for (about which I wrote to you), how it came about has since been cleared up. A letter with money (intended for the lithographs) has been lost, and there’s little hope of it being found, although the matter is being investigated. Rather this than what I couldn’t help fearing — that there wouldn’t be a sympathetic response, as happened this summer with the drawings. So now it’s hard that I can’t get on as well as would have been the case if the money hadn’t been lost, but it will right itself later, and I’ll try to carry on working all the same.
I have little time for writing, but nevertheless want to say first that I believe your comments about drawing mistakes in that lithograph are correct, and now I noticed them too.
I would like to write at greater length about what you say, ‘one should only send something into the world when that something meets strict technical standards’. This is what the art dealers say too, and I do not believe what they say. Think about this, that will save my having to write about it, and ask yourself whether it isn’t equally permissible to send a drawing like this one, just as it is, done from the model, without later retouchings, into the world (though I admit there are drawing mistakes in it), equally permissible as my going onto the street in my working clothes if that suits me, and not being obliged to stand before the mirror before I leave the house to see if everything in my toilet is in order. Suppose you conceded that these things are of a fairly similar nature and would yourself do neither the one nor the other, the question still remains whether in the midst of a campaign it isn’t much more advisable to march quickly than to make one’s toilet.
I also cannot agree with what you say about the way in which the public looks as ‘stumbling over drawing mistakes before it sees the character’. I believe, instead, that only a relatively small proportion of the public looks exactly as you describe; in general the great host to whom Herkomer says For you, the public it is really done don’t do this, in my view. Anyway, when I can find the time and words I’ll try again to make my meaning clear to you.
While on the subject of matters in which I don’t entirely agree with you (these do not include your comments on drawing mistakes, each one of which I found to be absolutely right), I come briefly to your large decoration and to your menu, and say only this about them. Old chap, do something else, these are dangerous waters, one knows where one starts from but not if one will have it in one’s power to abandon it. Once one has a reputation for being able to make something for ‘festive occasions’, there won’t be a single ‘festive occasion’ that one is spared.

Look up old Mr Smits on this. He once wrote a very witty and practical piece on this subject which will make it clearer to you than I can. It’s campaign time, at least a time in which there’s a campaign to be waged. I’m not talking about drawing nudes in itself, but about the large decoration.
I know the Boughton, ‘The heir’, as a painting. I saw it at the Royal Academy and later at Goupil’s. At that time I found it so beautiful that I made a drawing of it for an acquaintance in Holland to give him some idea of it.
I don’t know the woodcut.
I can’t get The miners by Renouard here. I’ve tried everywhere to find the latest issues of L’Illustration, but they either didn’t have them or only ones without them.
On condition that I be allowed to settle up with you for them, not otherwise, I would like to ask you to take the trouble to see, if you can, which issues they are and to have them ordered for me too, if you’re planning to take them yourself, that is.
If they can’t do that in Utrecht, I can have them sent here for you and for me, provided I know the issues and dates in which they occur. When ordering single issues, however, one must make haste, otherwise it often happens that the orders aren’t placed or the issue is sold out. Given that haste, it would perhaps be most practical if you placed the order directly in Utrecht.
I once ordered The children in care by Renouard in the same way. Well, now you mustn’t take it the wrong way if I repeat in somewhat stronger terms what I mean. The more menus and decorations for festive occasions you make, even if they’re pleasing and good, the less you’ll be able to remain in agreement with your artistic conscience. The more you stay with the serious toil of institute for the blind, tile painters, knitters &c., the more you’ll feel that such toil has its raison d’être, even if one has no immediate success.
The Kunstliefde society of Utrecht needs your serious work more than your decoration, however well it may turn out.
Now I consider it as if I still had a daalder of yours in hand for woodcuts or suchlike when the occasion arises, and on that condition I won’t return the surplus from your postal order, and if I have a fearsome disappointment if the letter doesn’t turn up, it will be doubly welcome to me. Please accept my cordial thanks once more for sending so quickly, and be assured that when I say something about the decoration or don’t entirely agree with you about this or that, I speak my mind frankly precisely because I appreciate your aims and works as being important. Severe as it may sound, it is truly my opinion that you’ll have the most and the best influence for the good in, say, the Kunstliefde society if you say no to every possible honorary post and don’t spend your time making yourself useful on festive occasions, in which I see no good at all, either for the artists or for the public, and which I don’t regard as evidence that the societies that celebrate them are flourishing. Adieu, believe me, with a handshake in thought,
Ever yours,