To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, on or about Friday, 23 February 1883.
My dear Theo,
Just a word to report the safe arrival of your letter and to thank you for it.
And to tell you it pleases me greatly that you were able to send good news about your patient. So much the better.
There are many loves in one love — and things are very different again when the woman regains her health — and that’s wonderful too. Continuing and persevering is the main thing; if you want variety you should remain faithful. And if you want to see many women you should confine yourself to one and the same. Spring is coming along well here.
At the moment I’m in a complete mess. Enclosed a scratch dashed off when the blinds were put in place. On a scrap of paper. Why send it to you like this, insignificant as it is in its natural state? Because I believe that you’ll see one thing clearly from it, that now I can get a light effect in my studio that’s totally different from the overly strong light of the 3 big windows.
Window 1 now (in the scratch) has its lower part closed off, and the rest too in part. Now looks like the door of a room in an almshouse, say.
Window 2 has its top part closed off and looks like a window where the figures sit.
The background on the left is dark because window 3 is completely closed.
Imagine the difference from the effect of harsh light that the three windows would give at present without blinds and you’ll well understand how one can work infinitely better now. Apart from the light coming in, there was an enormous reflection in the past that neutralized all effects. I was often desperate when, for example, I saw a little old lady pottering about in a small room and there was a character and something mysterious in the figure that vanished completely when I had that same old lady in the studio.
Equally, the orphan man, say, was much finer in a dark passage than in my studio. And this was most regrettable, and the surface area of those 3 windows was so large that it couldn’t be dimmed sufficiently with screens or cardboard. But now I’m in the process of overcoming one thing and another.
However formless the scratch may be, it was done immediately from nature (but in great haste) while the work on the windows was going on, and you’ll see from it that one can now obtain nice effects and vary them greatly. And I prefer to send it to you rather than explain the matter in words.
Anyway, I now have the light in the studio pretty well under control, and, if I’ve spotted a figure in another house I can re-create it fairly well at home if I pay attention to the lighting, and adjust my light accordingly. How great was the quantity of light? Did it fall onto the figure from in front, from behind, from the right, from the left, from above, from below?
I think you’ll be pleased by it when you come sometime.
The cupboard is fine too.
It was a tricky job, because the blinds were too wide for the windows and had to be altered.
But it’s finished for now, and only now do I have the full enjoyment of the studio, and it almost corresponds with what I seek. Later I may get a small room in the attic as well — if there’s some old wood again.
A highly picturesque and distinctive thing could be made there. But this is a minor point.
But the studio is 10 times better. It’s going to cost me more now than I had thought, though, because so many changes had to be made to the old blinds.
So I wanted to ask you, since I’ve promised to pay something on 1 March, send a day earlier rather than a day later, if you can. I wager you can understand that the studio is utterly transformed as a result — Oh, I find it such a delight — I was driven to distraction because I couldn’t get it right.
I spoke of good news about your patient, but I think it’s only half a good sign that she wants to go back to her country, although as you say there’s little to be said about the future until she’s better.
May the spring do her good.
Well, old chap, I’m writing in haste and still have a lot of work to do — I’m immensely pleased with the changes to the windows. It’s effective for the time being, as far as I can tell. You must remember how the light was too harsh and couldn’t be altered when you visited this summer. From the scratch, you’ll probably be able to see that now one can vary it endlessly and reproduce effects one sees in small houses. The advantage that one then has is that whereas in those small houses one can’t stand back at the proper distance to draw the figures, one can in the studio. Adieu, with a firm handshake.
Tonight I’ll probably even dream of chaps in sou’westers and oilskins on which the light falls and creates remarkable glancing lights that accentuate the form.