To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, on or about Monday, 21 May 1883.
My dear Theo,
I’ve just got back from Utrecht after visiting Rappard, and happily I found your letter. Thanks for the letter and for the enclosure. Am glad you’re enjoying yourself these days. Le Paradou — must have been real. Yes, I would have nothing against giving something like that a try sometime. And you would be good models, I don’t doubt that. But I would still prefer to see diggers, and find it more beautiful outside Paradise, namely where one thinks more of the severer ‘in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread’.
But I think the one is made more beautiful precisely through being opposed to the other. I see from your letter that you were a little concerned about what I wrote regarding the woman — it has remedied itself once again, and there will come a time, I hope, when everything goes a great deal better. When you come, I’ll be able to tell you better than I can in writing what I’m sometimes worried about. I repeat, my woman’s true and thorough recovery in both mind and body will take years. So you needn’t be immediately concerned that there’s something unusual if I write to you that I’m a little worried about it. That’s unavoidable. But, in particular, don’t talk about it to others. In general she’s getting on very well and making progress, but at times I’m worried, although I don’t find anything unusual in what has befallen me. Anyway, we’ll talk it over sometime. Above all, don’t think badly of her — there are deuced good things in her character that are still well worth the trouble when things are going well.
Now, as to my visit to Rappard — I’m very glad I went. We’ll visit each other in turn more often now. I found one painting by him, a woman spinning, and above all the large sketch for it, the same size, highly serious and truly sympathetic.
Also charcoal drawings — one of a ward in an institute for the blind, one of a sort of forge, with imposing figures — very good.
A second painting of tile painters was in Amsterdam, but saw the studies for it and sketches. My impression was also borne out as regards certain changes for the good in his way of thinking.
I have hope we’ll become better friends from year to year, and be more and more help to each other with work.
He had a small watercolour of a village churchyard which I found outstanding in sentiment, highly original.
If you know the Belgian painter Meunier — some things in his work reminded me of him. Well, during these reciprocal visits we talked a great deal about new and further plans.
I’m seriously considering making a start on a few large charcoal drawings with figures.
But Theo, the work involves many outgoings, and in many respects I don’t have the freedom of movement I consider advisable. Of course I have to spend something on housekeeping too, don’t I? After all one needs food and clothing, and the studio costs rent too. But still. My spirits were raised because Rappard took pleasure, for instance, in several things I’d done, and particularly now that I’ve seen what his own work is like I’m all the more glad that he found some of my things sympathetic. My fear always is not working enough, I believe I can make it so much more beautiful, and I hunt for that with a certain fury sometimes.
And in Rappard I see again how one benefits from using good stuff, taking lots of models, &c.
R.’s studio is very good and looks pleasant.
I would like you to bring my old studies when you come. I believe that with everything all together you could make a different choice, and when you come I would like us to pick out what you might like to have in such a way that it forms a kind of whole.
I don’t know myself to what extent some studies are sufficiently finished to be suitable for being kept somewhere other than in my studio.
Anyway, I’ve come back from Rappard full of plans and full of hope, precisely because with him I already see the fruits of the studies, namely combinations of several figures in more important compositions. That awaits me too. But that takes time, and meanwhile one must keep on doing new studies after the model. Then good things precipitate out. The best thing about our whole arrangement is that the studies stay together, either with you or with me — let us keep our spirits up and toil on. Early tomorrow morning I’m going out with Van der Weele. Adieu, old chap, thanks again and best wishes. Would your woman like some drawings? Perhaps I can find something for her one of these days.