Friday, 3 March
My dear Theo,
Since receiving your letter and the money1 I’ve taken a model every day and I’m up to my ears in work.
It’s a new model I have, although I’d drawn her before superficially. Or rather it’s more than one model, because I’ve already had 3 people from the same family, a woman of about 45 who’s just like a figure by E. Frère, and her daughter, 30 or so, and a younger child of 10 or 12.2
They’re poor people and, I must say, invaluably willing. I got them to pose for me, though not without difficulty and on the condition that I’d promise them steady work. Well, that was exactly what I wanted so very much, and I consider it a good arrangement. The younger woman doesn’t have a pretty face because she had smallpox, but her figure is very graceful and I find it charming. They also have good clothes. Black woollens3 and nicely shaped caps, and a pretty shawl &c.
You needn’t worry too much about the money, because we’ve agreed to compromise in the beginning. I’ve promised them a guilder a day as soon as I sell one.
1v:2 And that I’ll make it up to them later for giving them too little now.
But I must manage to sell something.
If I could do so, I’d keep everything I’m now making of them for myself, because if I only kept them for a year I’m sure I could get more for them then than now.
But anyway, in the circumstances, it would be very nice if Mr Tersteeg bought a thing or two now and then, if necessary on the condition that he can exchange them if they don’t sell. Mr Tersteeg promised to come and see me as soon as he can find the time.
The reason I’d like to keep them is simply this: when I draw individual figures it’s always with an eye to making a composition with a number of figures, for instance, a 3rd-class waiting room or a pawnshop or an interior. But those larger compositions must ripen gradually, and for a drawing with 3 seamstresses, for example, one must draw at least 90 seamstresses. That’s how it works.
I had a friendly letter from C.M. promising to come to The Hague soon and to visit me too. Well, that’s just a promise, yet again, but perhaps something after all. Oh well.
For the rest I’ll run after people less and less as time goes on, whoever they may be, neither art dealers nor painters, the only ones I’ll run after are models, because I find working without a model totally wrong, at least as far as I’m concerned.
I say, Theo, it really is nice to see a tiny bit of light, and I do see a bit of light. It’s nice to draw a person, something that lives, it’s damned difficult but wonderful anyhow.
Tomorrow two children are coming to visit whom I must amuse and draw at the same time. I want some life in my studio, and already have all kinds of acquaintances in the neighbourhood. On Sunday an orphan boy is coming, a perfect type, but unfortunately I can have him only for a short time.
Perhaps it’s true that I don’t have the ability to mix with people who are keen on etiquette, but on the other hand I perhaps have more feeling for poor or simple folk, and if I lose on the one hand I win on the other hand, and sometimes I simply give up and think, after all it’s right and reasonable that I, as an artist, live in what I feel and try to express. Evil be to him who evil thinks.4
Now it’s the beginning of the month again. Even though it hasn’t been a full month since you sent me something, all the same, I’d like to ask you kindly to send me something if you can one of these days.
1r:4 It needn’t be the 100 francs all at once, just as long as it’s something to be getting along with between now and the time when you can send something. I say this because in a previous letter you mentioned that you couldn’t get any money until the inventory had been finished.
Sometimes it grieves me to think that I might have to let the model wait, because they need it so much. I’ve paid them up to today, but next week I wouldn’t be able to do it. But I can in fact have the model, be it the older woman or the younger or the child.
By the way, Breitner spoke to me about you recently, that there was something he very much regretted, for which he thought you might still be angry at him. For he still has a drawing that belongs to you, I believe, though I didn’t rightly understand the matter. He’s working on a large thing, a market scene which must accommodate a lot of figures.5 Yesterday evening I went out with him to look for figure types in the street in order to study them later in the studio with a model. In that way I drew an old woman I’d seen in the Geest district where the madhouse is – like this:6
Well, good evening, I hope to hear something from you soon.
I also had to pay the rent this week. Good-night. It’s already two o’clock and I’m not finished yet.