My dear Theo,
This morning when I wrote to you1 I was in two minds about something that has been a great source of worry to me, though for the moment my mind is at rest on that score. I have a bit of bad news to tell you, namely that Mauve is in fact very ill again – the usual, of course.
But there’s also a bit of good news: I can rest assured that it’s due to his illness that he’s been so unfriendly to me recently, and not because my work was going in the wrong direction.
I already wrote to you in a previous letter that I’d had a visit from Weissenbruch. At the moment Weissenbruch is practically the only one who’s allowed to see Mauve, and I thought I should go and talk with him. So I went today to his studio in the attic you’re familiar with.2
And as soon as he saw me he began to laugh, and said, you’ve surely come to hear about Mauve, so he knew instantly why I’d come and I didn’t have to give him an explanation.
He then told me that the cause of his visit to me had actually been Mauve, who was doubtful about me and had sent him to see me to have Weissenbruch’s opinion about my work.
And Weissenbruch then said to Mauve, ‘he draws damned well, I’d be able to work from his studies’.
And, he added, they call me the merciless sword and that I certainly am, and I wouldn’t have said that to Mauve if I’d found nothing good in your studies.
I now have permission, so long as Mauve is ill or too busy with his large painting, to go to Weissenbruch if I need to know something, and W. told me that in no way should I be worried about the change in M.’s mood.
I also asked W. what he thought of my pen drawings. Those are your best, he said. And I told him that Tersteeg had criticized them. Take no notice of it, he said, when Mauve said there was a painter in you, Tersteeg said no, and Mauve took your side against Tersteeg, and I was there, and if it happens again, I too will take your side, now that I’ve seen your work.
That ‘taking sides’ isn't what I want, though I must say that it’s sometimes unbearable to have Tersteeg forever saying to me ‘you should start thinking about earning your bread’. I find that such a loathsome expression that I have trouble keeping my temper. I work as hard as I can and don’t spare myself, so I’m worth my bread, and people shouldn’t reproach me if I haven’t yet been able to sell anything.
You now have these particulars because I can’t understand why you’ve neither written nor sent anything this month.
I think it possible that you may have heard something from Tersteeg that puzzled you again.
Rest assured, yet again, that I’m trying to make headway with things that are easier to sell, namely watercolours, but it can’t happen overnight. If I gradually succeed then it will have been quickly, considering the short time I’ve been working at it. But I won’t succeed at it instantly. As soon as Mauve is better and comes to see me again or I go to him, he’ll again tell me
1r:4 useful things about the studies I’ve made in the meantime.
I’ve had very little help from Mauve recently, and he once said: I don’t always feel like showing you. Sometimes I’m so tired, and then, for God’s sake, you’ll just have to wait for a more opportune moment.
I consider it a great privilege to visit such clever people as W. once in a while, especially when they take the trouble – as W. did this morning, for instance – to take a drawing they’re working on but haven’t finished yet and to explain how they set about doing it. That’s what I need. If you’re in a position to see someone painting or drawing, pay attention, because I believe that many an art dealer would think differently about many paintings &c. if he rightly knew how they were made. It’s true that one can understand it instinctively to some extent, but of this I’m certain, that I acquired a better understanding of various things precisely by seeing someone at work and by experimenting a little myself.
I’d very much like to have some of that Ingres paper sometime. Soon the weather might be good enough to sit outdoors, and then it would be very useful to me. I’m beginning to be miserly with my studies and should like to have back the ones you’ve got.3
Adieu, old chap, accept a handshake in thought, poor Mauve, he won’t be better before his large painting is finished and afterwards he’ll be exhausted.