My dear Theo,
Your latest letter with the enclosure reached me in good order, and I thank you right heartily for it. I was and even still am in a bit of a spot — that is, with a view to painting. There are all kinds of costs involved.
But that’s also partly because many of the things that I begin don’t come off, and then one has to start again and the effort comes to nothing, except that this is the way to make progress, and that one must persevere.
There was no answer in your last letter to what I said about sending or not sending painted studies.1 Perhaps it slipped your mind. Now, I decided that it wasn’t a weighty matter after all, and so today I’ve sent you a painted study by post.2 But, as I said in my last letter, I would of course rather you could see them all together sometime, and it goes without saying that you mustn’t judge the future by this one, since I haven’t been working with the brush long enough for me not to change a great deal. I wanted to send you a different one, but the others I would rather have sent aren’t yet dry enough for me to risk rolling them up.
Like me, you will no doubt have reservations about the background in particular. The only explanation I can offer about this is that the study was done as a study of the foreground, namely the tree roots; a lot of work had already gone into them, and as usual I wasn’t sitting peacefully because of passers-by, and so when I had got the study to the point you see I couldn’t bear it any more.
You can’t imagine how wearying and irritating it is that people always gather round so close. It makes me so nervous sometimes that I have to give up. Just yesterday morning, although it was very early and I hoped to be spared, a study of the chestnut trees on Bezuidenhout3 (which are so splendid now) was a failure because of it. And sometimes they’re so nasty and insolent. Oh well.
But it’s not just the regrets that one has — there’s also the cost of the paint, etc., which can’t be recovered. Of course things like that won’t get on top of me, and I’ll fight my way through them just as others do, but I do so feel that I could reach my goal much faster if there were fewer of these petty vexations.4
Now, as regards this study — if it’s the case that, on seeing it and knowing that I have many others as well as this one, you don’t regret enabling me to make it, then I’ll be content and shall carry on in good heart. If you’re disappointed, remember that I started only a short time ago; if you’re pleased, so much the better for me, for I would so much like to be able in time to send you something that gave you pleasure.
Now I must tell you that I had a very unexpected and very pleasing visit from Pa, who came to my house and to the studio, which I believe is infinitely better than his only hearing about me through reports from others.
If people visit me, then at least their impression is original, but I don’t like opinions based on what people say.
It really gave me great pleasure to see Pa and talk to him. I’ve again heard a lot about Nuenen — that churchyard there with the old crosses won’t leave me alone, I do so hope that in time I’ll get round to doing it.5
1v:3 I also heard a lot about your visit, and that you had given them that engraving after Israëls,6 which touched them deeply.
I wanted to enclose a seascape with this, but the latest7 isn’t yet dry — I could send the first,8 but since then I’ve caught the colour of the sea better, and so I’m waiting until a later one9 is thoroughly dry. Recently, though, I’ve painted considerably more than in the original plan we discussed. But perhaps it’s necessary to continue doing this if it’s at all possible.
I received a letter from Rappard the other day.10 I wish he lived a little closer.
And rest assured that I’m truly glad to hear your comments, just as they come into your mind. I often feel a desire and need to seek advice from someone on various questions, but after what happened with Mauve I don’t give in to that, and I don’t discuss my work with painters. However brilliant someone may be, what good is it to me if he argues differently from the way he works? I would rather M. had spoken to me about the use of body-colour11 instead of saying: ‘Above all, you mustn’t use body-colour’, while he himself and all the others, so to speak, nearly always use it, and to the best effect. Well, in many cases one can gradually find out things by looking for oneself as well, and I’m doing that as best I can.
Yes — if it were so that I could do exactly what I wanted, I would take up painting on a somewhat larger scale and, above all, work much more with a model.
I draw many figures in my spare moments.
The small figure in this study is actually there simply and solely for the size, so that if I do use the study I can find the proportion of any figure, more or less.
Of course, a proper figure is a very different matter and involves a great deal more.
It’s also there to provide an accent.
Make no mistake, old chap, I send you this because, since you said nothing about it, I didn’t know what to do. Of course I intend something very different from this, and I’m sending it in the same way that I make a scratch sometimes, to give you an idea of what I’m working on.
Adieu, accept a handshake in thought. I hope that all is as well with you as possible, and that your headache isn’t something that lasts or keeps coming back. I have it too sometimes, more as a sense of unpleasant dullness than severe pain. Pa and I went for a walk on Rijswijkseweg,12 it’s lovely there too. Well, regards again, and believe me
If this arrives safely, then this is an easy way of sending you things occasionally. I don’t know whether one can send drawings or paintings by post as printed matter.13
Another thing, you understand that I could do some things differently, for example some branches &c., if I painted them again — but I think that one shouldn’t tinker with studies if they’re to be of any use. They should be hung up in the studio just as they come out of the woods. For some they may be less pleasing, but there’s more of his impression in them for the painter himself.