My dear Theo,
Shortly after I sent my letter to you I received a characteristic letter from Rappard which I wanted to send to you to read because you used to know him1 and haven’t seen him recently. I think you’ll see in this letter (from the serious tone in general) what I wrote to you about my finding him so much improved2 (although I thought he was good in the past too). His drawings are really devilishly good, and what he does is honest work.
Anyway, read the letter, it seems to me such a robust attitude to things. Send the letter back to me later.
Had something else to tell you — I wrote to you about my plan for a large drawing3 — well, I began work on it the same day I wrote to you, precisely because R.’s letter made me enthusiastic. I’ve carried on working on it ever since, and it has so absorbed me that I even worked on it through almost the whole of last night. I got my eye in and wanted to push on.
I’ve changed it into a simple composition, namely just a row of diggers. I’ve sketched 7 of the figures, 5 men and two women. The remainder will be smaller in the background. It is, I believe, the most forceful drawing I’ve done so far, and as regards the approach, my thoughts on that subject are similar to what R. says in his letter. Like him, I arrive at the manner of some of the English without thinking of them in order to imitate them, but probably because I’m attracted by such things in nature and they’re done by relatively few, and so if one does them one must find a way to depict what one feels and go somewhat wide of the normal rules to express what one wants. (Just as in the drawing in question Rappard drew all kinds of machines in operation which otherwise almost no one would dare to tackle, and which are beyond what’s normally thought of as picturesque.)4
Do you know what Rappard’s drawing is like? It’s as if one were reading a description of a factory by Zola or Daudet or Lemonnier.5 I’ve marked a passage in his letter — the one about painting like drawing. Well, it comes down to about the same as what I said last year to some who said to me, painting is drawing with colour, to which I replied, Yes, exactly, and drawing in Black and White is in fact painting in white and black. They said, painting is drawing — I, drawing is painting. But then I was still too weak in my execution to be able to say it in something other than words, and now I say it less in words and more silently in work.
Since you wrote to me about your being in relative financial difficulties, I’ve really worked day and night in a kind of fury. I’ve now started work on the fifth large one, or rather the sixth, because I did the dung-heap twice.6 And when you come you’ll see the number of studies required for them.
R. has not drawn with printer’s ink, but I have here and there. But what he says is true — he works in a white passe-partout and then the black seems blacker; I work in a brown passe-partout with a black inside edge which is a very deep black, precisely in order to keep the drawing clear. As for the English not using printer’s ink, he’s quite wrong. For they work the drawings up precisely by using tremendous strengths sometimes, which still make the greatest strengths of charcoal very clear. These strengths are obtained through printer’s ink or autographic ink or lampblack7 or neutral tint and other blacks from watercolour. You shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve done so many in a short time. Thinking and thinking through plays a role in composing a drawing almost more than in painting, and for my part I feel fine if I carry on as now, for instance, with this last one for a day and half a night. But in this way one can become productive too — it’s tremendously absorbing. But precisely when one is so strongly drawn by the work, one must continue with it until one is fit to drop, so to speak. I’m absolutely broke, send somewhat earlier if you can. I won’t sleep much tonight again because of the drawing. But it’s very pleasant with a pipe at night when everything’s quiet, and the dawn and the sunrise is glorious. Well, old chap, send soon if you can. Good fortune with everything, adieu.