My dear Theo,
I was glad to get your letter today and the enclosure, and thank you very much for both. It seems to me that Ma’s recovery is proceeding very well so far, generally speaking. And that the longer it goes on, the less immediate danger there is, and the more it’s reduced to a question of time above all. Yet — Ma will certainly not be entirely the same once the fracture has healed. The effect on her, and perhaps as a result on Pa too, will in my view be to push them instantly a whole lot further into old age.
I was glad to be at home in the circumstances, and the fact of the accident naturally having pushed some questions (on which I have a considerable difference of opinion with Pa and Ma) entirely into the background — it’s all going pretty well between us, and it may mean that I’ll stay more and longer in Nuenen than I originally imagined could be the case.
To some extent it’s in the nature of things, after all, that it’s precisely at a later stage, when Ma will have to be moved more &c., that I’ll be able to lend a hand. Now that the consternation of the first few days has subsided a little, I can do my work quite regularly, in the circumstances.
Every day I paint studies of the weavers here,1 which I think are better in technique than the painted studies from Drenthe that I sent you.2
I think those things of the looms with that quite complicated machinery, in the middle of which sits the little figure, will also lend themselves to pen drawings, and I’ll make some as a result of the tip you give me in your letter.
Before the accident happened, my arrangement with Pa was that I would live here free of charge for a while, so as to get breathing space to settle some bills at the beginning of the year.
And the money that you sent at New Year and about the middle of January was ready for that. Because I gave that to Pa when the accident happened, this time it’s those paint bills that are waiting their turn.3
The more so since Pa has just had a windfall of 100 guilders from Uncle Stricker, which I think very kind of Uncle S. So I have not profited financially from being here. And my plan is to press ahead vigorously with the work.
In a year or so the
1v:3 financial difficulties that Ma’s accident can’t fail to bring in its train will be more noticeable to Pa than now, I think. So in the meantime, let’s also try to do something with my work.
After all, Pa and Ma personally are secure for their lives, Pa’s pension being equivalent to his current income. But brother, the poor sisters — without capital, at a time when there’s no great inclination in society to marry girls without money — for them life could well remain drab and sad, and their normal development thwarted. We don’t want to anticipate things, though.
How lying still all the time will affect Ma’s constitution is difficult to tell in advance.
All the precautions we can take to prevent bedsores are important, of course. We’ve made a sort of stretcher in order to be able to change Ma’s bedclothes when needed — although the less this happens the better for the time being.4 Lying quietly is number 1.
Fortunately Ma’s mood is very equable and content, considering her difficult situation. And she amuses herself with trifles. I recently painted the little church with the hedge and the trees for her,5 something like this,
You will certainly find the fact that I love the countryside here very understandable.
If you ever come I’ll take you into the weavers’ cottages sometime. The figures of the weavers and the women who wind the yarn will certainly strike you. The last study that I made is the figure of a man sitting in the loom on his own, the bust and the hands.6
I’m also painting a loom — of old oak gone greenish brown — with the date 1730 carved into it. Next to that loom, by a little window through which one can see a small green field, there’s a high chair, and the little child sits in it, watching the weaver’s shuttle fly back and forth for hours. I’ve tackled that affair just as it is in reality, the loom with the little weaver, the small window and that high chair in the wretched little room with the clay floor.7
If you would, write to me in rather greater detail about the Manet exhibition, tell me which of his paintings are to be seen.8 I’ve always found Manet’s work very original. Do you know Zola’s piece on Manet?9 I regret that I’ve only seen very few paintings by him.10 I would particularly like to see his female nudes. I don’t find it excessive that some people, Zola, for instance, idolize him, although for myself I really don’t think that he can be counted among the very best of this century. Still, it’s a talent that very certainly has its raison d’être, and that’s a great deal in itself. The piece that Zola wrote about him is in the volume ‘Mes haines’. For myself I can’t share the conclusions that Zola draws, as if Manet were a man who’s opening up a new future for modern ideas in art,11 as it were; to me Millet, not Manet, is that essential modern painter who opened the horizon to many. Regards, with a handshake in thought.
Regards from all — do write to Ma a bit more often, the letters are such a diversion.