My dear Theo,
Many thanks for your letter and 200 francs enclosed.
Thanks for letting me know the size of the frame, for which I’m thinking of making a little woman spinning, after the large study.1
I was pleased to hear good reports about Breitner for once.2 As you know, the last impressions that I had of him were rather unfavourable as a consequence of 3 large canvases that I saw at his place and in which I literally saw nothing that one could locate either in reality or in an imaginary world.3 Still, a few watercolours he was working on at the time — horses in the dunes — were better, although very sketchy.4 And I saw in them things that mean I can readily understand that the painting you talk about is good.
As to the drawing society:5 first, I’d utterly forgotten about it because I was painting those particular figures; secondly, now that your letter prompts me to think about it again, I have very little inclination for it since, as I already said to you in the summer, I wouldn’t expect anything other than a rejection of my application for membership, which rejection one can, however, regard as a sort of necessary evil that would be redressed another year, and as such the step acquires a raison d’être if need be.
But besides, since it completely slipped my mind, I don’t have a single watercolour in hand and would have to start new ones in a hurry, if it’s not already too late for this year.
And when I tell you that I’m just now absorbed in two new large studies of weavers’ interiors, you’ll understand that I’m not in the mood for it. Particularly since it could involve all sorts of unpleasantnesses were I to apply again to the gentlemen in The Hague.
As to these two weavers — one is a section of the loom with the figure and a little window.6
The other an interior with 3 little windows that look out on the yellowish foliage, which contrasts with the blue of the cloth that’s being woven on the loom and the weaver’s smock, which is another blue again.7
But for want of a good model I haven’t yet started on what has most struck me in nature these last few days. At present the half-ripe wheatfields have a dark, golden blond tone, ruddy or golden bronze. This is brought out to maximum effect by opposition with the broken cobalt tone of the sky.
Imagine female figures against such a background, very crude, very energetic, faces and arms and feet bronzed by the sun, with dusty, coarse indigo clothes and black caps in the shape of a beret on their close-cropped hair —
1v:3 while they go to their work on a dusty path of ruddy violet with some green weeds among the wheat, with hoes on their shoulders, or a loaf of rye bread under their arms, a pitcher or a copper coffee-pot. These last few days I’ve repeatedly seen that same subject, time and again, in all sorts of variants. And I assure you that it was thoroughly authentic, very lush and yet very sober, most perfectly artistic.
And it preoccupies me greatly.
The state of my paint bill is such, however, that I have to be a bit careful about starting new things in a larger size, and all the more so because it will cost me a fair amount in models if I could ever get suitable models of precisely the type I have in mind (coarse, flat faces with low foreheads and thick lips, not that sharp look, but full and Millet-like) and with those very clothes.
For this is very precise work, and one isn’t at liberty to depart from the colours of the costume, since the effect lies in the analogy of the broken indigo tone and the broken cobalt tone, heightened by the mysterious elements of orange in the ruddy bronze of the wheat.
It would be something that expresses Summer well — in my view summer isn’t easy to express. Usually, or often at least, a summery effect is either impossible or ugly that’s my feeling, at least — it’s offset by the twilights, though.
But I mean it isn’t easy to find the effect of a summer sun that’s as lush and as simple and as pleasant to look at as the characteristic effects of the other seasons.
The spring is tender green (young wheat) and pink (apple blossom)
The autumn is the contrast of the yellow leaves against violet tones.
The winter is the snow with the little black silhouettes.
But if the summer is the opposition of blues against an element of orange in the golden bronze of the wheat, this way one could paint a painting in each of the contrasts of the complementary colours (red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet, white and black) that really expressed the mood of the seasons.
Well, I’m very eager to hear how things are going with your trip to London8 etc.
Ma is still not making much progress with her walking. Wil’s gone to Noordwijk, and that’s a good thing.9 Lies has been here, but I thought that her work hadn’t progressed — she still hasn’t learnt to use her eyes and to make what she really saw or felt. It’s stuck at I don’t know what kind of hackneyed half-sentimental, half-religious view.10 But it can still change in time.
Regards, and thanks again for your letter and the enclosure.
The best I can think of — for the frame — is to take some little stretching frames of that size, then we can see what works out best.11