My dear Theo,
I read your last letter to Pa and Ma yesterday evening; I thought the tone of it good and serious. Just yesterday I brought home the study of the water mill at Gennep, which I enjoyed working on1 — and which brought me a new acquaintance in Eindhoven,2 who passionately wants to learn to paint and whom I paid a visit,3 and then we immediately got down to work together. So that by the evening he had a still life down, and I had his promise that he’ll make 30 of them this winter, which I’ll come and look at and help him with each time. He’s a tanner who has time and money, and is about 40,4 so this can become something more feasible than Hermans, who nonetheless is really sustaining his ambition and is still working just as hard as on the first day, in other words spends almost all his time on it. I have an idea that this new fellow will soon learn to see colour.
I have a plan, though, to gradually get people to pay something — not in money, however, but by telling them you must give me tubes of paint.
Because I want to paint a lot — continually, and I want to get to a position where I no longer have to work at half speed — but can paint from morning till night.
You mustn’t think that I’m so very eager for people to approve of all my work and my doings in general.5 On the contrary, at this moment, for example, I’m almost more pleased that Mauve and Tersteeg refused me than if it had been the opposite. You must understand me! It’s — because I think I can feel the power in me to bring them round anyway, despite everything. I should not, even if I hadn’t felt that I have a fixed goal, because in the last few years I’ve slogged away at the abc of drawing and painting, harder than they imagine — I should not, I say, have turned to them again and engaged in a new battle if I hadn’t had a firm conviction that I could win it.
I have no certainty whatsoever of winning it, though, but I dare to gamble on the chance, and so I won’t retreat now that I’ve started to approach the public.
I’ll become stronger in the very struggle itself, and learn more through criticism, through unwillingness and even resistance, than through resignation.
What I wrote to you, though, I must definitely, definitely insist upon.6 I’ve resolved to make a certain number of studies for which, however I calculate it, I don’t have enough money and which I may not postpone for any reason in the world. The New Year is in prospect, around that time I have to pay some things, and have actually already paid some this month. But this means that I haven’t enough for my work and, if I don’t have a stroke of luck, I’ll lose a month’s work — and that may not happen in the circumstances. And try to make the utmost effort to let me have an extra 100 francs. For my part, I’ll see about getting a contribution for paint from the people I’m giving lessons to.
I hope that you’ll feel that precisely because I approached Mauve and T. and they refuse, directly or indirectly I must show — and that very soon — that I’ve done something again — and that all energy now has to remain concentrated and work has to proceed at full speed, even if it were to work out slightly dearer. That will be returned and I stand by what I said, from now on we must see to it that we at least get good interest on the capital invested in it.
There has been a change in my colour since you were here7 — which I already had a presentiment about when you were here — and you’ll see that with some more studies, those I’m writing to you about now should be finished in a few months, my studies will irrefutably prove that I really do know something about colour. I can’t help it, but I’m short at the moment — precisely because I’ve painted more than could actually be afforded — and there can be no economizing now — because by striking now, while the iron’s hot, we can win important points. I recall having said in my last letter ‘that I didn’t value your opinion any more’.8 I don’t mean that as severely as it sounds — I just mean that I’ve decided to press on in some respects more with passion than with prudence, because this is in my character and I really can’t feel at home in cooler calculation. And yet I calculate too.
The extra I’m asking for I’m not asking for all at once — but here’s how. Try to send 20 francs extra around 20 Nov. — 1 December the usual, around 20 December another 20 francs extra, and the same in January.
Then I’m covered for the ends of those months and won’t have to stop for days when the work demands that I don’t lose a moment.
If it can be a little more, so much the better, but try to do at least what I asked above. And for my part I’ll perhaps also be able to get something from this new acquaintance in the form of tubes of paint. Hermans is preposterously miserly or rather beastly selfish, not just to me but with everyone; all the same, he’s someone with whom I intend to remain good friends — because he’s quite remarkably doing his best.
I don’t think I’m mistaken about Tersteeg and Mauve when I dare say that there really is a chance of getting at them and winning them over.
They can be won over by colour and I see a chance, by taking pains, to demonstrate to them convincingly that I understand and have a feeling for colour. And then — there’s more and more demand for portraits — and there aren’t so very many who can do that, and I want to try to learn to render a head with character. I’ve become particularly keen on this recently because my grasp of colour is becoming sounder. You don’t have to involve yourself in the question with Tersteeg and Mauve right now — don’t bother, rather, but if, say, I have the 50 heads I’m going to get ready by the end of January, then for instance — it might be good if you were unexpectedly just to say a word to them. After all, Hermans has definitely promised me that he’ll pay for a trip for me somewhere, but with a return. If I should want to go to Antwerp, I can hold him to his word, and in the winter I’ll see about making an attempt to get some contacts there — although that, too, won’t succeed the first time.9
It seems to me that Cor is doing extremely well — he looks much more energetic and is getting a manly air.10
Regards. Try to send at least 20 francs by 20 Nov. to cover the end of this month. With a handshake.