I looked at your new still lifes with pleasure,1
particularly the one with a Cologne pot and jar of gherkins.2
And those two previous ones have also been improved by change to the background. However — nonetheless, in general, in these ones too, the colour in the shaded passages is again still not lively enough, in my view. I wanted to drop you a line to tell you that I’ll try to arrange matters so that I can come and paint with you for 3 days in a row — if you approve. That means we can really tackle this question. Because otherwise I fear that you wouldn’t be able to help getting the same results again every time. So I say, let’s devote 3 days or so to it, because the question of chiaroscuro and colour and deep tone in the shadow is an eternally difficult question. And whether or not a study is painted better or less well — its artistic value — depends to a very considerable extent on the treatment of the shaded passages.3
I’ll tell you what I feel when looking at your studies as they are now.
I’ve soon seen enough, and I’d wish that the shaded passages in particular drew my eye for longer. Were more mysterious.
This shouldn’t surprise you — and you mustn’t take it amiss of me if I repeatedly speak of it — between ourselves.
In order to get the chiaroscuro right, one must not only paint a lot but also really see a great deal being painted, and know some things about theory, about light and colour. I’m sure that once we’ve really painted together again you’ll see for yourself that at the moment you’re still overlooking things which, once you learn to see them, will mean that painting will interest you much more even. In short — there will be even more soul in it.
Well, what I regret about this is that I’m so tied to my models here — I can’t get away as easily as I could in the autumn.
In the winter I can get people to pose whom I can’t get when they have work out in the fields, or only with more difficulty.
Anyway, I’m working with almighty pleasure these days, for I would much rather paint figures than anything else. Then — the heads of these women here with the white caps — it’s difficult — but it’s so eternally beautiful. It’s precisely the chiaroscuro — the white and the part of the face in shadow, that has such a fine tone.
I don’t know exactly when I’ll be able to get away for three days or so, but I’ll send you a postcard as soon as I can. I’m coming over for a while on Sunday anyway, and would like to take a metre of that canvas from Baijens4
with me, since my canvas is used up.
I do foresee, though, that the better you do and the more you progress with your painting, the less pleasure you may experience from it because of certain Eindhoven folk. But at the same time it seems to me that the pleasure of being able to make something
amply outweighs certain spiteful criticism. Anyway, the more one paints, the less time and inclination one has to listen to it.
Next Sunday I hope to bring you a portfolio of wood engravings in which you’ll find things that will interest you.
Between ourselves — that still life which you framed makes an impression on me of being less correct in the drawing than most of the others. In this respect, that I dare suppose that you neglected sufficiently to compare the proportion of the width of the group as a whole with the height, and consequently the relationship between the objects leaves something to be desired. Measuring, that’s what such a tremendous amount depends on, and if you really pay attention to it at the outset, you’ll save a lot of time later, when there will be the more difficult subjects — such as a head — to make.
I write this to you to assure you, at the start of 85, that it’s not out of indifference that I haven’t come so much recently, but that on the contrary I consider that if you keep working like this for the whole of the year 85, you’ll make more progress in one year than many others in 3 years. So with my best wishes for 85 — yours respectfully