I wanted to write to you one more time while you’re still in the old house, to thank you for your last letter and the news of Cor’s safe passage.
I believe that he’ll work there with enthusiasm and have some enjoyment in his life now and then. What he writes to you reminds me of what my friend Gauguin told me about Panama and Brazil.1 I didn’t know that Isaäcson is also going to the Transvaal.2 You know that I never met him personally — but I did write to him recently3 because he more or less intended to write about my work in a Dutch newspaper, which I asked him not to do, but at the same time to thank him for his loyal sympathy, because from the beginning we often thought about each other’s work and have the same ideas about our old Dutch and the present-day French painters.
And I also like De Haan’s work a lot.4
Now I can inform you that what I promised you is entirely ready — that’s to say five of my landscape studies5 and a small portrait of myself6 and a study of an interior.7 I’m afraid it will disappoint you, though, and a few things seem unimportant and ugly to you. Wil and you can do with them as you wish, and give the other sisters a couple of them if you like, that’s why I’m sending a couple more.
But this is something that doesn’t concern me, only I wanted to make sure that there were things of mine in the family, and am only trying to form a few things into a sort of ensemble that I would prefer to see stay together so that in time it becomes rather more important. Only, I can understand in advance that you won’t have room for all 6, and so do with them as you wish. But I advise you to keep them together, at least for a while, since then you’ll be better able to judge which you like best in the long run.
I’m sorry that Aunt Mina is suffering so, as you write;8 it’s a good many years since I saw her.
I certainly agree with you that it’s a good deal better for Theo like this than before, and just hope everything goes well with Jo’s confinement, then they’ll be set up for quite a while. It’s always good to experience how a human being comes into the world, and that leads many characters to more peace and truth.
The countryside here is very beautiful in the autumn, and the yellow leaves. I’m just sorry there aren’t more vineyards here, though I did go and paint one a few hours away.9 What happens is a large field turns entirely purple and red, like the Virginia creeper at home, and next to it a square of yellow and a little further on a patch that’s still green.
All that beneath a sky of magnificent blue, and lilac rocks in the distance. Last year I had a better opportunity to paint that than now.
I would have liked to include something like that with what I’m sending you, but I’ll have to owe it to you till another year.10
You’ll see from the little portrait of myself that I include that although I saw Paris, London and so many other large cities, and that for years at a time, I still look more or less like a peasant from Zundert, Toon or Piet Prins,11 say, and I sometimes imagine that I feel and think like that too, only the peasants are of more use in the world. It’s only when they have all the rest that people get a feeling for, need for paintings, books etc. So in my own estimation I definitely reckon myself below the peasants. Anyway, I plough on my canvases as they do in their fields.
Otherwise things are wretched enough in our profession — that’s always been so, in fact — but it’s really very bad at present.
And yet there have never been such prices paid for paintings as nowadays.
What keeps us working is friendship for one another and love of nature, and anyway, when one’s taken the trouble to become master of the brush, one can’t stop painting.
Compared with others I’m still among the fortunate ones, but just imagine what it must be like when someone starts in the profession and has to give it up before he’s done anything, and there are many like that.
Reckon on 10 years needed to learn the profession, anyone who gets through 6, say, and pays for them and then has to give up, if you knew how miserable that is and how many there are like that. And the high prices one hears about, paid for work by painters who are dead and weren’t paid like that in life, it’s a sort of tulip mania12 from which the living painters get more disadvantage than advantage. And it will also pass like tulip mania.
One can reason, however, that although tulip mania is long gone and forgotten, the flower growers have remained and will remain. And so I regard painting in the same way, that what remains is a sort of flower growing. And as to that I reckon myself fortunate to be in it. But the rest!
These things to prove to you than one mustn’t be under any illusions. My letter must go off — at the moment I’m working on a portrait of one of the patients here.13 It’s strange that when one is with them for some time and is used to them, one no longer thinks about their being mad. Embraced in thought by