Cuesmes, 7 Sept. 1880

Dear Theo,
As for the sheets, etchings &c. that you sent me some time ago, I received them safely and I thank you very much for them. You did me a great service by sending them.
I’ll tell you, then, that I’ve sketched the 10 sheets of Millet’s Labours of the fields1 (in approximately the dimensions of a sheet of the Bargue Cours de dessin)2 and that I’ve completely finished one of them, namely The woodcutter.3 I would be further on with them if it weren’t for the fact that I first wanted to do Bargue’s Exercices au fusain, which Mr Tersteeg has been so kind as to lend me, and now I’ve finished the 60 sheets.4
Furthermore, I’ve drawn The evening prayer5 after the etching that you sent.
I’d very much like to be able to show you them, to have your opinion on all of it, as well as on some other drawings, such as a large sepia after T. Rousseau, Oven in Les Landes.6 I’d done it twice before, small, in watercolours, before succeeding with it. I would, as I’ve already told you, really like to do Ruisdael’s The bush,7 too. You know that these two landscapes are in the same style and sentiment.
For quite a while I’ve been scribbling down drawings without making much progress, but recently it’s been going better, it seems to me, and I’m confident that it will go better still. Especially in view of the fact that Mr Tersteeg and you, too, have come to my aid with good models; because I believe I do much better for the time being by first copying some good things than by working without that foundation.
However, I couldn’t help sketching, in fairly large dimensions, the drawing of the miners going to the pit, of which I sent you the croquis,8 changing the arrangement of the figures slightly.  1v:2
I really hope that after copying Bargue’s two other series as well9 I’ll be able to draw a more or less reasonable miner or female thrutcher, when one of these days it will be possible for me to have a model with some character, and as far as that’s concerned, there are some here.
I find the lithograph after Bosboom, Interior of a cowshed,10 very beautiful. You well understood my thinking when you added Hébert’s Malaria11 to our collection.
If you still own the book with the etchings after Michel,12 lend it to me too sometime, but it’s not urgent; I have plenty to work on for the time being, but I’ll be very eager to see those landscapes again, because now I see things with a different eye from the time when I wasn’t yet drawing. I hope you won’t be too unhappy with the drawings after Millet when you see them; these little wood engravings13 are wonderful. As I’ll already have 20 sheets after Millet, all told, you can well understand that if you could obtain some more for me I’d be very keen to do them, as I’m trying to study this master seriously.14 I’m well aware that the large etching of the diggers15 is rare, but keep an eye open for it nevertheless, and tell me at what price one could still get it. One of these days I’ll earn16 a farthing or two with some scratch of a miner, and I’d be very keen to have that sheet, as well as The bush, as soon as I could buy it, even though it might be a bit expensive.  1v:3
The other day I bought 2 volumes of the Musée Universel for 2.50 francs,17 in which there are a fair number of interesting wood engravings, including 3 Millets.18
I couldn’t tell you how much Mr Tersteeg has pleased me by agreeing to let me have Bargue’s Exercices au fusain and Cours de dessin. I’ve worked on the first ones for a fortnight or thereabouts, from very early in the morning until evening, and day by day I’ve believed I could feel that it was making me stronger. But not with less, rather with more eagerness, I’m now doing The labours of the fields. It’s The sheep-shearers19 that are on the go now.
So accept my sincere thanks for sending them, and be sure that anything you might be able to find by that artist couldn’t be more useful to me. As for The sower,20 I’ve drawn it 5 times now, twice small, 3 times large, and yet I’ll go back to it again, that figure haunts me so.
When you write to me, sooner or later (which by way of distraction would give me great pleasure), could you give me some information about A. Legros’ etchings?21 If my memory serves me right, I once saw about a dozen of them in England that were very fine.
For today, I’ll end this letter by thanking you again and shaking your hand.


Also accept my congratulations on the occasion of 10 September.22

Address C. Decrucq.
3 rue du Pavillon
Cuesmes (near Mons)

Here are the Millets that I have:

The Sower.
Evening prayer
Reapers binding sheaves23
Woodcutter and his wife in the forest24
Fields in winter.25
Young peasant26
Labours of the fields, 10 sheets
Four times of the day, 4 sheets27

Don’t you still have an old woodcutter alone in the woods in your collection of wood engravings?28


Br. 1990: 156 | CL: 135
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Cuesmes, Tuesday, 7 September 1880

1. For the series of prints The labours of the fields [1887], see letter 156, n. 1. A drawing is known only of The reaper (F SD 1674 / JH 2), but Hulsker dates it as late as April-May 1881. Van Gogh later wrote to Eugène Boch that he had destroyed all his work from the Borinage period (see letter 693).
[1887] [678]
2. The sheets in Bargue’s Cours de dessin measure c. 44 x 58 cm; the drawings themselves vary in size.
3. A drawing after Millet’s The woodcutter (see letter 156, n. 1), no. 9 in the series The labours of the fields [1887].
a. Read: ‘with them’ (with the drawings).
4. Regarding the Exercices au fusain by Bargue, see letter 156, n. 12. Tersteeg had already been called upon in 1877 to lend out his sample drawings (see letter 102).
5. Van Gogh made several drawn copies after Millet’s The angelus [1766] (The evening prayer), one of which is known (F 834 / JH Juv. 14 [2329]), though this is probably not the one referred to here; see letter 160. For the etching, see letter 73, n. 6.
[1766] [2329]
6. For the lithograph by Auguste-Paul-Charles Anastasi after Rousseau’s Oven in Les Landes [1866], see letter 139, n. 9. Van Gogh’s copies after Rousseau have been lost.
b. Read: ‘with the sepia’.
8. Miners going to the mine (F 831 / JH Juv. 11 [2326]). This drawing measures 44.5 x 55 cm. Cat. Amsterdam 1996, pp. 14-15. The ‘croquis’ is the letter sketch Miners in the snow at dawn in letter 156, which was done after an earlier drawing.
9. Van Gogh is referring to the two-part Cours de dessin by Charles Bargue. For this drawing course, see letter 136, n. 22.
10. It is not certain which lithograph Theo sent. It could have been one made after Bosboom’s watercolour De koestal (The cowshed), also known as Boerendeel (Barn). See exhib. cat. The Hague 1917, p. 33, no. 57. Also known are three interiors of stables – a watercolour (Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet), a watercolour sketch and a painting – a number of barns and the watercolour Stal met vrouw aan pomp (Cowshed with woman at the pump). The lithograph made by Jan Mesker after the last-mentioned, titled Een stal (A cowshed), appeared in Kunstkronijk 17 (1876), NS, p. 46. Ill. 610 [610]. Cf. Marius and Martin 1917, pp. 139-140, 142, 144, 147, 149, 151-152.
11. For Ernest Hébert, Malaria [1666], see letter 29, n. 7. Goupil published a photogravure of it (London, Witt Library); see exhib. cat. London 1992, pp. 129-130, cat. no. 47. Eugène Alexis Girardet also made a simplified engraving after it (source unknown). Ill. 1890 [1890].
[1666] [1890]
13. The prints in the series The four times of the day [1679] [1680] [1681] [1682] and The labours of the fields [1887], which Van Gogh owned, are small woodcuts. See letter 156, n. 1 and letter 37, n. 16.
[1679] [1887]
14. Van Gogh later added ‘as I’m trying to study this master seriously’.
15. For Millet’s etching The two diggers [1876], which measures 23.5 x 33.5 cm, see letter 142, n. 18.
16. This was followed by ‘s’il plaît à Dieu’ (God willing), which Van Gogh crossed out.
17. The first issue of Musée Universel. Revue Illustrée Hebdomadaire was published in Paris on 5 October 1872. Single issues, each numbering 16 pages, cost 25 centimes; a yearly subscription in Paris cost 12 francs, and in the other departements 14 francs. The magazine contained short pieces on politics, the economy and cultural affairs, accompanied by illustrations; it also included independent prints, sometimes page-sized. Van Gogh’s estate contains a total of thirteen engravings from Musée Universel, all originating from volumes 4, 5 and 6 (1876-1878). Van Gogh must have bought two of them during this period.
18. It is not known exactly which three engravings after Millet Van Gogh had; the estate contains only Le bûcheron (The woodcutter). Seven were reproduced in the following issues of Musée Universel: Musée Universel 4 (1876), 1st semestre: La lessiveuse (Washerwoman), drawing by Edmond Charles Joseph Yon, engraved by Martin (p. 213), Le bûcheron (The woodcutter) (pp. 216-217), Servante balayant la maison (Servant sweeping the house), drawing by F. Dumont (p. 369); Musée Universel 4 (1876), 2nd semestre: La petite bergère (The little shepherdess), drawing by Edmond Charles Joseph Yon, engraved by Perrichon (p. 293); Musée Universel 5 (1877), 2nd semestre: Berger gardant son troupeau (‘Le père Rabatu’) (Shepherd keeping watch over his flock (‘Le père Rabatu’)), drawing by Dumont (p. 277); Cour de ferme, la nuit [274] (Farmyard at night), drawing by Théophile-Narcisse Chauvel (p. 332); and Musée Universel 6 (1878), vol. 12, no. 293: Jeune paysan de Barbizon (Young peasant of Barbizon); the last-mentioned traced only as a listing on the cover, hence the lack of a page reference.
Le bûcheron was published in the series ‘Galerie des peintres contemporaines’. The drawing is by Edmond Charles Joseph Yon; the engraver is George Léon Alfred Perrichon (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, t*573). Ill. 271 [271]. Cf. exhib. cat. Paris 1998, p. 137, fig. 39.
[147] [150] [274] [152] [271]
19. For Millet’s The sheep shearers (no. 8 in the series The labours of the fields [1887]), see letter 156, n. 1.
c. Read: ‘distraction’.
21. For the etchings by Alphonse Legros, see W.S. Sparrow, ‘L’Oeuvre de l’aquafortiste Alphonse Legros’, The Studio 27 (January 1903) and Catalogue of the etchings, drypoints and lithographs by Professor Alphonse Legros in the collection of Frank E. Bliss. Preface by Campbell Dodgson. C.B.E. London 1923.
22. The congratulations are connected with the birthday of Mrs van Gogh, who turned 61 on 10 September.
23. Van Gogh’s mention of Reapers binding sheaves probably refers to a reproduction of Jean-François Millet’s pastel Buckwheat harvest, 1868-1870 (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts). Ill. 3112 [3112]. This was published as an engraving in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts of 1 May 1875, p. 438. See exhib. cat. Boston 1984, p. 210, cat. no. 142.
25. Van Gogh owned the etching by Alfred Alexandre Delauney after Winter: The plain of Chailly, 1862 (Vienna, Österreichische Galerie). Ill. 1892 [1892] (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, t*50). He applied a grid to this print, perhaps to guide him in making the later, painted copy Snow-covered field with a plough and harrow (after Millet), (F 632 / JH 1882 [2885]). Cf. exhib. cat. Paris 1975, no. 192; exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1988, pp. 115-119, cat. nos. 41-43; and exhib. cat. Paris 1998, pp. 154-157, cat. nos. 83-85.
[1892] [2885]
26. This probably refers to the reproduction Jeune paysan de Barbizon (Young peasant of Barbizon) which appeared in L’Art 4 (1878), vol. 1, p. 20, a ‘pencil drawing by J.F. Millet (no. 212 in the Alfred Sensier sale)’. Ill. 280 [280]. The print also appeared in Musée Universel 6 (11 May 1878), vol. 12, no. 293 (as listed on the cover in London, Art Library Victoria & Albert).
28. This question must refer to another depiction of a woodcutter and not the one mentioned in nn. 3 and 18 above. A month later Vincent thanks his brother for sending a woodcutter by Millet, after which he had just made a pen drawing (see letter 159, n. 5).