My dear Theo,
While waiting for further information about the process, I’ve made a lithograph with the help of Smulders’s printer,1 and I have the pleasure of sending you the very first impression herewith.2
I drew this lithograph on a piece of prepared paper, probably the same type that Buhot told you about.
Meanwhile I long to compare the Vie Moderne paper with what I bought from Smulders. It’s very expensive at S., 1.75 guilders a sheet, but is nice to work with.3
As you see, I’ve scrawled this print as simply as possible — I’ll be content if there’s anything in it that brings to mind the old lithographs from the time when there was more zest in this branch of art than now.
I can get 100 impressions for about 5 guilders, and can own the stone for a little more. Is this worthwhile, do you think? I would dearly like to make more. For example, a series of some thirty figures.  1v:2 But as for things like printing, I must first know your thoughts. But I think it would be bold if, without involving anyone else, we could show a series of some thirty prints — not laboured but vigorous — that we’d had printed at our own expense, this would make us more credible to the people we’ll have to approach later on, namely the managers of the magazines.
But you see more clearly in business matters than I, and we can talk about this when the opportunity arises.
Above all, give me any information you can get about the process. What should one work on with autographic ink? Can everything drawn in autographic ink be printed? &c.
A model has just arrived — a track-sweeper from Bezuidenhout4 — so with a handshake,

Ever yours,

If at all possible, send no later than the tenth, for I’ve had extra expenses here for one thing and another.

I’ll add a few words here. It seems to me that Buhot, for example, will be able to tell you more clearly some useful things about the way it works with this print in front of him. I’d be so pleased if it came off sometime.
A hundred times more important to me than the process are the drawings themselves. I work as much with models as my purse allows, for you understand that one must have ammunition in the form of studies if eventually, once one has started illustrating, one wants to keep it up. And from that more important things also develop.
So I can’t say this too often: it’s more important that I build up a stock of drawings than that I rush or chivvy myself to find employment, although it would be most welcome.
But nothing is lost if they’re not immediately accepted, and I believe that later, with more drawings in stock, I may get a better result.
Also because it wouldn’t surprise me if the demand for draughtsmen becomes ever more evident.
I’m so sorry that I didn’t learn about this process earlier. When I was in Brussels I tried to be taken on by the lithographers there, but all of them sent me away. I asked for different work from this there, and I just wanted to see, and above all to learn, something of lithography.5 But they didn’t need anyone like that. Simonau and Toovey6 were the least dismissive, they said they’d had little benefit from young fellows they’d wanted to train, and things were so slack that they had enough staff. I talked to them about the prints by Degroux and Rops and they said, yes, but these days there weren’t any draughtsmen like them. The impression I got from  1r:4 what I heard there and at other firms was that lithography was rapidly dying out.7
This new invention of that paper, however, proves that people seem to want a revival.8 How much fine work has been done in lithography, Charlet, Raffet, Lemud, as well as the others we talked about recently.
Yesterday evening I looked again at the Gavarnis with renewed pleasure.
I hope that you’ll see from this trial that I’m keen to do my best to make something. I wrote to you how I came to make this one, didn’t I?9 — it was after I told Smulders what you had written about that paper, and he said that he had some left.
He seemed rather surprised that I came back with the drawing a few hours after I had bought some from him.
Would you also like to have an impression with a bigger margin?
I’ve just drawn two diggers.10 If this format is too big — but I don’t really think it’s too big, given that it’s rather forcefully drawn — I could, especially when I know more about how to rub something out on that paper, reduce the drawings to 1/2 or 1/3 that size without losing accuracy — namely by using grids.11 Anyway, we would deal with that. At the same time you see in this print one of the studies of which I have more, and which I wrote to you about.12


Br. 1990: 283 | CL: 243
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, on or about Tuesday, 7 November 1882

1. It is not known who the printer was at Smulders lithography company. It is not certain that the printer’s was also at Laan 3 (cf. letter 253, n. 9).
2. Four impressions of this lithograph Old man (F 1658 / JH 256 [2408]) are known. Two are in the estate, one with the autograph note ‘épreuve d’essai’ and one with ‘1re épreuve’. Since the one sent to Theo was the ‘very first’, the one in question here is probably the ‘épreuve d’essai’. See Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, pp. 34-37, 89, cat. no. 1.
3. For the use of transfer paper, see Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, pp. 14-15.
a. Means: ‘stevig gedaan’, ‘robuust’ (firmly done, robust).
4. One result of the session with this track sweeper may well be Young man with a broom (F 979a / JH 257). For Bezuidenhout, see letter 269, n. 3.
5. In contrast to what was assumed in the past, in Brussels Van Gogh was trying not to become an illustrator, but to learn more about printing processes. Cf. Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, pp. 14-15.
6. Maison Simonau & Toovey, that had existed since 1847, was a renowned printer in Brussels specializing in chromolithography. The firm was located at Pompe 3 (now the Rijksadministratief Centrum, on the corner of Koningstraat and Kruidtuinlaan). See J.H.M. van der Marck, Romantische boekillustratie in België. Roermond 1956; Almanach du commerce. Brussels 1870, p. 393; and SAB.
7. Van Gogh’s impression was correct: at this time lithography was losing ground to new printing and reproduction techniques.
8. The assumption that transfer paper was a new invention was incorrect; it had been in use for decades. See Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, p. 15.
9. Van Gogh had not written what follows to Theo before.
10. From this point Van Gogh was to draw several diggers over the course of a number of weeks. Only three of them are known: Digger F 906 / JH 260 [2410], F 907 / JH 261 [2411] and F 908 / JH 258; whether these two are among them is impossible to determine. Cf. also letters 283, 285 and 287.
[2410] [2411]
11. The lithograph measures 48.1 x 25.2 cm. The reduced version was never made as far as is known.
12. The litho was based on the drawing Old man with a stick (F 962 / JH 212 [2397]). Van Gogh wrote about such studies in letters 270-272.