My dear Theo,
I received your registered letter in good order, and thank you warmly for sending it. From your letter I saw that you’re busy with the inventory. Good luck with it, no doubt it’s a fearsome grind.
How I wish we could spend a couple of Christmas days together, for instance — I would also dearly like to have you in my studio once more.
I, too, have been toiling quite hard recently, precisely because I was full of the Christmas feeling, and feeling isn’t enough, one must bring it into one’s work.
So I’m now occupied with two large heads of an orphan man, with his white beard and old-fashioned, old top hat.1 This chap has the sort of old, lively face that one would wish for beside a cosy Christmas fire.
Harper has published an issue for Xmas done by some painters calling themselves The tile club.2 Boughton has a print in it.3 The finest of them are drawings by Abbey — they mainly show scenes from olden times when the Dutch founded New York under the name New Amsterdam.4
I believe that these drawings are reproduced using that process you described — on the paper that Buhot sent a sample of.5 I must compare these American drawings with the prints in Vie Moderne.
I have every hope that I can learn this, and who knows, perhaps next year we’ll be able to do some experiments.  1v:2
As long as you’re as busy as you are now, I’ll do my very best to make drawings with that in mind. Then when you’re not so busy I’ll have some more information to ask from you or from Buhot.
But I see clearly enough that the process is rewarding, that if the drawing is good one is virtually assured of good reproduction. So working on the drawings is the main thing.
As for lithography, because I’ve been present several times during the printing and the preparation of the stone, I’m seriously considering making a lithograph without the aid of paper or anything else, that is simply drawing straight onto the stone itself.
For however beautiful I find those sheets in Harper’s Xmas number, for example, or in Vie Moderne, there’s still something mechanical about them, something of a photograph or photogravure, and I would rather see an ordinary lithograph by Daumier or Gavarni or Lemud. Anyway, a steady drawing hand is required for both the one and the other, and for the most part that’s what it depends on. I fear that the new process is one of those things that isn’t completely satisfactory, and is in fact a little too sweet. I mean, an ordinary etching, an ordinary wood engraving or an ordinary lithograph has a charm of originality that can’t be replaced by anything mechanical.
So too with engraving — the reproduction through photogravure of the needlework school by Israëls,6 say, or the painting by Blommers7 or the one by Artz,8 is superb, as published by G&Cie. But if this process were to completely replace true engraving I think the ordinary engravings would eventually be missed, with all their shortcomings and imperfections.  1v:3
Rappard is still ill, although the crisis is past; his father writes that he’s very weak. What is it? I don’t know — perhaps brain fever or infection? His father says nothing about that.
Well, I hope that you’ll still be able to enjoy Christmas — still get to go for a walk and have a pleasant time.
But I fear you’ll be deep in the inventory. Still, there’s always something cheerful about working, even when the work itself isn’t that enjoyable.
My best wishes to you. If you can, write again, but if you’re too busy I’ll understand completely, then you must make up for lost time later with a few descriptions of Montmartre or something like that.9
Adieu, with a handshake.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 296 | CL: 254
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, on or about Friday, 22 December 1882

1. Two portraits of the orphan man with a top hat and a white beard are known from this period, Orphan man with top hat: F 954 / JH 287 [3027] and F 954a / JH 288 [3028].
[3027] [3028]
2. The special Harper’s Christmas Pictures Paper. Christmas 1882. Done by The Tile Club & its literary friends. The price of this 32-page special was 75 cents. We have consulted the copy in the Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1877 a group of 31 celebrated New York City painters, sculptors, illustrators, architects, writers, and musicians formed the Tile Club. A social club established at the height of the aesthetic movement in America, the Tile Club influenced plein-air painting, the establishment of art colonies, and the development of American Impressionism. On them: Pisano 1999. See also letter 333, n. 28.
3. George Henry Boughton, Peter Stuyvesandt and the maiden, engraved by Francis Scott King, in Harper’s Christmas Pictures Paper, p. 16. Ill. 2018 [2018].
4. Edwin Austin Abbey supplied a total of six illustrations. Here Van Gogh would have meant two in particular that were printed next to the poem ‘The Dutch patrol’ by Edmund Clarence Stedman: beside the lines ‘In St. Mark’s church-yard – They see the shape arise’ (p. 8), and ‘From Maiden Lane to Corlear’s Hook – The Dutchmen’s pypen glow’ (p. 9) (engraved by G.F. Williams) respectively. Ill. 2019 [2019] and Ill. 2020 [2020].
This special by Abbey also included Winter, engraved by J.G. Smithwick (p. 17). Ill. 2021 [2021]. Van Gogh later calls this engraving ‘Winter girl’ (letters 302 and 309). The prints Mingo; Miss Fraishy and“Good-bye” illustrate the story ‘Mingo. A sketch of life in Middle Georgia’ by Joel Chandler Harris (pp. 24-25).
Harper’s Weekly 26 (7 January 1882) also had prints about New Amsterdam, among them Abbey’s New Amsterdam – The dinner, to accompany Charles G. Gray’s poem ‘New Amsterdam’ of 1655; p. 13. Ill. 476 [476]
[2019] [2020] [2021] [476]
5. Theo may have written about paniconography (a form of photozincography), which was invented as a replacement for the wood engraving and did have photographic applications. Cf. Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, pp. 19-20. He would also have provided information about working with transfer paper.
6. Jozef Israëls, Ecole de couture à Katwyk (Hollande) (The sewing school at Katwijk (Holland)), 1881. Photogravure Goupil, 1882 (Bordeaux, Musée Goupil). Ill. 2022 [2022].
7. Bernardus Johannes Blommers, Départ des pinken (Departure of the pinks). Photogravure Goupil, n.d. (Bordeaux, Musée Goupil). Ill. 593 [593].
8. David Adolph Constant Artz, L’hospice des vieillards à Katwyk (Hollande) (Old people’s home at Katwijk (Holland)). Photogravure Goupil, 1882 (Bordeaux, Musée Goupil). Ill. 516 [516].
9. Theo had earlier sent descriptions of Montmartre, which Vincent greeted with enthusiasm on several occasions: see letters 260-262 and letter 288.