My dear Theo.
If you’re like me you sometimes have a sudden desire to look up someone you haven’t seen in a long time. This is what happened to me with De Bock, and I wanted to write to you about what I saw at his place. Because you also know him from the past, even better than I do.1 The first thing I saw there in the hall was a large sketch — an enormous windmill, entirely covered in snow, beside a kind of canal or waterway.2 Half romantic, half realistic — a combination of styles I find not unsympathetic. But it was far from finished — but energetically tackled, and there was a fine, forceful effect in it. Anyway, something that one always sees with pleasure, and it doesn’t bother me that it isn’t finished — I’d like to have that piece by him hanging in my studio just as it is, because it’s so expressive. Another sketch, that of the painting in the Salon,3 was also beautiful, I thought, but even more romantic. There were also a few paintings with blonder accents, various pleasing studies.
The impression I got of him himself was just about the same as last year, perhaps a shade more positive and more serious. I thought some sketches maturer and more correct in tone and colour than last year, and the grounds firmer. But in my view too much of the relative proportions of the planes and masses is still left vague; keeping an eye on this sort of proportion is the hallmark of Corot and Rousseau and Diaz,4 Daubigny, Dupré. What they all have in common, in my view, is that they pay careful attention to that,  1v:2 and with them the backgrounds are always expressive and not so disengaged.
There are very spirited things in De Bock’s work, though, and one would view it with more pleasure if the way things stand in their place was less visionary. He ought to be rather more of a realist and then his work would be more brilliant.
I also can’t understand why he doesn’t have some more variety. To give an example, this week I did a few landscape studies as well, one yesterday at De Bock’s, a potato field in the dunes;5 the day before a spot under the chestnut trees;6 another, a yard with heaps of coal.7 Now it’s relatively rare for me to get round to drawing landscape, but when I get round to it I immediately have 3 very different subjects. Why doesn’t he, a specialized landscape painter, do that much, much more instead of it always being a dune with a tree and a bit of marram grass? All very fine in itself, but there’s so much that is just as fine and ought to attract him, one would imagine.
Anyway, you know all about that, again my impression of him is that he has most certainly not gone downhill.  1v:3
Well, I wrote to you recently that I had been thinking about moving, mainly in order to be closer to the sea.8 I talked to Bock about houses in Scheveningen, but I must stop saying the rent for my studio is high when I compare it with the costs that others have; for instance, the house where Blommers used to live9 is to let — the rent is 400 guilders and I pay 170 guilders a year. Moreover, the studio is no bigger than mine, and as for the suitability of the house I would stick to what I have now. De Bock himself pays the same as Blommers. And this is in line with what I heard last year about average rents. If it was a question of going to live by the sea, Scheveningen wouldn’t be possible and one would have to go further away, Hook of Holland, say, or Marken.10
Now, though, I’m thinking of asking De Bock to let me have a corner of his attic11 as a pied-à-terre and then leaving my equipment there so that I don’t need to lug it around. If one arrives tired (if one didn’t need to work immediately that slight fatigue wouldn’t matter, of course), the work is sometimes weak and the hand is none too steady. One is just hot and tired enough to be bothered by it if one walks and has to lug everything around.
So that pied-à-terre at De Bock’s and taking the tram more often might perhaps be enough to be able to do something with the sea and Scheveningen after all, more seriously than I’ve done so far.  1r:4
De Bock is to come to my place this week and we’re to discuss it further. He’s thinking of moving himself and has rented until May, and said that his house might stand empty for several months after all. We’ll see. He asked after you warmly, and I said you’d probably visit him this summer. His big painting in the Salon not sold of course. What did you think of that? The reviews were rather mixed. I think it will work out, to be at Scheveningen often this autumn with a pied-à-terre at his place. We’ll see — but I yearn very much to do something with the beach.
Did a study this week of a barge puller and a peat carrier12 and I’m still working on the potato grubbers.13 I hope that, taking a turn now with Bock, I’ll be able to get on with him; it could14 do both of us no harm, and perhaps we can learn from each other.
He’s bought a lot of antiques and his place looks very attractive, but I imagine it must have cost him a great deal.15
Will you write soon? Now I’ve written to you about Bock as I did recently about Rappard, that way you hear something about our acquaintances. Rappard is travelling, still he wrote to me that he had got round after all to using printer’s ink as I told him, and that it worked much better that way, namely with turpentine.
You know that I’ve always said my present studio was good, especially after the alterations.16 Really, if I think now of changing — I would much rather arrange things so that I don’t need to move, because compared with others I’m very well off. Well, one is always attached to something one has furnished oneself and one feels at home there.
See that you send me something soon, old chap, for I need it badly.
De Bock has also taken to reading Zola and had read Le Nabab by Daudet17 as well. Do you know Germinie Lacerteux by Jules and E. de Goncourt? That’s supposed to be very good, in the manner of Zola. I’m going to get hold of it.18
I’ve ordered an instrument that’s known as a fixer which enables one to fix a charcoal drawing out of doors while one works, then one can work it up. Am looking forward to it. With Bock I’ve found splendid potato fields in the dunes behind the lighthouse.19
Regards, old chap, I wish you well, and write soon. Adieu, with a handshake.

Ever yours,

Of late I’ve been absorbed in a drawing by Régamey of a diamond mine.20 At first sight it’s no different from one of those superficial drawings the illustrated magazines are full of — one is inclined to skip it — but if one looks at it for a moment everything becomes so beautiful and so curious that one is entirely won over. Régamey is clever. This print is by Félix, who often does the Japanese things.21


Br. 1990: 362 | CL: 298
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, on or about Saturday, 7 July 1883

1. In 1880 in Paris Theo was on friendly terms with Théophile de Bock. On 5 July 1880 Theo’s mother wrote to him: ‘Nice that until October you have a good friend in Mr de Bock and then Rappart’ (FR b2495).
2. This may be De Bock’s canvas Winter (present whereabouts unknown; auctioned on 10 March 1907 by Frederik Muller & Cie; 70 x 100 cm) or a related work. Ill. 2111 [2111]. Cf. Arnold Lighthart, ‘Vincent van Gogh & Théophile de Bock’, Jong Holland 6 (1990), no. 6, pp. 18-34, esp. 27-28.
3. A sketch after De Bock’s Un bac en Hollande (A ferryboat in Holland) (present whereabouts unknown), referred to later in the letter as ‘his large’ painting (it measures 140 x 210 cm) is illustrated in F.-G. Dumas, Catalogue illustré du Salon 1883. Paris 1883, p. 130, cat. no. 274. Ill. 2112 [2112].
a. Probably means: ‘Lichter van kleur’ (lighter in colour).
4. This was in February (see letters 312 and 325).
5. This may be Potato field in the dunes (F 1037 / JH 390 [2445]). Later in the letter Van Gogh specifies the location: by the lighthouse (l. 128).
6. This drawing of a chestnut tree is not known.
7. This drawing with coal heaps is not known.
8. Vincent wrote about thinking of moving to ‘the seashore’ in letter 358.
9. Bernardus Blommers formerly lived and worked at Spui 58. From July to November 1882 he stayed at Kanaalweg 31, before he and his family moved into the newly built ‘Villa Johanna’ at Van Stolkweg 17 in Scheveningen. It is impossible to say for sure which of the two buildings Van Gogh meant by ‘the house where Blommers used to live’. Cf. exhib. cat. The Hague 1990, p. 59.
10. Van Gogh had mentioned Marken before; in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine he read ‘a description of the island of Marken — it makes me want to go there’; see letter 358. Hoek van Holland lies c. 15 km south of The Hague.
11. De Bock had a studio at Van Stolkweg 20, now 22: see letter 212, n. 11.
12. These drawings of a barge puller and a peat carrier are not known.
13. Potato grubbers (F 1034 / JH 372 [2442]).
14. It is possible that Van Gogh wrote ‘kan’ (can) instead of ‘kon’ (could).
15. De Bock, who was well off, built up a substantial collection of antiques. See Collection Théophile de Bock 1905.
16. The alterations to the studio had been made in February 1883 (letter 318).
18. Later it appears that Van Gogh has read the book Germinie Lacerteux. See letter 574, n. 5.
19. The Scheveningen lighthouse which came into service in 1875 and was located in the undulating dunes – it is depicted in Van Gogh’s drawing Fish-drying barn (F 938 / JH 152 [3032]). See exhib. cat. The Hague 1990, pp. 60-61.
21. Van Gogh had several examples of wood engravings with Japanese subjects by Félix Régamey; see letter 325, n. 19.