My dear Theo,
I was glad to get your letter today and the enclosure, and thank you very much for both. It seems to me that Ma’s recovery is proceeding very well so far, generally speaking. And that the longer it goes on, the less immediate danger there is, and the more it’s reduced to a question of time above all. Yet — Ma will certainly not be entirely the same once the fracture has healed. The effect on her, and perhaps as a result on Pa too, will in my view be to push them instantly a whole lot further into old age.
I was glad to be at home in the circumstances, and the fact of the accident naturally having pushed some questions (on which I have a considerable difference of opinion with Pa and Ma) entirely into the background — it’s all going pretty well between us, and it may mean that I’ll stay more and longer in Nuenen than I originally imagined could be the case.
To some extent it’s in the nature of things, after all, that it’s precisely at a later stage, when Ma will have to be moved more &c., that I’ll be able to lend a hand. Now that the consternation of the first few days has subsided a little, I can do my work quite regularly, in the circumstances.
Every day I paint studies of the weavers here,1 which I think are better in technique than the painted studies from Drenthe that I sent you.2  1v:2
I think those things of the looms with that quite complicated machinery, in the middle of which sits the little figure, will also lend themselves to pen drawings, and I’ll make some as a result of the tip you give me in your letter.
Before the accident happened, my arrangement with Pa was that I would live here free of charge for a while, so as to get breathing space to settle some bills at the beginning of the year.
And the money that you sent at New Year and about the middle of January was ready for that. Because I gave that to Pa when the accident happened, this time it’s those paint bills that are waiting their turn.3
The more so since Pa has just had a windfall of 100 guilders from Uncle Stricker, which I think very kind of Uncle S. So I have not profited financially from being here. And my plan is to press ahead vigorously with the work.
In a year or so the  1v:3 financial difficulties that Ma’s accident can’t fail to bring in its train will be more noticeable to Pa than now, I think. So in the meantime, let’s also try to do something with my work.
After all, Pa and Ma personally are secure for their lives, Pa’s pension being equivalent to his current income. But brother, the poor sisters — without capital, at a time when there’s no great inclination in society to marry girls without money — for them life could well remain drab and sad, and their normal development thwarted. We don’t want to anticipate things, though.
How lying still all the time will affect Ma’s constitution is difficult to tell in advance.
All the precautions we can take to prevent bedsores are important, of course. We’ve made a sort of stretcher in order to be able to change Ma’s bedclothes when needed — although the less this happens the better for the time being.4 Lying quietly is number 1.
Fortunately Ma’s mood is very equable and content, considering her difficult situation. And she amuses herself with trifles. I recently painted the little church with the hedge and the trees for her,5 something like this,

You will certainly find the fact that I love the countryside here very understandable.
If you ever come I’ll take you into the weavers’ cottages sometime. The figures of the weavers and the women who wind the yarn will certainly strike you. The last study that I made is the figure of a man sitting in the loom on his own, the bust and the hands.6
I’m also painting a loom — of old oak gone greenish brown — with the date 1730 carved into it. Next to that loom, by a little window through which one can see a small green field, there’s a high chair, and the little child sits in it, watching the weaver’s shuttle fly back and forth for hours. I’ve tackled that affair just as it is in reality, the loom with the little weaver, the small window and that high chair in the wretched little room with the clay floor.7
If you would, write to me in rather greater detail about the Manet exhibition, tell me which of his paintings are to be seen.8 I’ve always found Manet’s work very original. Do you know Zola’s piece on Manet?9 I regret that I’ve only seen very few paintings by him.10 I would particularly like to see his female nudes. I don’t find it excessive that some people, Zola, for instance, idolize him, although for myself I really don’t think that he can be counted among the very best of this century. Still, it’s a talent that very certainly has its raison d’être, and that’s a great deal in itself. The piece that Zola wrote about him is in the volume ‘Mes haines’. For myself I can’t share the conclusions that Zola draws, as if Manet were a man who’s opening up a new future for modern ideas in art,11 as it were; to me Millet, not Manet, is that essential modern painter who opened the horizon to many. Regards, with a handshake in thought.

Yours truly,

Regards from all — do write to Ma a bit more often, the letters are such a diversion.


Br. 1990: 429 | CL: 355
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, on or about Sunday, 3 February 1884

a. Means: ‘van de ene plaats naar de andere gedragen’ (carried from one place to another).
1. Mr van Gogh told Theo with satisfaction: ‘Vincent also remains tireless and he moreover spends the day painting and drawing with exemplary ambition’, and nine days later ‘Vincent remains exemplary in nursing and is also working with the greatest ambition on drawing and painting. I do so hope that his work might find some approbation. For he works so much it is exemplary’ (FR b2251, 1 February 1884; FR b2252, 10 February 1884).
2. Van Gogh had sent Theo two batches containing a total of nine paintings from Drenthe; see letters 389 and 406.
3. Van Gogh had told Furnée’s son that he would pay by the twentieth of January: see letter 421 and cf. letter 422.
4. A modified bed was created for Mrs van Gogh; Mr van Gogh explained it as follows: ‘the Doctor got us to make a sort of stretcher, by laying straps under her, at short distances apart, at both ends of which was a large loop, through which strong hands were thrust. In this way, while the Doctor was there, we were able to lift her without difficulty and lay other bedclothes on the couch. That brought her great relief and it can be repeated again later in the same way if necessary’ (FR b2251, 1 February 1884).
5. Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (F 25 / JH 521 [2486]). Mrs van Gogh had this work in her possession until she died. In contrast to the letter sketch The Reformed Church in Nuenen (F - / JH 447) – which shows a labourer and in this respect corresponds with the pen-and-ink drawing The Reformed Church in Nuenen (F 1117 / JH 446) – there are churchgoers in the painting, but we know that Van Gogh added this group in the autumn of 1885. See cat. Amsterdam 1999, pp. 58-65, cat. no. 6.
6. Most probably Weaver (F 26 / JH 450 [0]), of which there is also a finished pen-and-ink drawing (F 1122 / JH 454). As a rule, when Van Gogh used the term ‘study’ he meant a painting.
7. There is a watercolour, Weaver, with a baby in a highchair (F 1119 / JH 449), and a drawing, Weaver, with a baby in a highchair (F 1118 / JH 452), of this composition; there is no known painting of it.
8. The memorial exhibition marking Manet’s death in 1883 was staged in the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris in January 1884. There were 179 works at this exhibition. It was followed on 4 and 5 February by a sale of Manet’s works (Lugt 1938-1987, no. 43575). See Exposition des oeuvres de Edouard Manet. Exhib. cat. Paris 1884.
9. In the compilation edition of Zola’s Mes haines, which Van Gogh knew and refers to a little later, there were two pieces about Manet (see letter 358, n. 19). The most important and most comprehensive was Ed. Manet, étude biographique et critique; the other, shorter piece was an essay in Mon Salon. Van Gogh is referring to the former (see n. 10).
10. The ‘very few paintings’ by Manet that Van Gogh could have seen included Repose: portrait of Berthe Morisot, 1870 (Providence, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design) and Le bon bock, 1873 (Philadelphia Museum of Art). They had hung at the Salon of 1873, which Van Gogh had visited (see letter 9). It is possible that he also saw Manet’s Argentueil, 1874 (Tournai, Musée des Beaux-Arts) at the Salon of 1875. The London branch of Durand-Ruel exhibited two paintings by Manet during Van Gogh’s time in London (1873-1874), possibly The balcony, 1868-1869 (Paris, Musée d’Orsay) and Young man in the costume of a Majo, 1863 (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). He may have seen them there. See exhib. cat. Manet. Françoise Cachin et al. Paris (Grand Palais) and New York (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) 1983. New York 1983, pp. 513-514, 537.
[539] [540] [542] [543]
11. In Ed. Manet, étude biographique et critique, Zola proclaimed Manet as a painter of the future: ‘I consider it an honour to have been the first to hail the arrival of a new master.’ (Je tiens à honneur d’avoir été le premier à saluer la venue d’un nouveau maître.) The ‘conclusions’ referred to by Van Gogh are taken from chapter 2: ‘There will probably be in it too original, too human a manifestation for the truth not to be ultimately victorious... The future belongs to him; I do not even dare to imprison him in the present.’ (Il y aura là une manifestation trop originale, trop humaine, pour que la vérité ne soit pas enfin victorieuse... L’avenir est à lui; je n’ose même l’enfermer dans le présent.) See Zola 1966-1970, vol. 12, pp. 821, 840.
In the article ‘M. Manet’ in Mon Salon Zola wrote: ‘I am so sure that Mr Manet will be one of tomorrow’s masters, that I would believe I was doing a good piece of business, if I was rich, by buying all his canvases’ (Je suis tellement certain que M. Manet sera un des maîtres de demain, que je croirais conclure une bonne affaire, si j’avais de la fortune, en achetant toutes ses toiles) (p. 802).