My dear Theo,
Just wanted to drop you a line while you’re in London.1 I thank you for your last letter and enclosed 150 francs. Would really like to go for a walk with you again there in London, preferably in real London weather, though, when the city has very melancholy aspects, particularly in certain old areas by the river — but at the same time has an extraordinarily poignant character.
Which some present-day English artists have started to make, after having learned to see and paint from the French.
But, unfortunately, it’s difficult to see that part of English art that’s actually the most interesting to you and to me. The majority of the paintings in the exhibitions are usually not appealing. Yet I hope, though, that you’ll come across something here and there that will enable you to understand how I, for my part, always keep thinking about some English paintings — for instance, Chill October by Millais2 — for instance, the drawings by Fred Walker and Pinwell. Look out for the Hobbema in the National Gallery3 — you certainly won’t forget to look at a couple of very fine Constables there (Cornfield)4 and also in South Kensington (where that farm is, Valley farm).5 I’m very curious as to what will have struck you most and what you’ll have seen there.  1v:2
Last week I was in the fields every day during the wheat harvest — of which I’ve made a composition.

I made this for someone in Eindhoven who wants to decorate a dining room.6 He wanted to do it with compositions of various saints. I suggested he consider whether 6 scenes from the peasant life of the Meijerij7 — at the same time symbolizing the 4 seasons — might not whet the appetites of the good folk who would have to sit at table there more than the above-mentioned mystical personages. Well, the man warmed to the idea after visiting the studio.
But he wants to paint those panels himself, and will that work? (However, I was to design and paint the compositions on a reduced scale.)
He’s a man I want to remain on good terms with if possible — a former goldsmith who has amassed and sold a very considerable collection of antiques no fewer than 3 times. Is now rich and has built a house that  1v:3 he’s filled with antiques again, and furnished with some very fine oak chests &c.8 He decorates the ceilings and walls himself, and really well sometimes.
But he specifically wants painting in the dining room, and has started painting 12 panels of flowers.
That leaves 6 panels across the width, and for those I gave him provisional plans for sower9 — ploughman10 — shepherd11 — wheat harvest12 — potato harvest13 — ox-cart in the snow.14 But I don’t know whether it’ll come to anything — because I haven’t got a definite agreement from him. Only, he’s taken with this first panel as well as with my little sketches for the other subjects.
I’m really looking forward to your arrival. I’m still pleased to be here — I miss some things from time to time, but the work absorbs me enough.
Well — give my regards to Mr Obach if you run into him.
When you come here you’ll find all the peasants busy ploughing — and sowing spurrey — or — it will just be coming to an end then. I’ve seen magnificent sunsets over the stubble fields. Goodbye for now.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 456 | CL: 374
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, on or about Monday, 4 August 1884

1. See for Theo’s stay in London: Date.
3. At that time the National Gallery had the following Hobbemas: A woody landscape, A stream by a wood, The watermills at Singraven near Denekamp, The ruins of Brederode castle and Avenue at Middelharnis. Two works that are now no longer accepted as being by Hobbema, A woody landscape with a cottage and A castle on a hill by a river, were exhibited there from August 1876 onwards. Although it is not possible to establish with certainty which work Van Gogh regarded as ‘the’ Hobbema, he was probably referring to the most famous of them, Avenue at Middelharnis. Ill. 931 [931]. See cat. London 1995, pp. 310-313, 607.
4. John Constable, The cornfield, 1826 (London, The National Gallery). Ill. 2122 [2122].
5. John Constable, The valley farm: Willy Lott’s house, 1835 (London, Tate). Ill. 2123 [2123]. This painting was exhibited from 1859 to 1876 in the South Kensington Museum in West London. See cat. London 1995, p. xiv, and Leslie Parris and Ian Fleming-Williams, Constable. New York etc. 1993, pp. 376-378, cat. no. 216 (Previously published as exhib. cat. London (Tate), 1991.)
6. The retired Anthonius (Antoon) Petrus Hermans, formerly a goldsmith. See on this series of decorations, which can be linked to the four seasons in general and works by Millet in particular: exhib. cat. Paris 1998, pp. 74-78; cf. also Sensier 1881, pp. 286-287.
7. The Meierij in Brabant is the area between the towns of Tilburg, Eindhoven, Waalwijk and ’s-Hertogenbosch, with the River Maas as the northern boundary.
8. Hermans lived on Keizersgracht, district C, no. 384c (now no. 15), then called De Wal, in an imposing house, the ‘Dirven House’ – also known as ‘Rust na Arbeid’ (Rest after Labour) – which was built to a design by Hermans’s friend Pierre Cuypers (RHC, and De Brouwer 1984, pp. 44-45).
9. By the ‘provisional plans’ Vincent must be referring to the ‘little sketches’ he mentions later in the letter. The first one is Sower (F 1143 / JH 509 [2478]). The painting of this has been lost.
10. The sketch is Ploughman (F 1142 / JH 512 [2481]). Van Gogh painted over the painting after this sketch – it is under Cottage with tumbledown barn and a stooping woman (F 1669 / JH 825 [3024]). See Alan Bowness, ‘A Van Gogh discovery’, The Burlington Magazine 111 (1969), pp. 299-300, with x-ray (fig. 49). Later he adapted the composition in the new version Ploughman and a woman planting potatoes (F 172 / JH 514 [2483]), see letter 466, n. 1.
[2481] [3024] [2483]
11. The sketch for the Shepherd with flock of sheep (F 42 / JH 517 [2485]) is not known, but it must have existed (see letter 454).
12. The letter sketch Wheat harvest (F - / JH 508) gives an impression of the picture; the sketch and the painting are not known. This must have been done in the ‘first panel’. Van Gogh also made a preliminary sketch for this similar to those he did for the previous works (as we learn from letter 454).
13. The sketch Planting potatoes (F 1141 / JH 510 [2479]). It resulted in the painting Planting potatoes (F 41 / JH 513 [2482]). In letters 454 and 459 Van Gogh describes the subject as planting potatoes.
[2479] [2482]
14. The sketch Ox-cart in the snow (F 1144 / JH 511 [2480]). The painting is not known.
a. Means: ‘gewas, doorgaans gebruikt voor veevoer’ (a crop usually used for animal feed).