My dear Theo,
I was in such a hurry the last time I wrote. I really need the whole day at the moment, since I’m working a good 2 hours from here. I want to get a few more fine cottages in the middle of the heath. I now have four as big as the last two I sent, and a few small ones.1 They aren’t dry yet — and I’ll do a bit more to them at home, too. But then I wanted to send them to you at the same time as some figure studies,2 so you can show the latter to Serret.
I wanted to tell you now, though, that for the time being, because there are now 6 or so large canvases, I plan to make only small ones.3 And that’s quite deliberate because — when I look back at what Raffaëlli and Mantz and other articles say — at the last Salon and in general, people are making a great many enormous canvases.4 One could perhaps — although I didn’t read this in any of the articles — call this Salon the Salon of the colour merchants.
I wanted to send these off before you come here, because otherwise it’ll be rather a long time. And after that I’ll start working again on very different things.
I think you’ll see in the ones that I’m bringing back from the heath that it’s pretty real there. The interiors are deuced fine, and I’ve now made some acquaintances among the people, where I can go.
How did you get on this month as far as the money’s concerned? I hope it was better than you expected, for I was quite worried when you wrote that you would be short yourself.  1v:2
I had to pay a lot at the beginning of this month, and I’m left with precisely 5 guilders. And it’s a long time till the end of the month.
While I’ll also have to pay out again next month. I can or may not do anything other than spend a relatively large sum on models. It’s the same here as everywhere else; people are far from happy to pose and, if it weren’t for the money, no one would. However, as the people are mostly very poor, and many weavers, in particular, have no work, I can still get it done. But to make what I want and, above all, get the figures better, is really a question of money.
Did you read in Sensier’s book that when Millet had the good fortune to inherit several thousand francs, instead of using this — he was poor enough in all conscience — to make things a bit easier for himself — on the contrary he immediately went on a trip to his birthplace to paint the peasants all over again, and went through his whole inheritance like that — and — Millet was right.5
Others did the same thing — Paul Dubois, for instance, spent what he inherited from his parents on models. And was very wretched for a while because of money worries.6  1v:3
I have nothing to inherit now — and I can’t suddenly do as I like.7 But don’t take it amiss of me when I say that if Serret and you — and in my view very rightly want to see other things in my figures — I’ll have to spend rather more on my models.
I don’t know how people manage to fill the Salon with canvases metres high by metres wide. Anyway.
Among these cottages there are a few that I’ve painted much brighter, but I say again that, much as I like grey paintings, I appreciate more and more the people who are able to create the more sombre effects as well as the silver-grey spectrum.
What I’ll do now is — if the month may perhaps have turned out rather better for you than expected, if you could send something more — even if it isn’t much — then I’ll send the 4 canvases. Otherwise — see above — I can’t really get them off.
But in that case I’ll send them as soon as I have the money for the next month, and then in all events the figure studies before that — to show to Serret.  1r:4
These figure studies — I’d like you to bring them back with you when you come, though.
For there are going to be many more that I need for painting.
They’re to serve for figures that are definitely not larger than a span, say, or even less — so that what’s in them becomes even more concentrated.8
Regards, with a handshake.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 521 | CL: 417
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, on or about Sunday, 12 July 1885

1. As well as The cottage (F 83 / JH 777 [2513]), which measures 64 x 78 cm, Vincent therefore sent another cottage of a similar size. Cottage and woman with a goat (F 90 / JH 823 [3025]) and Cottage with peasant coming home (F 170 / JH 824 [2520]), which measure 60 x 85 and 64 x 76 cm respectively, fit the bill, but they could also have been among the four that Van Gogh now says he has painted. He also made Village at sunset (F 190 / JH 492), which measures 57 x 82 cm.
We also know of six smaller cottages from this period – in his next letter (515), Van Gogh refers to Cottage with woman digging (F 89 / JH 803 [2517]), which measures 30.5 x 40 cm. He probably also counted Cottage (F - / JH add 23), 33 x 43 cm, as one of them. On the shipment: letters 506-507; cf. cat. Amsterdam 1999, p. 162 (n. 1).
[2513] [3025] [2520] [2517] [951]
2. Cf. the drawn figure studies mentioned in letter 512.
3. These were The potato eaters (F 82 / JH 764 [2510]), The cottage (F 83 / JH 777 [2513]) and The old church tower at Nuenen (‘The peasants’ churchyard’) (F 84 / JH 772 [2512]), and probably Cottage (F 91 / JH 809 [2519]), 35.5 x 67 cm; Cottage and a woman with a goat (F 90 / JH 823 [3025]), which measures 60 x 85 cm, and Cottage with tumbledown barn and a stooping woman (F 1669 / JH 825 [3024]), which measures 62 x 113. See cat. Amsterdam 1999, pp. 160-163, and n. 1.
[2510] [2513] [2512] [2519] [3025] [3024]
4. In his ‘Etude des mouvements de l’art moderne et du beau caractéristeRaffaëlli criticized the ‘vast canvases’ at the Salon (Catalogue illustré des oeuvres de Jean-François Raffaelli. Paris 1884, p. 35). Mantz had written in Le Temps about the large paintings at the Salon, which were intended as decorations for town halls (‘Le Salon i’, p. 1). In ‘Le Salon ii’, published in Le Temps of 17 May 1885, he wrote: ‘Our painters are criticized for giving their canvases exaggerated proportions’ (On reproche à nos peintres de donner à leurs toiles des dimensions exagérées) (p. 2). Theo had sent Vincent these articles (see for Raffaëlli: letter 512, n. 1 and for Mantz: letters 502 ff.).
5. Sensier writes that Millet did not receive any money when his mother died; he renounced his inheritance and only accepted the books and the bookcase that were passed down from father to son, together with a few more pieces of furniture. He gave his inheritance – a share in the house and the land – to one of his brothers, who continued to live in Gruchy, the village where their parents had lived. See Sensier 1881, pp. 149-153.
The stroke of good fortune that Van Gogh is referring to is the 2000 francs that Millet was paid by the collector Letrône for Femme qui met du pain (Peasant woman baking bread), Femme cousant à la lampe (Woman sewing by lamplight) and Femme qui donne à manger aux poules (Woman feeding chickens). Millet used this money to take a four-month trip to the area he was born, La Haye in Normandy, in 1854. See Sensier 1881, pp. 152-153.
6. Van Gogh may have known the anecdote about the inheritance of the French painter and sculptor Paul Dubois from the article ‘Paul Dubois’ by Emile Bergerat (without page numbering) in Galerie Contemporaine, Littéraire, Artistique (1875). It says that Dubois, despite his success, was short of money and even had to broach his inheritance prematurely: ‘To subsidize his production costs, he had even had to make serious inroads into his inheritance’ (Il avait même été obligé, pour subvenir aux frais de sa production, d’entamer fortement son patrimoine). He managed to some extent to provide for his basic needs from the sale of reproductions of his popular statue Chanteur florentin (Florentine singer).
7. Van Gogh doubtless raised the issue of Millet’s and Dubois’ inheritances because he himself had decided to give up his own share of their father’s estate: see letter 506.
a. A span is the distance between the tips of the thumb and little finger on one hand, when spread as wide as possible, in other words about 20 cm.
8. ‘A total of ten painted figure studies are known from this period. Most of the men and women depicted are indeed about the size of a span’. Cat. Amsterdam 1999, pp. 160-163, cat. no. 29, with an overview of these works.