My dear Theo,
I’ve only just got back from a short journey to The Hague,1 I’m at home alone this evening, because Pa and Ma are still in Princenhage.2 So now is a good opportunity to tell you about this and that.
I left here last Tuesday, now it’s Friday evening. Have been in The Hague at Mr Tersteeg’s, Mauve’s and De Bock’s.3 Mr Tersteeg was very friendly and said he thought I’d progressed. Since I’d done the whole series of Exercices au fusain 1-60 again, I took it along. And it was certainly in response to this that he said it, because he attaches a certain value to my doing them, at any rate, as well as to my copying a figure by Millet, Boughton or others now and then, and most people think that less worthwhile.
So I got some satisfaction there, also from that work.
I spent an afternoon and part of an evening at Mauve’s and saw many beautiful things in his studio.4 My own drawings interested Mauve more. He gave me a great many suggestions, which I’m glad of, and I’ve sort of arranged to pay him another visit fairly soon when I have some more studies.
He showed me a whole batch of his studies and explained them to me — not sketches for drawings or designs for paintings but true study sheets, apparently insignificant.
He wants me to start painting.
It was a pleasure to make De Bock’s acquaintance, I was in his studio. He’s making a large painting of the dunes which has much that is good.5 But that chap should start drawing figures, in my opinion, in order to produce a whole lot of other things. I believe that he has a true painter’s temperament and that we haven’t heard the last of him yet. He idolizes Millet and Corot, but, did those two take pains over the figures, yes or no?6 Corot’s figures may not be so well known as his landscapes, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t make them.  1v:2 For that matter, in Corot every tree-trunk is drawn and modelled with attention and love as though it were a figure. And a tree-trunk by Corot is something altogether different from one by De Bock.
One of the most beautiful things by De Bock, I thought, was a copy of a Corot.7 It could hardly pass for a real one, but was nevertheless very serious, more serious than many a forged Corot in which the difference from a genuine one is less noticeable.8
Then I saw Mesdag’s panorama with him, that’s a work for which one must have the utmost respect.9 It put me in mind of what Bürger or Thoré, I think, said about Rembrandt’s Anatomy lesson. That painting’s only fault is not to have any faults.10
The 3 drawings by Mesdag in the exhibition11 possibly had more faults but immediately aroused sympathy, at least that’s how it was with me.
Speaking of that exhibition, there was a superb drawing by Israëls, Sewing school at Katwijk.12 Mauve, a plough (superb), Sheep in the dunes, and also a single figure, a labourer sitting on the ground resting, in the evening.13
Artz had 3 drawings, if I remember correctly, a scene in an institution, old men and women eating porridge, very important, very good and serious. Also two studies of heads, full of character, man and woman from Scheveningen.14 Weissenbruch had, among other things, a drawing of water lilies,15 so simple, so full of style, so full of knowledge and love that many drawings by others couldn’t compare with it. Still, one could clearly see at this exhibition that there are a great many clever landscape painters among the younger generation, Du Chattel,16 among others, and Neuhuys.17
A. Neuhuys had a large figure drawing that was superb. A girl and two children.18  1v:3 A new appearance was the work of Clara Montalba.19 That’s a very special talent, reminds me of Rochussen in some respects. At Mr Tersteeg’s I also saw many beautiful things by Valkenburg, Neuhuys &c. &c.20
J. Maris had splendid things in the exhibition, including two girls in white by a piano, and a mill in the snow.21 I also saw Willem Maris at De Bock’s, who has a beautiful sketch by him, a road in the winter with a little figure beneath an umbrella.22 By chance Bosboom saw my studies, said this and that about them, but I only wish I had more opportunity for him to help me. B. is one of those people who have a talent for teaching something to others and getting them to understand it. He had 3 or 4 good drawings in the exhibition.23
I was in The Hague until Thursday morning. Then I went to Dordrecht, because I’d seen a spot from the train that I wanted to draw. Namely the row of windmills.24 I got it done even though it was raining, and so at least I’ve brought home a souvenir from my outing.
At Stam’s25 I found Ingres paper, twice as thick as the regular kind, one can do a bit more on it. But unfortunately it’s white. Could you, when it’s convenient, perhaps manage to get me some of the kind that is something like the colour of unbleached cotton or linen? Like a few of the sheets that were in the previous batch that I got from you, and like those on which the Exercices au fusain are printed.26 If one draws on white, one must apply a flat tone to the whole sheet before beginning.
So I’ve been to The Hague, perhaps it can be the beginning of a more serious acquaintance with Mauve and others. I’d like that. I shake your hand in thought. Accept my thanks for helping me so faithfully in this. I might not have done it, because of the expense, or at least put it off.

Ever yours,

De Bock was still very pleased with the drawings by Millet that he bought from you.27


Br. 1990: 170 | CL: 149
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Etten, Friday, 26 August 1881

1. Van Gogh was in The Hague from Tuesday, 23 to Thursday, 25 August, after which he went to Dordrecht (see ll. 97 ff.).
2. Mr and Mrs van Gogh spent a week at Uncle Vincent van Gogh’s (see Mrs van Gogh’s letter on the same sheet; Documentation, 28 August 1881).
3. The painter Théophile Emile Achille de Bock worked at Zuid-Binnensingel 128 in The Hague. From 1877 to 1881 he rented this house (‘Huize Rozenburg’) together with Tony Offermans and Jozef Neuhuys. In 1878 Willem Maris lived there as well (GAH). Theo was probably instrumental in putting Vincent in touch with De Bock. See also a subsequent passage in the letter (ll. 29-48) and letter 360.
4. Mauve had a studio in the garden of his former house on the Zuid-Oost-Buitensingel (Rooses 1899-1900).
5. It is not known which of De Bock’s works this refers to.
6. Millet’s biographer, Sensier, made the following remark: ‘Millet always remained true to the age-old tradition of sacrificing the landscape to the figure’. Sensier 1881, p. 176.
7. This copy by De Bock after Corot is not known.
8. Fake Corots began to appear on the art market with increasing frequency from the 1870s onwards; see Vincent Pomarède, ‘Corot forgeries: Is the artist responsible?’, in exhib. cat. Paris 1996, pp. 383-396.
9. On 1 August 1881 the ‘Panorama Mesdag’ opened in Zeestraat in The Hague. This panoramic view of the coast and the dunes near the fishing village of Scheveningen was designed by H.W. Mesdag and painted by him and several other artists in the space of four months. De Bock worked on it from March to August 1881. With its length of nearly 120 meters and its height of over 14 meters, Panorama Mesdag is the biggest painting of the Netherlands. See Magisch panorama. Panorama Mesdag, een belevenis in ruimte en tijd. Ed. Yvonne van Eekelen. Zwolle and The Hague 1996, and De Bock 1991, p. 19.
10. E.J.T. Thoré (under the pseudonym W. Bürger) had written in Musées de la Hollande: ‘George Sand wrote: “Masterpieces have defects.” The Anatomy lesson has none. But perhaps to have none is itself a defect. As a painting, it is an accomplished work in its genre. Senza errore.’ (George Sand a écrit: “Les chefs-d’oeuvres ont des défauts.” La leçon d’anatomie n’en a pas. Mais peut-être est-ce un défaut que de n’en point avoir. Comme peinture, c’est une oeuvre accomplie en son genre. Senza errore.) Thoré 1858-1860, vol. 1, p. 200. The reference is to Rembrandt’s Anatomy lesson of Nicolaas Tulp, 1632 (The Hague, Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis). Ill. 1901 [1901].
11. In August and September 1881 the ‘Zesde tentoonstelling van teekeningen van de Hollandsche Teeken-Maatschappij’ (Sixth exhibition of drawings by the Dutch Drawing Society) was held in the Akademie van Beeldende Kunsten in The Hague. See exhib. cat. The Hague 1881-2. The catalogue lists the following works by Hendrik Willem Mesdag: Het Scheur (The Scheur), Binnenkomende pinken (Pinks coming in) and Schemering (Dusk) (p. 11, cat. nos. 74-76).
[205] [782]
12. Jozef Israëls, The sewing school at Katwijk (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). Ill. 200 [200]. This was exhibited as cat. no. 48, De naaischool te Katwijk (p. 10).
13. Four works by Anton Mauve were exhibited at the ‘Zesde tentoonstelling’: Schapen in het duin (Sheep in the dunes), Onder het groen( Beneath the trees), Herder (Shepherd), and Akkerbouw (Working the land) (p. 11, cat. nos. 63-64, 66). Van Gogh’s mention of ‘a plough’ refers to Working the land. This is the watercolour Ploughing (Haarlem, Teylers Museum). Ill. 240 [240]. The second work mentioned is Sheep in the dunes, but Mauve made too many drawings of this subject for this one to be identifiable. The resting labourer most probably refers to Beneath the trees.
[208] [210] [240] [211]
14. Four drawings by David Adolph Constant Artz were on display (and not three, as Van Gogh seems to recall, though perhaps he counted the heads as one drawing): Eetzaal in het Oude mannen- en vrouwenhuis te Katwijk (Dining hall in the Old Men’s and Women’s House in Katwijk), Op het duin (In the dunes), Gijsbert (Gijsbert) and Arentje (Arentje) (p. 1, cat. nos. 3-6). The first is the ‘scene in an institution’ Van Gogh describes; the last two are the ‘studies of heads’. The subject of the first drawing corresponds to the photogravure of Artz’s L’hospice des vieillards à Katwyk (Hollande) (Old people’s home at Katwijk (Holland)) of 1882. See letter 295, n. 8.
[213] [214]
15. Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch was represented by Een warme dag (A warm day), Aan de Kaag (On the Kaag) and Bij het dorp (Near the village) (p. 12, cat. nos. 121-123).
[216] [217] [218]
16. Four drawings by Fredericus Jacobus van Rossum du Chattel were on display: Aan de Vecht (On the Vecht), Een zomerdag (A summer’s day), Avondstond (The evening hour) and Aan de vaart bij Abcoude (On the canal near Abcoude) (p. 9, cat. nos. 34-37).
[219] [220] [221] [222]
17. Both Johannes Albert and his brother Jozef Neuhuys were represented at the exhibition. Considering what follows and the subjects depicted, Van Gogh is most likely referring to Jozef, by whom there were three drawings: Een hoekje in het Gooi (A corner of the Gooi), Op de heide (On the heath) and Tusschen het koren (In the cornfield) (p. 12, cat. nos. 87-89).
18. Johannes Albert Neuhuys had three drawings on display: Schuilhoekje (Hideaway), Het oudste zusje (The eldest sister )and Sajetknoopster (Woman knotting sagathy) (p. 12, cat. nos. 84-86). Both the title and Van Gogh’s description suggest that he is referring to The eldest sister.
[226] [227] [228]
19. Clara Montalba exhibited four drawings: Salzburg, Lagny (Seine et Marne) (Salzburg, Lagny (Seine et Marne), Sint Marcuskerk te Venetie (St Mark’s in Venice) and De brug te Naäs (Zweden) (The bridge at Naäs (Sweden)) (p. 12, cat. nos. 77-80).
20. In August-September 1881 Van Gogh could have seen at Goupil’s six paintings (nos. 10541, 10542, 13176, 14465, 15569, 15570) and three watercolours (nos. 10537, 10651, 10652) by Neuhuys (no first name is mentioned), and one painting (no. 15246) and five watercolours (nos. 9738, 10314, 10573-10575) by Valkenburg (RKD, Goupil Ledgers).
21. Jacob Maris exhibited Winter (Winter), Strand (Beach) and Aan de piano (At the piano) (p. 10, cat. nos. 53-55). The latter was perhaps the watercolour Two girls, the artist’s daughters at the piano, c. 1880 (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum). Ill. 1109 [1109], or The duet (The Hague, Gemeentemuseum). It is not certain whether the reproduction in Elsevier’s Geïllustreerd Maandblad 1-2 (1891) was based on this watercolour or on a variant. Cf. exhib. cat. Amsterdam 2002, pp. 136-138, cat. no. 75, and exhib. cat. The Hague 2005, pp. 29-30 (ill. 27).
Maris made a number of watercolours of windmills in the snow. It is not known which work is referred to here – there is, in any case, one in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and another in the collection of the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 2002, p. 130, and exhib. cat. The Hague 2005, p. 30.
22. It is not known which of Willem Maris’s drawings Van Gogh is referring to.
23. There were four drawings by Johannes Bosboom on display: Kerk te Hoorn (Church at Hoorn), Kerk te Hoorn (schets) (Church at Hoorn (sketch)), Deel in het Gooi (Barn in the Gooi) and In het weeshuis te Delft (schets) (In the orphanage at Delft (sketch)) (p. 8, cat. nos. 25-28).
24. The windmills on the Weeskinderendijk, which Theo knew from his visit to Dordrecht on 25 February 1877 (cf. letter 103). The drawing Van Gogh made is Windmills near Dordrecht (F 850 / JH 15 [2341]); he undoubtedly worked it up into a watercolour in Etten.
25. The shopkeeper Allegonda Johanna Liernur, widow of Willem Hendrik Stam, ran a shop selling drawing materials at Papestraat 15 in The Hague. See Hefting 1976, p. 130; Adriaan Venema, G.H. Breitner, 1857-1923. Bussum 1981, p. 127, and Adresboeken 1883-1884.
26. The sheets in Charles Bargue’s Exercices au fusain are made of lightly tinted, cream-coloured paper.
27. De Bock’s estate contained four etchings by Jean-François Millet. It was possibly these etchings (and not drawings) which the artist purchased from Theo van Gogh in Paris: Allant au travail – ‘Going to work’, La couseuse, La baratteuse (Woman sewing, Woman churning butter) and A la veille (Early evening). See Collection Théophile de Bock 1905, p. 36, cat. nos. 178-181. As regards the first three, see Alfred Lebrun, Catalogue of the etchings, heliographs, lithographs, and woodcuts done by Jean-Francois Millet. New York 1887, pp. 24-25, 36-37, cat. nos. 10, 11, 20: Woman sewing; Woman churning butter and Going out to the fields. It was perhaps this De Bock about whom Mrs van Gogh wrote to Theo on 5 July 1880: ‘It’s nice that you’ll have a good friend in Mr de Bock until October’ (FR b2495).
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