Etten, 12 Oct. 1881.

My dear Rappard,
I just received ‘Gavarni, l’homme et l’oeuvre’,1 accept my thanks for returning it. In my opinion, Gavarni is a very great artist, and certainly very interesting as a human being as well. Without doubt, at times he did things that weren’t good, his behaviour towards Thackeray and Dickens,2 to name but a few, but there are such things in all characters.
And he, too, seems to have regretted it, because later he sent drawings to those people whom he had once treated with insufficient cordiality.3 And Thackeray himself adopted a similar attitude towards Balzac, and went even further, I believe,4 but that doesn’t alter the fact that at bottom those men were kindred spirits, even though this wasn’t always clear to them.
When I received the book this morning, I thought ‘now he certainly won’t come himself, otherwise he’d have kept it until he came’. I don’t need to assure you once more that all of us here would very much like to see you again, and hope so much that, even if you don’t come for long, you won’t stay away entirely.5
I’m very eager to hear about your plans for the winter. Supposing you go to Antwerp, Brussels or Paris, be sure to come and visit us on your way, and if you stay in Holland then I won’t give up hope either; it’s also beautiful here in the winter, and we surely could do something, if not outdoors then working from a model in the house of some peasant or other.
I’ve been drawing a lot from the model lately, since I’ve found a couple of models who are willing enough. And I have all kinds of studies of diggers, sowers &c., men and women.6 I’m working a lot with charcoal and Conté at the moment, and have also tried sepia and watercolour. Anyway, I can’t say whether you’d see improvement in my drawings, but most certainly a change.  1v:2
I hope to visit Mauve again soon to discuss the question of whether or not I should start painting. If I start, I’ll also persevere. I’ll talk it over again with various people before I begin, though. I realize more and more as time goes on that it was good that I set my mind more specifically on figure drawing. Indirectly, this really does influence landscape drawing as well, because one learns to concentrate.
I’d send you a couple of sketches if I had the time, but I’m very occupied with all kinds of things, though later you’ll receive some more.7 Should you not stay in the country, I’d be pleased to have your address. In any case, I’ll have more to write to you this winter. Do you mind if I keep Karl Robert, Le fusain,8 for a while longer? It’s because, working with charcoal now, I still need it so much, but if I go to The Hague I’ll see to it that I get one myself. It would surprise me very much if I weren’t to stay in Etten this winter — this is my plan at least, anyway not to go abroad. Because I’ve been rather fortunate since coming back here to Holland, not only in drawing but in other things as well.9 Anyway, I’ll carry on here for a while, I spent so many years abroad, in England as well as in France and Belgium, that it’s high time I stayed here for a while. You know what’s absolutely beautiful these days, the road to the station and to Leur with the old pollard willows,10 you have a sepia of it yourself.11 I can’t tell you how beautiful those trees are now. Made around 7 large studies of several of the trunks.12

I’m absolutely certain that if you were here now when the leaves are falling, even if only  1v:3 for a week, you would make something beautiful of it. If you feel like coming, it would give all of us here pleasure.
Accept my parents’ warm regards and a handshake in thought from me, and believe me

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 172 | CL: R1
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Anthon van Rappard
Date: Etten, Wednesday, 12 October 1881

1. Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Gavarni, l’homme et l’oeuvre. Paris 1868 (reprinted several times). This thick biography of Gavarni contains numerous quotations from his letters and diaries. It includes Gavarni’s remarks on such things as the rendering of black tones and his experiments with mixed techniques, which combined drawing, watercolour and gouache. Cf. Van Uitert 1993, p. 135.
2. The remark about the English writers William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens is based on a passage from Gavarni, l’homme et l’oeuvre, which states that Thackeray ‘found Gavarni slumped beside the corner of an enormous coal fire, his eyes red and bleary from the fatigue of working at night, scarcely responding to his overtures and like a man far away from what is said to him. Thackeray invited him to dine, Gavarni in turn invited him for the following day, in so doing wounding the gentleman who, in his future relations with the artist, maintained his reserve. More or less the same thing happened with Dickens, whom the misanthrope kept at a distance with his coldness’ (trouvait Gavarni affaissé au coin d’un énorme feu de charbon de terre, les yeux rouges et larmoyants de la fatigue du travail nocturne, répondant à peine à ses avances et comme un homme loin de ce qu’on lui dit. Thackeray l’invitait à dîner, Gavarni le contre-invitait pour le lendemain, blessant par ce procédé le gentleman qui, dans ses rapports futurs avec l’artiste, se tint sur la réserve. Cela se passait à peu près de même avec Dickens, que le misanthrope tenait à l’écart par sa froideur) (Goncourt 1873, pp. 310-311).
3. The book quotes a letter written by Gavarni to an Englishman, Ward, in which Gavarni says that he wanted to send one of his works to a few people, one of whom was Dickens. Van Gogh apparently interpreted this as a conciliatory gesture; see Goncourt 1873, p. 329.
4. Thackeray spoke slightingly of Honoré de Balzac several times in his writings. See W.C.D. Pacey, ‘Balzac and Thackeray’, Modern Language Review 36 (1941), pp. 213-224, espec. p. 214.
5. In June Van Rappard had spent about twelve days in Etten (see letter 168).
6. Van Gogh recites a similar list of studies in letter 172.
7. Van Gogh did in fact send sketches to Van Rappard (see letter 176, nn. 4 and 7).
8. Georges Karl Robert, pseudonym of Mathieu Meusnier, wrote Le fusain sans maitre. Traité pratique et complet sur l’étude du paysage au fusain. Suivi de leçons réproduites par l’héliogravure de la maison Goupil & Cie d’après Allongé. 4th ed. Paris 1879 (editions also appeared in 1874 and 1881). It is a concise manual intended for private study. Cf. cat. Amsterdam 1996, p. 29 (n. 35). For Allongé, see also letter 159, n. 9.
a. Meaning: ‘niet in Etten zou blijven’ ([if I were] not to stay in Etten).
9. This could be an allusion to the fact that Van Gogh had fallen in love with Kee Vos. See letter 179.
10. This is Leursestraatje, or Leurseweg; the road and the pollard willows appear on the map that Vincent and his brother Cor made, which is appended to letter 145.
11. This sepia drawing by Van Rappard is not known.
12. Three drawings of pollard willows have survived from Van Gogh’s Etten period: Small house on a road with pollard willows (F 900 / JH 47), Road with pollard willows and man with a broom (F 1678 / JH 46) and Pollard willow (F 995 / JH 56). The drawing on which the sketch in this letter is based is no longer extant.