My dear Theo,
I received your last letter with the 150 francs enclosed in good order and thank you for it most sincerely.
I’m very glad that you saw something in the drawing I sent, I also thought there was something in it. I’d very much like you to have a small, simple grey mount put around it, because it will look best in that.1
In addition, I found something you said about the look of some drawings, as having a je ne sais quoi that can best be compared to an undeburred etching,2 correct to some extent.
I believe, though, that this curious effect which connoisseurs set great store by – rightly so, in my opinion – is caused in drawings (not in etchings, of course, since there it’s the burr of the plate) more by a peculiar trembling of the hand when one works with emotion than by the materials with which one draws. Among my studies I have a couple which appear to be what I’ll simply call undeburred. If I didn’t fix your drawing – or if I worked on it here and there after fixing it, so that there are some places with an unpleasant sheen – go ahead and pour a large glass of milk, or water and milk, over it and let it dry, and you’ll see that a peculiar dull black is produced, much stronger than one usually sees in a pencil drawing.3  1v:2
To achieve that peculiar undeburred look, one should use not chalk, I believe, but rather charcoal that has been soaked in linseed oil first.4
Of course I immediately returned the 25 guilders to Mr T., and received a receipt for it WITHOUT ONE WORD BEING SAID. It may be that His Hon. speaks of being offended, but I’d rather he considered for once how it must have offended me to hear again and again things like: you don’t earn your bread, or: you’ve lost your rights, or: you should have been given a slap in the face, and I don’t know what all. You see, truly, things like that certainly offend not less, but infinitely more, than what I said to His Hon., things like that sometimes cut right through one and sting one to the quick. But what good does it do to talk about it?
As to whether His Hon. buys or not, I consider that an entirely different matter, and one that ought to be completely separate from personal disputes or differences of opinion about this or that. Whether His Hon. buys or not depends, I should think, not on my person but on my work. Let him buy my work or not according to whether I progress or whether or not he wants it, either for himself or for another art lover. But it’s not exactly fair to let a personal antipathy influence  1v:3 the judgement of a work or, conversely, to let oneself be led by the personal appeal of this artist or that to overlook the faults in his work.
There is, to be sure, a connection between a person and his work, but it’s not easy to define the nature of that connection, and many are badly mistaken about it.
And well – yes, I know that Ma is ill – and I also know many more sombre things, both in our own and in other families.
And I’m not insensitive to them, and it seems to me that I couldn’t draw Sorrowa if I didn’t feel it myself. Even so, since last summer it’s become very clear to me that the disharmony between Pa and Ma and me has become a chronic condition, because for far too long there was estrangement and a great deal of misunderstanding between us. So that now it’s come to the point where we must suffer for it on both sides.
I mean, Pa and Ma could have done more for me, I could have done more for Pa and Ma, if we’d tried much earlier on both sides to live with one another and to share the good and the bad, always remembering that parents and children must remain united. Well, neither Pa and Ma nor I made those mistakes intentionally, and they can be attributed in very large measure to the force majeure of difficult circumstances and a hectic life. As it is now, I’m half a stranger and half a tiresome person and precious little else to Pa and Ma, and for my part I have an empty, lonely feeling at home.  1r:4 Our ways of thinking and occupations are so different that we hinder one another without either the one or the other meaning to do so – but I repeat, completely unintentionally. That is indeed a very dismal affair, but the world and life are full of such relationships, and oh, it’s actually useless and in fact injurious for us, no matter who we are, to reproach one another for it. And sometimes it’s best to avoid one another in such a case. I don’t know, though, if this would be best or if something else would be better. I wish I knew.
Well, Pa and Ma find much comfort in their work and I in mine. Because, old chap, I work with a great deal of pleasure, despite the petty vexations.
I’ve just received a letter from Rappard; was at odds with him for a while, but now we’re both interested in each other’s work again. In all likelihood he’ll come to see me soon. Went recently to see Blommers in his studio.5 The viewing of woodcuts didn’t take place after all,6 but I actually benefited by it in that I finally got round to sorting them out and putting them in order. Still, it’s impossible for me to put enough time or effort into finding them, since I’m more engrossed in drawing every day.
Made another study of the nude today, a kneeling female figure, and yesterday the pose of a woman knitting, but also nude, as I wrote to you earlier that I’d wanted to do.7
Well, sleep well, it’s deep in the night, thanks again for what you sent, and believe me with a handshake,

Ever yours,

I hope to make you a pendant to ‘Sorrow’.


Br. 1990: 216 | CL: 187
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, on or about Friday, 14 April 1882

1. Regarding this advice, probably prompted by reading Edmond and Jules de Goncourt’s Gavarni, l’homme et l’oeuvre, see letter 216, n. 4.
2. An ‘undeburred etching’ is a somewhat confusing expression, since an etching has no burrs. What is meant is the velvety effect produced by the incision of a line in a metal plate (whether a drypoint engraving or an etching plate (re)worked with a steel needle) if the burrs – the rough ridges on either side of the incision – are not removed. See cat. Amsterdam 1996, p. 28.
3. Several extant drawings show signs of having had generous quantities of milk poured over them. See cat. Amsterdam 1996, p. 27.
4. Van Gogh presumably applied this method in the drawing Baby (F 912 / JH 318). See cat. Amsterdam 1996, pp. 194-196, cat. no. 54.
a. After ‘Sorrow’ Van Gogh repeated the Dutch equivalent ‘of Smart’ (or Sorrow).
5. In 1881 Blommers was living and working in The Hague at Spui 58. See Adresboeken 1878-1881; his name does not appear in the Adresboeken 1881-1882, however.
6. Concerning the intended viewing at Pulchri, see letters 213 and 214.
7. Regarding Van Gogh’s plans to do this, see letter 212. Neither drawing is known.