Just as I was on my way to the printer1
I ran into the postman, who gave me your letter. Please accept my sincerest thanks for your proposal, which I’ll write about shortly. First I wanted to tell you that I’m now on my fourth stone, and am sending you herewith impressions of the three you don’t have;2
I’ll retouch two of them, namely the digger and the coffee drinker. The latter worked much better as a drawing.3
In the lithograph I used autographic ink that hasn’t transferred well, and much of the briskness that was in the drawing has been lost. There was also more life in the black, because the hatching conveyed the direction and form of the folds much better. Now the same is true of the digger,4
but in this print there is in general a certain strength and roughness that corresponds with the character of the figure, though I would have liked to have more variety of tone. Now I’m trying to find a way of combining the new process (transferring a drawing on paper) with the old (working directly on the stone itself).
You remember that drawing Worn out?5
In the last few days I’ve done it again no fewer than three times6
with two models, and will labour on it some more. For the present I have one that will be the subject of a fifth stone, which thus depicts an old working man who sits and ponders with his elbows on his knees and his head (a bald crown this time) in his hands. I’m telling you this and that about the lithographs to show that I’m very enthusiastic about them, and so your proposal as regards the lost money is most welcome to me.7
The letter still hasn’t been found, and contained a fifty-franc note. For the time being, though, let’s wait a little longer; it’s being investigated. I told the man at the printer’s about the accident, and so far he’s been good enough not to press me about the costs of the stones. For that matter, the stones are in his hands and he runs no risk, or very little. So as to your proposal — in an emergency I’d very much like to avail myself of it, and it’s a
helping hand for me and I dare to go a few steps further, but it may not be necessary and the letter may turn up. It’s most certainly an encouragement to redouble my efforts, and to prove to you that I put a lot of work into it: I drew the digger in 12 different poses and am still searching for better ones.
He’s a splendidly fine model, a real veteran digger. Last Sunday I had Van der Weele
, painter and also drawing master at the high school here,8
and he saw the various drawings of orphan men and urged me to make a large composition with them, although I would consider that premature as yet, I need to have even more studies. The coffee drinker is one of them.
Herewith a woodcut after Frank Holl
This brings me to what you say about a batch of magazines you’ve bought.
I congratulate you on them. 70-76
is precisely the finest period, at least for the English above all.10
The Black and White11
was then in full bloom and in its prime. I’m sure there must be superb things among them.
I’ll tell you why it matters a very great deal to me to make an effort with the lithographs. If I can manage to assemble a number of good stones (one or two are bound to go wrong now and again!), this will enable me to apply for work, in England, for example, as well. It goes without saying that one has more chance of success if one can immediately show work, for instance by sending proofs of lithographs, than if one has to get by with words alone. Sending drawings isn’t an alternative, since they can easily be lost. This new process enables me to work for a lithographic printer far away without having to send stones. Just today I bought myself a new kind of ink and a new kind of crayon (copal crayon)12
for this purpose.
My address these days is No. 136
I would like to have your opinion about these proofs I’m sending. If it’s possible for me to rectify mistakes I’ll happily do so. Still, one has to be careful once something has been put on, and can’t control everything. I believe that the new Worn out will give you some pleasure — I hope to tackle the stone of it tomorrow.
Well, my paper is full — don’t think, although I write only about professional matters, that your illness is of no concern to me. On the contrary, it gave me all the more food for thought because last summer I also caught a cold, also had quite a high fever and — and — I only hope that it isn’t the same, though. Whatever the case may be, my cordial wishes for your recovery, and believe me, with a handshake,