My dear Theo,
I’m still very much under the impression of what has just happened — I just kept painting these two Sundays.1
Herewith another scratch of a man’s head2 and one of a still life with honesty3 in the same style as the one you took with you.4 It’s rather larger, though — and the objects in the foreground are a tobacco pouch and a pipe of Pa’s.5 If you think you’d like it, of course you’re right welcome to have it.
Ma looks well, and writing many letters provides some distraction for the time being. But, of course, still very sad. Cor has just gone back to Helmond.6
I don’t know whether you still remember that in January, when the snow was lying on the fields and the sun rose red in the mist, I wrote to you that I’d almost never started a year in a gloomier mood.7 It’s certain that there’ll be a whole lot more trouble for all of us.
Of course you’ll understand that it’s not for my convenience that I’ll go and live in the studio.8
It will make things even more difficult for me.
But I’m convinced that it’s to their advantage for me to leave, particularly in view of Ma’s intention to take in a lodger this summer, if possible, who wanted to be in the country for his health — or should this not come about, then they’re still freer with regard to guests &c.
However, I still very much regret the incident with Anna that decided me in this respect.9 What she said to you changed nothing of what she reproached me for, and however absurd those reproaches were and her unfounded presumptions about things that are still in the future — she hasn’t told me she takes them back. Well — you understand how I simply shrug my shoulders at such things — and anyway, I increasingly let people think of me just exactly what they will, and say and do too, if need be.
But consequently I have no choice — with a beginning like that, one has to take steps to prevent all that sort of thing in the future.
So I’m absolutely decided.
It’s likely that Ma, Wil and Cor will go to Leiden next year.10 Then I’ll be the only one of us who’s still in Brabant.
And I think it by no means unlikely that I’ll stay here for the rest of my life, too. After all, I desire nothing other than to live deep in the country and to paint peasant life.
I feel that I can create a place for myself here, and so I’ll quietly keep my hand to my plough11 and cut my furrow. I believe that you thought differently about it, and that you would perhaps rather see me take another course as regards where I live.
But I sometimes think that you have more idea of what people can do in the city, yet on the other hand I feel more at home in the country.
All the same, it will still take me a great deal of effort before I imprint my paintings in people’s heads.
Meanwhile, I have no intention whatsoever of allowing myself to be discouraged.
I was thinking again of what I read about Delacroix — 17 of his paintings were rejected; ‘dix-sept de refusés’, he himself told his friends straight out.12
I was thinking today that they really were almighty brave fellows, those pioneers.
But the battle has to be continued even now, and for my part I also want to fight for as much and as little as I’m worth. And so — Theo, I hope that we can continue on both sides what we’ve now started again. Awaiting or, rather, while I toil away on more important compositions, I’m sending you the studies as they come straight from the cottages. Of course people will say they’re not finished or they’re ugly &c. &c., but — in my view — show them anyway. For my part, I have a firm belief that there are a few people who, ending up in and tied to the city, retain indelible impressions of the country, and continue to feel homesick for the fields and the peasants all their lives.
Art lovers like this are sometimes struck by sincerity, and not put off by what deters others.
I know how I used to walk round the city for hours, looking in the shop windows, to see some little view of the country somewhere, no matter what.
We’re now at the beginning of letting people see; I believe absolutely and utterly that little by little we’ll find a few people for it. Circumstances compel us, and gradually we’ll also be able to show better things.
Now, at this moment, I’m very much preoccupied with paying off my paint bill, and moreover I need canvas, paint, brushes.
Since you’ve had to do exceptional things for the people at home because of Pa’s death, I’ve come up with the following idea.13
Suppose that you don’t feel you’re in a position to give me the extra I received in spring and summer in other years, and which, by the way, I can’t do without.
Wouldn’t you think it fair in that case if, when settling affairs, I were to reserve for myself a sum of, say, 200 francs of my share, which I’ll otherwise right willingly let the youngsters have?14 And would be able to let them have altogether if you can help me.
By the way, I don’t see it as my letting them have my share — but rather that it’s because of you that they can keep my portion.
If I go to live in the studio, I’ll inevitably have to have a cupboard built, for instance, because at present I have nowhere at all to store things, and I’ll also improve the light.
To me, moving would be as bad as a fire — and anyway I think that we’ll stay on top of things with perseverance and effort.
I think I’ll start painting in watercolour regularly in the evenings — as soon as I’m living in the studio — it can’t really be done in the living room here at home. Until then, I’ll go on working from the model in the evenings too.
As to Anna — you mustn’t think that I’ll continue to take something like that amiss or hold a grudge about it — but only, it’s a shame that they think to do Ma a service with something like that — that’s a shame — and that’s stupid and unwise. As long as Ma and Wil are here, nothing unpleasant will happen between them and me; I don’t think so. Only it’s certain that Ma simply cannot comprehend that painting is a faith and that it brings with it the duty to pay no heed to public opinion — and that in it one conquers by perseverance and not by giving in. And — ‘I can’t give you faith’ is also the case between Her Hon. and me — just as it was and remained with Pa too.
Anyway — I plan to make a start this week on that thing with the peasants around a dish of potatoes in the evening,15 or — perhaps I’ll make daylight of it, or both, or — ‘neither one’ — you’ll say. But should it succeed or should it fail, I’m going to start on the studies for the different figures. Regards, with a handshake.