1. The passage that Van Gogh copied out and enclosed comes from Charles Blanc, Les artistes de mon temps (see n. 10 below). Vincent had intended to write it out for Theo as early as June 1884 (see letter 449). Fromentin also wrote about ‘value’ and the effect of adjacent colours on one another in Les maîtres d’autrefois (see Fromentin 1902, chapter 6, pp. 235 ff.). Van Gogh had borrowed the book from Van Rappard: see letter 451.
2. Derived from what Gigoux wrote about Delacroix in Causeries sur les artistes de mon temps (Gigoux 1885, p. 81). The context of this quote is mentioned in letter 526, n. 10. Van Gogh had previously written to Van Rappard about this subject: see letter 441; he refers to this quote again in letters 496; 502, 506, 526, 555 and 559.
3. Theo, who had shown the art dealer Alphonse Portier the sketch The potato eaters (F 1226 / JH 736), told his mother about it: ‘I was quite glad that I could give Vincent good news recently, I don’t think it will amount to much for the time being, but the person who gave me his opinion of his work is someone of great experience and on whose judgement one can count. He still hasn’t sold anything, but that will come. In any event it is certain that when someone like that sees something in it, that more will be found who will think the same of it. What I should wish, for him too, is that he started to see the fruits of his work. Many before him have had to struggle for a long time before they sold something. It’s not necessary, though, for everyone to have to wait so long and so I very much hope that he will get satisfaction from his works within a short time’ (FR b900, 22 April 1885).
4. See for ‘collier’s faith’: letter 286, n. 17.
5. The lithograph The potato eaters (F 1661 / JH 737 [2135]). Ill. 2135 [2135]. Later Van Gogh says he did this ‘entirely from memory and in 1 day’ (letter 516). There are nine impressions that are known to have been in Theo’s possession. See Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, pp. 97-98.
[2135] [2135]
6. The potato eaters (F 78 / JH 734 [2506]).
7. This would result in The potato eaters (F 82 / JH 764 [2510]).
8. Charles Henri Pille was noted as the illustrator of, among other things, Don Quixote and works by Victor Hugo. He worked for the periodical Le Chat Noir. Van Gogh met him during his stay in Paris in May 1875-March 1876, when he was an employee of Goupil & Cie (letter 234, n. 12). This passage would appear to indicate that Theo did indeed take the drawing to Le Chat Noir magazine.
9. This letter from Mrs van Gogh is not known.
10. Derived from Charles Blanc, Les artistes de mon temps (Blanc 1876, pp. 64-66, 69). Vincent amended the text in several places for Theo. Aside from a few minor textual changes, the most important difference is that the emphasis Van Gogh puts in three times does not occur in Blanc. Cf. for ‘ton rompu’ also letter 450, n. 12. See for Blanc's Grammaire des arts du dessin: letter 454, n. 17.