My dear Theo,
Since it’s Sunday today, I wanted to write to you again. Because I’ve neglected to say anything about the painting by Uhde, Suffer the little children to come unto me.1 Yes — I think it’s good — but new — it isn’t. I like interiors in bright tones with peasant children — without a mystical figure of Christ, like Israëls, like Artz, better than this, where one gets a mystical Christ into the bargain. The children are very fine characterizations — but are they better than those by Lobrichon,2 Frère or even Knaus, Vautier, as they used to be in their heyday?
Don’t think that this isn’t saying much, because all those fellows that I mention were extraordinarily clever character artists, particularly in the past.
What I have against the Uhde painting is that there’s something cold in it, like in the new brick houses and schools and Methodist churches.
And — forgive me — despite the great merits of everything in the painting, it makes me nostalgic for Decamps’s or Isabey’s less orthodox manner of painting.3
In short, there is in the end something consumptive about it, and I think a Corot, a Dupré, a Millet is so infinitely more healthily painted.  1v:2
I’m only speaking about it on the basis of the reproduction, though; I consider it quite possible that if I saw the painting I would become more reconciled to it as far as the technique is concerned. You know how much I like those bright fellows too — but — you see — it goes too far, and Mantz puts it very well — he says, those who are always dreaming of the maximum of bright colours everywhere will find Mr Harpignies’ greens of a rather blackish intensity.4
So you see: that they start to regard every effect against a strong and coloured light, every shadow, as heresy — that they never seem to go for a walk very early in the morning, or in the evening at sunset, that they don’t want to see anything but midday light or gaslight, and that has to be electric!
No — the effect of all this on me is that I sometimes catch myself longing to see things — well, for example, like Nuijen’s moving day,5 such as an old Leys, such as a Cabat — a Diaz, Lepoittevin.  1v:3
Perhaps you see nothing in this but my constant contrariness.
But still I say first of all — that I think Uhde’s painting very good — only after I’ve thought it good, the aftertaste is far from entirely pleasant — at least not very encouraging in that these painters don’t usually get better in later paintings.
Anyway — it really is a painting for the house of G&Cie, of their best. They also had Knaus at G&Cie, and Lobrichon too. I assure you that I don’t discard all that as a matter of course — far from it. Does it express what I mean when I put it like this: it’s a good painting from Messrs Goupil & Cie? Does it express what I mean when I say: lots — but lots of talent, as much as possible — but genius? — no.6 This painting of Uhde’s — is much more German (see how cleverly Mantz pokes fun at Meyerheim, ‘still-life dauber7 in his article, did you notice that?), is, I say, much more German that it seems.
Oh those wise, those new, those know-it-all people of the new progress who criticize Harpignies! I wager that you can’t stand that either — and in content they’re a new edition of Monnier’s M. Prudhomme.8
To speak of something more encouraging — I enclose a woodcut after Clausen, who started out fairly German but has got the better of his weaknesses,  1r:4 just as Neuhuys also often gets the better of his. Here you are — this is why I enclose the print for you — here at last is something from English art that reminds me of work by Pinwell and Fred Walker. It’s different again from Millet — but you’ll see that, although you may look at it for a long time, it doesn’t become boring.9
Don’t get rid of the print, because one so seldom sees any of this rare art, which one shouldn’t confuse with Bridgman, say.10 And the other print, less manly as regards the conception, is mightily good as regards sentiment, and also really original.
I’m working hard on figure drawings every day. I must have at least a hundred, though — or even more, before I can stop again. I’m trying to find something different from my old drawings, and to find the character of the peasants — especially those from round here.
And we’re heading towards harvest — and then I must make the wheat harvest and the potato lifting a campaign time. It’s twice as difficult to get a model then and yet it’s essential, because the older I get, the more convinced I become that one can’t be too conscientious, that one must always and eternally exert oneself in what Daudet (in L’histoire de mon livre, an article by him that I read recently about Les rois en exil) calls the hunt for the model.11
I would also like to show Serret the studies of the harvest.12 So I don’t know exactly when I’ll be able to send the portfolio of studies from the model. But before too long, anyway. And I’ll also send another 3 cottages or so — painted studies like the last ones13 — before the harvest, I hope. Am I mistaken in thinking that there’s something good in the old tower?14 Have you already varnished it? They’re both dry enough for a coat of varnish now, and really need it because there’s something else under both of them.15 Do you already have some sort of estimate of when you’re coming?16 And aren’t there any new Lhermittes?17 Regards, with a handshake.

Yours truly,

I say again that there are examples, only too many, by the very bright fellows, where they later become chalky or oily. It’s because I’ve observed this so often that I have certain reservations, can’t think the Uhde painting entirely good. The two blacksmiths by Raffaëlli are very fine.18


Br. 1990: 514 | CL: 414
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, Sunday, 28 June 1885

1. See for Suffer the little children to come unto me [2141] by Uhde: letter 500, n. 25. Vincent had asked for more information in this letter; Theo sent a reproduction.
2. Timoléon Marie Lobrichon was known primarily for his genre paintings featuring scenes from childhood and for his portraits of children.
3. Decamps moved away from the academic tradition and, on the basis of a meticulous study of nature, became the pioneer of a ‘romantically-tinged’ Realism in which colour and strong chiaroscuro effects are important. Louis Gabriel Eugène Isabey was known for his sound brushwork and his liking for painting in thick layers (impasto).
4. In ‘Le Salon vi’, published as ‘Feuilleton du Temps’ in Le Temps of Sunday, 14 June 1885, Mantz had written: ‘The Loire at Briare is a fine picture: perhaps the energy of the greenery has a somewhat black vigour, at least for those who dream of the maximum of light everywhere.’ (La Loire à Briare est un beau tableau: peut-être l’énergie de la verdure a-t-elle une vigueur un peu noire, au moins pour ceux qui rêvent partout le maximum du clair) (p. 1). He was of course alluding to the Impressionists; it is doubtful whether Van Gogh – who did not yet know any Impressionists (see letters 467 and 495) – was really able to appreciate what he was saying.
5. Wijnand Nuijen, The old mill (Moving day), 1838 (The Hague, Gemeentemuseum). Ill. 1203 [1203]. It entered the collection in 1875.
6. Van Gogh also contrasted the concepts of talent and genius in letter 31.
7. In the same issue, Mantz wrote about Paul Meyerheim (‘Le Salon’): ‘The academicians of the future have coined a word to describe the painter who, like the Dutchmen of the past and like Chardin, have made a profession of representing inanimate, or at least quiet objects: they call him a still-life painter.’ (Les academiciens de l’avenir ont forgé un mot pour désigner le peintre qui, comme les Hollandais d’autrefois et comme Chardin, fait profession de représenter des objects inanimés ou du moins tranquilles: ils l’appellent un nature-mortier) (Le Temps, Sunday, 14 June 1885, p. 2).
9. This is probably the engraving Fisher folk in church after George Clausen, which is in the estate: see letter 235, n. 22. Clausen started drawing in 1867 and initially concentrated on decorations; after 1873 – following a period of training at the South Kensington School of Art – he developed as a fine artist. In the eighteen-eighties he switched his subject from Dutch peasant life to English, but Van Gogh will have meant the former turnaround in Clausen’s work. See Sir George Clausen, R.A., 1852-1944. Kenneth Mc Conkey. Exhib. cat. Bradford (Cartwright Hall), 1980. Bradford 1980, pp. 11-17.
10. Frederick Arthur Bridgman, whose work in The Graphic Van Gogh knew.
11. The article he ‘read recently’ must have been Alphonse Daudet’s ‘L’histoire de mes livres. Les rois en exil’ (The history of my books. The kings in exile), an explanation to accompany his novel Les rois en exil, in which he wrote: ‘To my mind, the difficulty of the work lay above all in the search for models and for true information, and in the tiresomeness of all this representation dictated by the novelty of a subject so unfamiliar to me and my environment and one beyond my everyday and spiritual habits.’ (A mes yeux, la difficulté de l’oeuvre était surtout là, dans cette chasse aux modèles, aux renseignements vrais, dans l’ennui de tout ce reportage commandé par la nouveauté d’un sujet tellement loin de moi, de mon milieu, hors de mes habitudes d’existence et d’esprit.) It was in La Nouvelle Revue 6, January-February 1885, vol. 32, pp. 485-495, quotation on pp. 485-486. The Van Gogh family in Nuenen had a subscription to this magazine (FR b2268).
12. On small figures or figures at work from this period, see cat. Amsterdam 1997, pp. 203-210.
13. ‘The last ones’ were The cottage (F 83 / JH 777 [2513]) and another cottage, both of which had been in the last consignment: see letter 506. Van Gogh had also meanwhile written about Cottage (F 91 / JH 809 [2519]): see letter 508. He painted several cottages during this period.
[2513] [2519]
14. The old church tower at Nuenen (‘The peasants’ churchyard’) (F 84 / JH 772 [2512]).
15. See for these underlying images and for Vincent’s proposal to varnish them: letter 507, nn. 13 and 14.
16. Theo was planning to come to the Netherlands with Andries Bonger at the end of July and visit Nuenen; he left on 7 August; see further letter 522.
17. Vincent had asked Theo to keep an eye out for the Lhermitte prints appearing every month in Le Monde Illustré in the series ‘Les mois rustiques’: see letter 484.
18. Jean-François Raffaëlli, The blacksmiths, 1884 (Douai, Musée de la Chartreuse). Ill. 1235 [1235]. Theo must have sent a reproduction of this work. It was exhibited at the Salon of 1885.