My dear Theo,
I’m writing to you once again, because in any event my time here is almost up and I have to go back one of these days. The time when one can work outdoors could be upon us with the slightest change in the weather and so, if I have to and if you’re absolutely set on it, at least my being in Brabant wouldn’t be entirely fruitless. Yet be that as it may, I still continue to urge you rather to go ahead with the Cormon
plan and what, for my part, I would so much like to precede it — a further period continuing to draw plaster casts.
My health, I fancy, is beginning to improve a little in so far as I’m beginning to be able to digest my food somewhat better. But it’s still uncertain all the same, and one day’s unlike another.
I’ve finished another drawing of a plaster cast,1
and since I wrote and told you that the teacher
had indirectly let it be known that he hadn’t meant to be so harsh2
I haven’t had any more trouble with him, and he even said that the drawing I did today needed virtually no change in proportion
and none at all in tone. So I’d almost dare hope that I’ll also be able to get on with Cormon
, whatever he may be like, and that makes me long to be there all the more. Anyway — if I’m fortunate with my health, I hope to make progress this year. I also still continue to think that it will be possible to find work to do, although things haven’t gone very well for me in this respect. Still, my time is very much taken up by the work at the academy. From what I hear about what people sometimes sell, it’s usually portraits. There must be a good exhibition of Impressionists in Brussels.3
You see, since I’ve seen and heard how they set about it from other fellows here who concentrate on the figure — and bear in mind they’re all such as have more to spend than I — they’ve always used the models in some studio or other in town — precisely because of the cost. And this way one gets correction and one sees others working at the same time.
And now I can’t help keep getting the idea that we should perhaps have taken this step
a good two or two and a half years ago — all the more reason not to put it off it this time. In the end, Antwerp suited me well. Of course I wish I’d come here with the experience of it that I have now, at the moment I’m leaving. But if that were possible, things would be easier, and one always begins by coming in green. I hope, though, to come back to Antwerp sometime, because there’s something free and artistic about the life here, if one looks for it, perhaps more than anywhere else. What’s more, one sees all sorts of people, English, French, Germans, Belgians, and that makes for variety. If there’s a city that resembles Paris, then it’s Antwerp rather than Brussels, in all respects. Firstly because it’s a centre for people of all nationalities, secondly because of business, and thirdly because there’s gusto and people enjoy themselves.
I’d be happy to stay if the course at the academy were continuing.
But unfortunately there’s nothing there until May except for the competitions4
and the day class for plaster casts, and those are coming to an end too.
And I’ve certainly not seen Antwerp at its best now, for from what one generally hears it’s usually much livelier still, and now there are two crises depressing it at the same time — firstly the general one,5
and then on top of that the aftermath of the exhibition, too,6
in the shape of numerous fraudulent or common bankruptcies.
Think carefully about whether we couldn’t find a combination that would make it possible for me to be in Paris before June. I’d like it so much, because I believe that it would be better for so many reasons, which I’ve already told you.
To which I may also add that it seems to me that we could discuss taking a studio by June so much better if we were both already in Paris beforehand and could size up the pros and cons of the situation. Anyway. Write to me again soon, with a handshake.