My dear Theo,
My sincere congratulations on your birthday.1 I think of your visit time and again, I’m glad we spoke to each other again in this way, and hope it turns out that you’ll come again in the summer.
I’ve been here for a few days2 and it’s beautiful outdoors, but the weather doesn’t yet permit of drawing outdoors every day.
Meanwhile I’ve started on the Millets, The sower is finished and the 4 times of the day sketched. And now still to come are The labours of the field.3
As you know, there was an exhibition of watercolours in Brussels and it was quite interesting.4 There were 4 or 5 Mauves, woodcutters,5 1 J. Maris, dunes,6 just like a painting by Ruisdael or Van de Velde.7 Then J.H. Weissenbruch, superb, 5 large drawings,8 Roelofs ditto, also 5 large pieces.9 Then Gabriël10 and Van de Sande Bakhuyzen11 and Valkenburg12 and Van Trigt13 and P. Stortenbeker,14 and Vogel15 &c. of the Dutchmen.16
Then there was a Mesdag that one had to imagine wasn’t there in order to see any of the other drawings, at least that’s how it was with me.
The beach at twilight, stormy weather, sky with grey clouds with a ruddy glow from the sun, which had set.
In the foreground a fisherman on a horse, a tall, singular, dark silhouette standing out against the white, foaming waves. This figure is speaking with people on board a pink floating in the middle ground. On deck people are busy with a lantern, and they’re evidently speaking to the man on horseback about the anchor, which he must come and fetch. It was a large, important drawing, broadly done and so powerful that, as I said, nothing else could hold a candle to it.17
What also struck me were 2 drawings by Ter Meulen, sheep in the dunes and ditto in the snow,18 he’s becoming really good.
If I remember rightly, I saw that man struggling and swotting in Bakhuyzen’s studio, and now he’s succeeded all the same,19 those two drawings, at any rate, were excellent.
Then there were drawings by Meunier, Farm-hand in a barn,20 distinguished in colour and treatment, and in conception reminiscent of Millet, for instance, as regards simplicity and faithfulness to nature. Also by him a stoker and a factory worker.21
There were also various drawings by Rochussen.22 And many others, but Meunier was the only one of the Belgians who actually moved me.  1v:2
Rappard is going to Holland in 3 weeks,23 and will probably carry on working in the countryside this summer and then possibly go to Paris next winter, but as yet he won’t go there with the intention of staying. I believe that he really received a cold shower when he was there earlier,24 but that’s no reason to think that he won’t have more luck during his next stay. He’s certainly progressed a good deal since then.
I’m very glad indeed that it’s been arranged for me to work here quietly for a while, I hope to make as many studies as I possibly can, for that’s the seed from which later drawings will grow.
Do write to me from time to time and keep me informed, if possible, of one thing and another that strikes you, and think of me if you happen to hear of a position for a draughtsman somewhere or other.
And now it’s time for the post, I’ll keep you informed of what I’m doing, and you must also tell me from time to time what you would advise me, by preference, to draw and to look out for. Sometimes I’ll find it useful, sometimes perhaps not, but don’t hesitate to tell me one thing and another, I’ll do the same to you, and then we must both try to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Adieu, with a handshake in thought.



Br. 1990: 165 | CL: 144
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Etten, on or about Saturday, 30 April or Sunday, 1 May 1881

1. Theo turned 24 on 1 May 1881.
2. During the Easter holidays, when both Vincent and Theo were in Etten (cf. letter 165), the family must have decided that Vincent should settle in Etten. In the intervening two weeks he had been in Brussels.
3. For the prints after Millet which Van Gogh copied, see letter 156, nn. 1,3 and 5. The finished version after The sower is presumably Sower (after Millet) (F 830 / JH 1 [2334]). See Heenk 1995, pp. 29-30, and cat. Amsterdam 1996, pp. 79-82, cat. no. 16.
4. This exhibition was the 21st annual exhibition of the Société Royale Belge des Aquarellistes (Belgian Royal Society of Watercolourists), which was held in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. See exhib. cat. Brussels 1881.
5. The catalogue lists the following watercolours by Anton Mauve: Le chariot à bois (The wood-cart), Petit chariot à bois (Small wood-cart), Le chargement du bois (Loading wood ) and Le jardinier (The gardener) (cat. nos. 126-129). The titles explain why Van Gogh called them ‘Woodcutters’.
[158] [159]
6. The catalogue mentions the watercolour Dans les dunes (In the dunes) by Jacob Maris (cat. no. 121). This perhaps refers to Young couple in the dunes (Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland) or to Dune landscape (Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet). Cf. exhib. cat. Haarlem 2003, pp. 126, 135, cat. nos. 31, 40.
[160] [161]
7. Van Gogh must be referring to the landscape painter Adriaen van de Velde, by whom paintings were to be seen in both Amsterdam and London. The comparison of Maris’s dunes with those of Van de Velde might have been prompted by Van Gogh’s acquaintance with (reproductions of) The beach at Scheveningen, 1658 (Kassel, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen) and the version of this from 1660 in the Royal Collection. Maris’s work was often linked to that of Ruisdael. Cf. exhib. cat. Haarlem 2003.
8. The catalogue lists the following watercolours by J.H. Weissenbruch: Environs de Rotterdam (Environs of Rotterdam), Plage (Beach), Dans le jardin fruitier (In the orchard), Dans le polder (In the polder) and Environs de Schiedam, (Environs of Schiedam) (cat. nos. 257-261).
[164] [165] [166] [167]
9. The catalogue lists only four watercolours by W. Roelofs: Le chemin du village (The village lane), Ferme au bord de l’eau (Farm at the waterside), Ferme sous des arbres (Farm beneath the trees) and Les pies (Magpies) (cat. nos. 170-173).
[170] [171] [172]
10. The catalogue lists the following watercolours by Constant Gabriël: Matin (Morning), Dans les tourbières (In the peat) and Environs de Schiedam (Environs of Schiedam) (cat. nos. 76-78).
11. The catalogue lists two watercolours by Julius Jacobus van de Sande Bakhuyzen: Paysage d’automne (Autumnal landscape) and Scheveningue (Scheveningen) (cat. nos. 235-236). It is less likely that Van Gogh is referring to L’automne (Autumn) and Roses (Roses) (cat. nos. 233-234) by Gerardina Jacoba van de Sande Bakhuyzen, a sister of Julius and less known.
12. The catalogue lists two watercolours by Hendrik Valkenburg: Paysage de Twent (Twente landscape) and Femme lisant (Woman reading) (cat. nos. 220-221).
13. The catalogue mentions the watercolour La grand’ mère; intérieur dans le Gooiland (au nord d’Utrecht) (The grandmother; interior in the Gooi (to the north of Utrecht)) by Hendrik Albert van Trigt (cat. no. 245).
14. The catalogue lists the following watercolours by Pieter Stortenbeker: Un verger (An orchard), Saules (Willows), Paysage (Landscape), Un verger (An orchard) and Pâturage en Hollande (Pasture in Holland) (cat. nos. 198-202).
[181] [183] [181]
15. The catalogue lists the following watercolours by Johannes Gijsbert Vogel: Paysage hollandais (Dutch landscape), Paysage boisé; après-midi (Wooded landscape; afternoon), Paysage aux environs de Sliedrecht (Hollande) (Landscape near Sliedrecht (Holland)), Scheveningue; vue prise du côté de Zorgvliet (Scheveningen; view near Zorgvliet) and Paysage (Landscape) (cat. nos. 252-256).
[185] [188] [189]
16. Artists from Belgium, Italy, Germany, England, France, Austria and Switzerland participated in the exhibition.
17. The catalogue mentions the watercolour Arrivée tardive; crépuscule (Late arrival; dusk) by Hendrik Willem Mesdag (cat. no. 134). This is the watercolour Fishing boat and horseman, which measures 58 x 47 cm (private collection). Ill. 1140 [1140]. See Poort 1989-1995, Supplement, p. 122.
18. The catalogue lists the following watercolours by François Pieter ter Meulen: Moutons quittant la bergerie (Sheep leaving the fold) and Vers le soir (Towards evening) (cat. nos. 205-206).
[190] [191]
19. Until 1860 Ter Meulen received painting lessons from Hendrikus van de Sande Bakhuyzen and after 1871 from his son Julius. While working in The Hague, Van Gogh must have seen Ter Meulen in Van de Sande Bakhuyzen’s studio, which was in an outbuilding behind his house at Nieuwe Haven 240. See exhib. cat. The Hague 1997 and Van der Lubbe 1999.
20. This probably refers to the watercolour Paysan brabançon (Brabant peasant) (cat. no. 136) by Constantin Meunier.
a. Van Gogh probably meant to write ‘Valet’ (servant, farmhand, stable boy) and not ‘varlet’.
21. The last-mentioned is Meunier’s watercolour Gamin d’usine (Factory boy), cat. no. 138. Since the other titles in the catalogue are A la foire (At the fair), Rêverie (Reverie) and Dans les dunes (In the dunes) (cat. nos. 135, 137 and 139), there is a good chance that Reverie depicts a stoker (‘chauffeur’).
[193] [195] [196]
22. The catalogue mentions the series of watercolours Quatre cadres avec huit dessins. La vie du fameux pirate Claus Stortenbeker (Four pictures with eight drawings. The life of the famous pirate Claus Stortenbeker) by Charles Rochussen (cat. nos. 166-169). Cf. Franken and Obreen 1894, pp. 132-133, cat. nos. 890-897.
23. Anthon van Rappard finally left on 10 May. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1974, p. 11.
24. Starting in October 1879, Van Rappard spent six months in Paris, where he attended the academic lessons given in the studio of Jean Léon Gérôme. This period in Paris ended in disappointment. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1974, pp. 15-16.