My dear Theo,
I’ve just received your letter and the 50 francs enclosed, for which many thanks.
Enclosed are two small watercolours.1 As you know, when you were here you said that I should do my best to send you a drawing in the genre known as ‘saleable’. You must forgive me, however, for not knowing exactly when a drawing may or may not be classed in this genre. I believe I used to be able to see this, but now I do realize daily that I get it wrong.
Well, I hope that the small bench, even if not yet saleable, will show you that I have nothing against tackling subjects with something agreeable or pleasant about them, which are thus more likely to find buyers than things with a more sombre sentiment.
I’m adding another to the small bench as a pendant, also a part of the woods.
I drew the bench after a larger watercolour that I’m working on in which the tones are deeper, but I don’t know whether I’ll succeed in carrying it out or completing it. The other was done after a painted study.2
Now I’d very much like to hear from you whether in your view this little drawing is more or less in the spirit of what we discussed. I’m sending it to you because I wouldn’t like you to think that this wasn’t on my mind — but later I hope to send you something better.
You recall that in my last letter I wrote that I was going to that potato market. I brought back many croquis then,3 it was extraordinarily interesting. The politeness of the populace of The Hague towards painters is, however, demonstrated by the fact that a fellow behind me, or probably at a window, suddenly spat a wad of tobacco onto my paper — life can be very trying at times.
Well, there’s no need to take it personally, because these people aren’t malicious, but they don’t understand anything about it, and probably think someone like me mad when they see me doing a drawing with great scratches and lines which they can make nothing of.
Recently I’ve also been busy drawing horses on the street4 — I would like to have a horse pose sometime. Yesterday I heard someone behind me say: well, what kind of a painter is that? — he’s drawing the horse’s backside instead of doing him from the front. I rather enjoyed that comment.
I love it so much, sketching on the street, and, as I wrote in my last letter, I’m determined to achieve a certain standard in it.
Do you know an American periodical called Harper’s Monthly Magazine? – there are marvellous sketches in it. I don’t know it very well, I’ve only seen six months of it and have only 3 issues myself, but there are things in it I find astounding. Among them a glass-blower’s and an iron foundry, all kinds of scenes of factory work.5
As well as sketches of a Quaker town in the old days by Howard Pyle.6
I’m full of new pleasure in things because I have fresh hope of myself being able to make something with some soul in it.
What you write about the money that you lent and didn’t get back is certainly a disaster. From this I still have to pay for paint and buy a new supply, so by 20 Sept. I’ll definitely be running short. But I’ll vary the work a little and manage to get by. But remember that something extra will of course help me make extra progress — more successfully than otherwise. A great deal is required and everything’s expensive. But in any event I’m doubly grateful to you, and count myself more fortunate than many that things are as they are with the money, and I assure you I’m doing my best to make sure I make progress with it.
Today I’ll go to the ordinary Monday market again about the time they’re taking down the stalls to see if there’s something to sketch.
Adieu, good luck with everything. Do write again soon, and remember that I always greatly enjoy descriptions like the one of Montmartre.
There’s so much paint around that it has even got onto this letter7 — I’m working on the big watercolour of the bench. I hope it comes off, but the great problem is to retain detail with deep tone, and clarity is extremely difficult. Adieu again, a handshake in thought, and believe me
I thank you for sending while you yourself are so hard pressed.
I need it twice as badly, because the autumn goes so quickly and it’s the finest season to work in.