My dear Theo,
When you were here we talked about that drawing1 that I was to send you — further to which I’ve already sent you that small bench.2 I’m enclosing a few sketches to show you that I do indeed plan to carry on working in that genre.
I’m working on a watercolour of the one with the herds of orphans with their spiritual shepherds3 — with which I’ll probably not succeed to the point of making it saleable.
But to show you that figures with some character in them don’t get there of their own accord, and that I nonetheless take great pleasure in overcoming that, I’m also sending you scratches of figure studies which I did recently, and which are of course more elaborate than these little sketches.4
Supposing I had remained on good terms with Mauve, I believe that if I had done a watercolour like the small bench or the present one with the orphans, he would have given me tips that would have made it saleable and changed its final appearance. With many people’s watercolours or paintings it’s even the case that some painter or other does some work on them, sometimes transforming them completely. I miss that now, but although I certainly don’t disapprove of more skilled painters either giving tips or even doing some work (mainly because it’s so vital for the younger ones to earn a little in order to keep going), I don’t think it’s entirely a misfortune to wrestle alone. What one learns from oneself one learns less quickly, but it imprints itself more deeply.
I went to see the drawings in the Gothic Room.5 I thought the Rochussen superb. It was something from the Napoleonic period: French officers in a room in an old village hall who appear to be demanding papers or information from the mayor and the councillors.6 It was so real, that little old mayor and then those generals, just exactly as Erckmann-Chatrian describes it in Madame Thérèse.7 It gave me an extraordinary amount of pleasure. There were also very beautiful things by Allebé too, drawings from Artis,8 and also a landscape with pine trees on the rocks on the coast through which a fisherman’s house is seen below.9 There were beautiful town and beach views with small figures by Hoeterickx.10 However beautiful I find his present drawings, it seems to me a pity that he hasn’t stuck to his first manner, when he did types from the common folk (such as a painting At the pawnbroker’s).11  1v:2
It’s more or less the same with drawing as with writing. When one learns to write as a child, one has the feeling that one will never discover how to do it, and it seems to be a miracle when one sees the schoolmaster write so quickly. Nevertheless, in time one grasps it. And I really believe that one must learn to draw in such a way that it’s as easy as writing something down, and that one must master proportion and learn to see in such a way that one can reproduce at will whatever one sees on a larger or smaller scale.12
We’re having very beautiful bad weather at present — rain, wind, thunderstorms — but with splendid effects, that’s why I find it beautiful, but it does feel raw, by the way.
The time that one can sit outside is already getting decidedly shorter, and it’s important to make the most of it before winter comes.
Towards winter I empty the studio, namely take the studies off the walls and obstacles out of the way, so that I have a good space for working with models.
I feel that I need a host of figure studies, including Scheveningen ones.
When the opportunity arises I’d like to have the studies back that you don’t want to keep from among those you have, that is when there’s an opportunity to send them. If there’s something you would like to keep, or if there’s something you would like among what I have here, you only have to say so, for I regard it all as belonging to you. But if I ask for it back it’s because what one does directly from the model is often needed for watercolours, for example. But there’s no hurry, only don’t throw them away even if they’re not very beautiful, because everything is of use.
I don’t think I’m deceiving myself if I believe that being and remaining productive has to do with the studies one has and continues to make. The greater their variety, the harder one labours at them, the easier one works later when it comes to actual paintings or drawings. In short, I think of the studies as seed, and the more one sows the more one may hope to reap.13
In the last few days I’ve been reading Les deux frères by Erckmann-Chatrian, which is quite beautiful.14 It was certainly an interesting time when there were so many artists in Alsace: Brion, Marchal, Jundt, Vautier, Knaus, Schuler, Saal, Van Muyden, and many others surely15 — at the same time as a group of writers working in the same spirit like Chatrian and Auerbach.16 Personally, I prefer that to Tapiró or Capobianchi,17 or the host of other Italians who appear to be still multiplying.
Adieu, believe me, with a handshake,

Ever yours,

You’ll see from this little scratch that I’ve begun doing what I spoke about in my last letter,18 namely trying to make notes regularly, either drawn or painted, of the scenes of workmen or fishermen that strike me, and these are precisely the things that could serve for illustrated magazines, I believe, if I practise them. It goes without saying, though, that then the types must be raised to a much higher standard.
I have at least 10 different events surrounding the arrival of that pink.19
Likewise the one I sent in an earlier letter, the weighing of the anchor.20


Br. 1990: 266 | CL: 232
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, Sunday, 17 or Monday, 18 September 1882

1. A reference to the subject of ‘saleable’ work raised at the beginning of letter 262.
2. Four people on a bench (F - / JH 195); for it’s being sent, see letter 262.
3. This watercolour of orphans is not known.
4. The enclosed sketch Orphan boys and girls out for a walk (F - / JH 203) and the letter sketch Group of people on the beach with a fishing boat returning (F - / JH 205), both after unknown works, are examples of the figure studies. Other figure studies meant here cannot be identified with certainty; a few drawings of figures dated September 1882 are extant.
5. In the so-called Gothic Room opposite Noordeinde Palace in The Hague a protest exhibition had been organized by the established artists Charles Rochussen, Herman Frederick Carel ten Kate and Cornelis Springer; it was directed against the Hollandsche Teeken-Maatschappij founded in 1876 to draw attention to the work of younger artists. Though a member of the Hollandsche Teeken-Maatschappij, Rochussen had secretly set up a drawing organisation, the Koninklijk Genootschap van Nederlandsche Aquarellisten (Royal Society of Dutch Watercolourists). See exhib. cat. The Hague 1882-3; exhib. cat. Paris 1983, p. 322 and exhib. cat. The Hague 1990, p. 158. For the Hollandsche Teeken-Maatschappij, see letter 256, n. 8.
6. Charles Rochussen, Quartier-général dans une mairie de village, République Batave (Headquarters in a townhall of a village. The Batavian Republic) (present whereabouts unknown). Ill. 1952 [1952]. In the catalogue entitled Het rapport. Bataafsche tijd 1799 (The report. Batavian period, 1799). See exhib. cat. The Hague 1882-3, cat. no. 124. Cf. Franken and Obreen 1894, p. 116, cat. no. 778.
7. In Madame Thérèse ou les volontaires de 92 by the writing duo (Charles) Alexandre Chatrian and Emile Erckmann there is a scene in which the village doctor, Jacob Wagner, is questioned by a hostile republican officer about the presence of Austrian troops in the area. The officer confiscates a map. See Erckmann-Chatrian 1867, pp. 6-11.
8. By ‘drawings from Artis’ (the shortened name for the Amsterdam zoo Natura Artis Magistra), Van Gogh means two works by August Allebé in the exhibition, namely Leeuw en leeuwin (Lion and lioness) and Tijgerin (Tigress) (present whereabouts unknown). See exhib. cat. The Hague 1882-3, cat. nos. 1 and 2. Cf. exhib. cat. Haarlem 1988, pp. 196, 199, cat. nos. 101 and 117.
9. August Allebé, The bay of Arcachon, 1876 (Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet). Ill. 485 [485].
10. The following five works by Emile Hoeterickx were on view: De Pont-Neuf te Parijs; Het oude Parijs; Strand te Ramsgate, Engeland; Morgen te Douvres and In ’t gras, Hydepark te Londen (The Pont-Neuf in Paris; Old Paris; Beach at Ramsgate, England; Morning at Dover and In the grass, Hyde Park in London) (present whereabouts unknown). See exhib. cat. The Hague 1882-3, cat. nos. 66-70.
[371] [372] [374] [375]
11. Van Gogh, who gives an incorrect title, means Au mont-de-piétéAt the pawnbroker’s (present whereabouts unknown). This painting was exhibited in 1880 at the Musée Moderne in Brussels. The work is known through the accompanying catalogue, which included a drawn reproduction. Ill. 934 [934]. See Catalogue illustré de l’exposition historique de l’art belge et du Musée Moderne de Bruxelles. Brussels and Paris 1880, p. 97. The work had also been on view as In de bank van leening at the Exhibition of works by living masters. See Tentoonstelling van kunstwerken van Levende Meesters. The Hague 1881, p. 17, cat. no. 144.
12. For this view, compare the beginning of the first chapter of Cassagne, Guide de l’alphabet du dessin: ‘The aim of this Method is, firstly, to teach the child drawing the way he learns to read and write, using very elementary and perfectly graduated principles, thus in a way creating for him an alphabet of the shapes of everyday objects that will lead him, step by step, simply and clearly, to read and interpret nature. Secondly, to guide the teacher and the father in this teaching’ (Le but de cette Méthode est: 1o D’enseigner le dessin à l’enfant comme il apprend à lire et à écrire, par des principes très élémentaires et parfaitement gradués, en créant en quelque sorte pour lui un alphabet des formes des objets usuels qui le conduise pas à pas, simplement et clairement, à la lecture et à l’interprétation de la nature. 2o De guider l’instituteur et le père de famille dans cet enseignement). See Cassagne 1880, p. 1.
14. Les deux frères (1873) by Erckmann-Chatrian is about two wealthy brothers in a village in the Vosges. Their mutual enmity leads to various misfortunes. The plot is complicated, and there are also minutely detailed descriptions of nature. The schoolmaster obsessed by plants and insects plays an important role. While the brothers remain hostile, amorous feelings develop between the son of one and the daughter of the other.
15. The artists named were all from the same generation (they were born around 1820 to 1830). In the work of Marchal and Vautier the life of the common people in Alsace is the dominant theme, but this is not the case with the work of Knaus, Saal, Anker and Van Muyden (in letter 267 Van Gogh gives a similar list but with Anker added) – their themes and style are comparable, however.
16. Moses Baruch Auerbach was best known for his Schwarzwalder Dorfgeschichten. His novel Barfüßele (1856) was illustrated by Vautier, who knew the writer personally. Auerbach was also in touch with Knaus. Cf. Anton Bettelheim, Berthold Auerbach, Der Mann. Sein Werk. Sein Nachlass. Stuttgart and Berlin 1907.
17. The Spaniard José Tapiró y Baró painted many Oriental subjects, and V. Capobianchi (active between 1870 and 1880) was an Italian genre painter. Van Gogh might have known Capobianchi’s work from photos in the Goupil fonds. Cf. Cat. Boussod 1894, p. 97, no. 1557; p. 106, no. 89; and p. 116, no. 1406.
18. This last letter was letter 264; see under Arrangement above. The ‘scratch’ is Group of people on the beach with a fishing boat returning (F - / JH 205).
19. The other drawings depicting the arrival of the pink and the hauling of the anchor are not known.
20. Read: ‘in a previous letter’. Van Gogh talked about the weighing of the anchor and the scratch sent of it in letter 260, ll. 20-24.