My dear Theo
A few words to ask whether you received my last letter together with a small roll also sent by post containing a proof of a lithograph.1 The reason why I can’t help starting to think that they aren’t in your hands but have perhaps been lost, or that your letter has been lost, is that I’ve heard nothing from you since, and moreover today is already 14 Nov. I have been literally without money for 5 or 6 days now, and so my work is stuck too, at least I can’t work as I would like to. I think the probable reason though is that, together with your letter and the money, you wanted to send the information I asked for about the lithographic process and autographic ink, and that you had to wait for that. And hope that it will perhaps be cleared up that way today. But on the other hand I’m always nervous when there’s something like this, and can’t help worrying, and am then afraid that perhaps I wrote or did something of which you disapprove.
So last night I was fretting that perhaps you didn’t approve of my having my lithograph printed, possibly drawing the conclusion from what I wrote that I intended to publish something, for instance. Anyway, I was fretting whether something could be wrong. But there’s probably nothing. Just to be sure, though, I write to say that you mustn’t confuse publishing with experiments in order to learn about a process. The former, that is publications, are things I’d most certainly consult you about before undertaking them, and I have no thought of that for the present,  1v:2 and occupy myself, as you know incidentally, with my drawings and the artistic side of my work only. These experiments I’m doing are definitely part of that, though, and nothing is more natural than that I should work on them. At one point Rappard experimented in the same way with etchings for instance, which he also had to have printed,2 but the printing an artist does isn’t publishing something, and has nothing directly to do with trade, being strictly private.
This seems to me as clear as daylight but, as I say, last night I was fretting that perhaps you might have seen it as a step of a very different nature, for I found it strange not to have a letter yet.
Well, I hope it will turn out that I needn’t have worried.
I hope, on the contrary, that you’ve been successful with your enquiries about the same matter, i.e. can say something about processes.
Last week I did another trial of the figure Sorrow on what I had left of the printing paper.3
When I said just now that I was concerned regarding my last letter that you might think something that I didn’t intend, the reason is that I remembered saying something like the following:  1v:3
I think it would be bold if we were to have a few of these sheets printed at our own expense. That would make us more credible to the managers of the illustrated magazines.
Now it isn’t at all my idea that what we might have printed should be exploited by me or you. I had and have not the slightest thought of that, but only that when one presents oneself somewhere to ask for work it’s as well to be able to show something of one’s work. That saves words and is more practical.
The fact that I consider it not unlikely that in time I’ll make things that will come into the hands of the public is something that leaves me quite cold and that I don’t in the least regard as pleasing. Two reasons would bring me to that: first, if I were employed by an illustrated magazine and would then of course have to make what was required; second, something to consider later, although I do indeed think about this, when sooner or later I have something that forms a whole and has an import and says something, then I might be persuaded to publish it myself if I couldn’t find anyone else, although not without informing or consulting you.
That would probably cost me rather than earn me money — it would be for the sake of art and not firstly or chiefly for my own benefit. If I ever did it, you would know all about it, and in no sense at all — in connection either with the work or with the publication — would that be dishonest, otherwise of course I wouldn’t do it.  1r:4
So if (but I don’t think so, although in my nervousness, since I couldn’t think of anything else, the phrase in my letter came to mind), so if there was something that you interpreted as a plan on my part to undertake something like publication, be assured that there is nothing and for the present won’t be anything more than the experiments that all those who etch or lithograph or reproduce their drawings in one way or another must carry out to learn about the processes and the strengths of black and white. Should a certain number of copies of one sheet or another that turns out well be printed by the maker, then that, at least in my case and that of most people who do such a thing, would be purely artistic in character and has not the slightest relation to commercial publications.
If I didn’t know from experience that misunderstandings can happen in matters such as showing drawings (and showing printed proofs of them is the same kind of thing), and that this is often regarded as conceitedness, it would never have occurred to me. But I write about this, needlessly no doubt, because of the absence of a letter from you, which, when I think of your loyalty, is probably quite unconnected and will have some other cause. If in my last letter I used the phrase mentioned, you will see my intention more clearly in my drawings when you have an opportunity. They appear — Sorrow among them — much more forceful in print (because of the lithographic crayon) than in the drawing.4 Yet precisely because they’re sober and kept in the original grey, I need only stick to my study to get the force in the lithograph. And this is something that I ought to be able to point out to people (with whom I might have to deal if an opportunity came up to get work for an illustrated magazine). Now, if you haven’t written yet do so as soon as you receive this, for I’m in rather a tight spot. Adieu, with a handshake.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 284 | CL: 244
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, Tuesday, 14 November 1882

1. The lithograph whose sending is mentioned in letter 281 was Old man (F 1658 / JH 256 [2408]).
2. It is not known when these experiments by Van Rappard took place; it appears to have been some time ago. Van Rappard’s earliest surviving etching is Seated old Drenthe woman, which cannot have been made earlier than September 1882. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1974, p. 78, cat. nos. 80-81.
3. Three impressions of this lithograph Sorrow (F 1655 / JH 259 [2409]) are known; see Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, p. 42, cat. no. 2.
a. Means: ‘Bespaart woorden’ (Saves words).
4. The drawing after which the lithograph was made is probably (F 929 / JH 129 [2364]); see Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, p. 42, cat. no. 2.