My dear Theo,
I was delighted to learn from your letter to Pa and Ma that you plan to go to London on 4 Aug. and then to come on here from there.1 I’m again looking forward very much to your arrival and to finding out what you’ll think of the work that I’ve done since. The last things I did are a couple of rather large studies of ox-carts, a black ox2 and a red and white one.3
And have also been working again on the old tower in the fields in the evening; I’ve made a larger study of it than my previous ones — with the wheatfields around it.4
Rappard sent me back the little book by Vosmaer that belongs to you — I started to read it but — is it just me? — find it almighty boring and actually written in an academic, sermonizing tone. Perhaps you will too when you look at it again.5  1v:2
Have you read Sapho by Daudet? It’s very beautiful, and so vigorous, and so close to life6 that the female figure lives, breathes, and one can hear, literally hear the voice, and forgets that one is reading.7
You’ll also see a couple more new weavers when you come.8
Nature is certainly pure here — I’m still very pleased with the studio, too.
We must visit some farms and weavers together when you come.
Rappard’s plan is to come back again in October;9 he’s probably in Drenthe again now.
Well, I write in some haste because I’m hard at work. I work a good deal early in the morning or in the evening, and then sometimes everything is so inexpressibly beautiful.
Regards, believe me

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 455 | CL: 373
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, on or about Sunday, 20 July 1884

1. Theo’s parents received his letter in Nuenen on 19 July 1884 (FR b2255 and b2254).
2. Cart with black ox (F 39 / JH 505 [2476]); this measures 60 x 80 cm.
3. Cart with red and white ox (F 38 / JH 504 [2475]); this measures 57 x 82.5 cm.
4. The earlier version of the tower, ‘with the wheatfields around it’, was The old tower at dusk (F 40 / JH 507 [2477]), which measures 35 x 47 cm (see letter 446, n. 3). The new, larger study is The old tower (F 88 / JH 490 [2471]). This painting measures 47.5 x 55 cm.
[2477] [2471]
5. In letter 454 Van Gogh makes a comparison between ‘the little book by Vosmaer’ about art and Grammaire des arts du dessin by Charles Blanc. Both there and here he must be referring to Eene studie over het schoone en de kunst (A study of beauty and art) (Amsterdam 1856) by Carel Vosmaer. In this largely theoretical treatise the author tries to define the knowledge of beauty and art. The scientific exposition of existing and his own definitions is similar to Blanc’s ‘Principes’, which precede the Grammaire. The fact that Theo owned a copy of Eene studie over het schoone en de kunst emerges from an allusion to a statue of Apollo in a letter to his sister Elisabeth dated 13 October 1885 (FR b904).
6. The formulation is probably derived from what Zola wrote in Mes haines: ‘He felt himself dragged by all his flesh, – by all his flesh, you understand, – towards the material world that surrounded him..., he had a fierce urge to grip real nature in his arms’ (il se sentait entraîné par toute sa chair, – par toute sa chair, entendez-vous, – vers le monde matériel qui l’entourait..., il avait l’âpre désir de serrer entre ses bras la nature vraie). See Zola 1966-1970, vol. 10, p. 84.
7. Alphonse Daudet, Sapho – Moeurs parisiennes (1884) is a novel about a twenty-year-old student from Provence who, after taking his first steps into Parisian nightlife, is seduced by Fanny Legrand (Sapho), a woman fifteen years his senior. Their tempestuous relationship causes a breach with his parents. When he decides to run away with her she breaks off the relationship. In the novel Daudet portrays the life of artists in Paris, weaving in the themes of seduction, depravity and infidelity.
8. These are probably Weaver near an open window (F 24 / JH 500 [2472]) and Weaver, interior with three small windows (F 37 / JH 501 [2473]), which were mentioned in letter 451.
[2472] [2473]
9. Van Rappard’s visit is discussed several times; in fact he spent about two and a half weeks in Nuenen, from mid-October to 1 November 1884 (see letter 467 and FR b2260).