My dear Theo,
I’m still very much under the impression of what has just happened — I just kept painting these two Sundays.1
Herewith another scratch of a man’s head2 and one of a still life with honesty3 in the same style as the one you took with you.4 It’s rather larger, though — and the objects in the foreground are a tobacco pouch and a pipe of Pa’s.5 If you think you’d like it, of course you’re right welcome to have it.
Ma looks well, and writing many letters provides some distraction for the time being. But, of course, still very sad. Cor has just gone back to Helmond.6
I don’t know whether you still remember that in January, when the snow was lying on the fields and the sun rose red in the mist, I wrote to you that I’d almost never started a year in a gloomier mood.7 It’s certain that there’ll be a whole lot more trouble for all of us.
Of course you’ll understand that it’s not for my convenience that I’ll go and live in the studio.8
It will make things even more difficult for me.
But I’m convinced that it’s to their advantage for me to leave, particularly in view of Ma’s intention to take in a lodger this summer, if possible, who wanted to be in the country for his health — or should this not come about, then they’re still freer with regard to guests &c.  1v:2
However, I still very much regret the incident with Anna that decided me in this respect.9 What she said to you changed nothing of what she reproached me for, and however absurd those reproaches were and her unfounded presumptions about things that are still in the future — she hasn’t told me she takes them back. Well — you understand how I simply shrug my shoulders at such things — and anyway, I increasingly let people think of me just exactly what they will, and say and do too, if need be.
But consequently I have no choice — with a beginning like that, one has to take steps to prevent all that sort of thing in the future.
So I’m absolutely decided.
It’s likely that Ma, Wil and Cor will go to Leiden next year.10 Then I’ll be the only one of us who’s still in Brabant.
And I think it by no means unlikely that I’ll stay here for the rest of my life, too. After all, I desire nothing other than to live deep in the country and to paint peasant life.
I feel that I can create a place for myself here, and so I’ll quietly keep my hand to my plough11 and cut my furrow. I believe that you thought differently about it, and that you would perhaps rather see me take another course as regards where I live.
But I sometimes think that you have more idea of what people can do in the city, yet on the other hand I feel more at home in the country.  1v:3
All the same, it will still take me a great deal of effort before I imprint my paintings in people’s heads.
Meanwhile, I have no intention whatsoever of allowing myself to be discouraged.
I was thinking again of what I read about Delacroix — 17 of his paintings were rejected; ‘dix-sept de refusés’, he himself told his friends straight out.12
I was thinking today that they really were almighty brave fellows, those pioneers.
But the battle has to be continued even now, and for my part I also want to fight for as much and as little as I’m worth. And so — Theo, I hope that we can continue on both sides what we’ve now started again. Awaiting or, rather, while I toil away on more important compositions, I’m sending you the studies as they come straight from the cottages. Of course people will say they’re not finished or they’re ugly &c. &c., but — in my view — show them anyway. For my part, I have a firm belief that there are a few people who, ending up in and tied to the city, retain indelible impressions of the country, and continue to feel homesick for the fields and the peasants all their lives.
Art lovers like this are sometimes struck by sincerity, and not put off by what deters others.
I know how I used to walk round the city for hours, looking in the shop windows, to see some little view of the country somewhere, no matter what.
We’re now at the beginning of letting people see; I believe absolutely and utterly that little by little we’ll find a few people for it. Circumstances compel us, and gradually we’ll also be able to show better things.
Now, at this moment, I’m very much preoccupied with paying off my paint bill, and moreover I need canvas, paint, brushes.  1r:4
Since you’ve had to do exceptional things for the people at home because of Pa’s death, I’ve come up with the following idea.13
Suppose that you don’t feel you’re in a position to give me the extra I received in spring and summer in other years, and which, by the way, I can’t do without.
Wouldn’t you think it fair in that case if, when settling affairs, I were to reserve for myself a sum of, say, 200 francs of my share, which I’ll otherwise right willingly let the youngsters have?14 And would be able to let them have altogether if you can help me.
By the way, I don’t see it as my letting them have my share — but rather that it’s because of you that they can keep my portion.
If I go to live in the studio, I’ll inevitably have to have a cupboard built, for instance, because at present I have nowhere at all to store things, and I’ll also improve the light.
To me, moving would be as bad as a fire — and anyway I think that we’ll stay on top of things with perseverance and effort.
I think I’ll start painting in watercolour regularly in the evenings — as soon as I’m living in the studio — it can’t really be done in the living room here at home. Until then, I’ll go on working from the model in the evenings too.
As to Anna — you mustn’t think that I’ll continue to take something like that amiss or hold a grudge about it — but only, it’s a shame that they think to do Ma a service with something like that — that’s a shame — and that’s stupid and unwise. As long as Ma and Wil are here, nothing unpleasant will happen between them and me; I don’t think so. Only it’s certain that Ma simply cannot comprehend that painting is a faith and that it brings with it the duty to pay no heed to public opinion — and that in it one conquers by perseverance and not by giving in. And — ‘I can’t give you faith’ is also the case between Her Hon. and me — just as it was and remained with Pa too.
Anyway — I plan to make a start this week on that thing with the peasants around a dish of potatoes in the evening,15 or — perhaps I’ll make daylight of it, or both, or — ‘neither one’ — you’ll say. But should it succeed or should it fail, I’m going to start on the studies for the different figures. Regards, with a handshake.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 493 | CL: 398
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, Monday, 6 April 1885

1. At this time, Easter Monday was regarded as a ‘Sunday’, a Christian holiday on which all sorts of festivities were organized. See J. ter Gouw, De volksvermaken. Haarlem 1871, pp. 205-218.
2. This enclosed sketch of a man’s head is not known, nor is the painting after which it was made. It is therefore no longer possible to identify which of the surviving heads this is.
3. Van Gogh painted Basket of apples (F 99 / JH 930 [2529]) over the painting after which the enclosed sketch Honesty in a vase (F - / JH 726) was done (see n. 5).
[2529] [143]
4. Theo had taken Honesty in a vase (F 76 / JH 542 [2491]) with him; it measures 42.5 x 32.5 cm; see letter 489, n. 4.
5. The still life with honesty, tobacco pouch and a pipe can be seen on an X-ray of Basket of apples (F 99 / JH 930 [2529]); it measures 45.0 x 60.4 cm. Ill. 2134 [2134]. See cat. Amsterdam 1999, pp. 76-77, 177 (ill.).
[2529] [2134]
6. Cor was an apprentice at Haverkamp Begemann’s machine works; he also boarded there: see letter 443, n. 3.
7. Van Gogh said this in letter 479.
8. Uncle Jan van Gogh wrote about this to Uncle Vincent and Aunt Cornelie: ‘Vincent told me and Stricker of his intention not to live with his mother any longer, but to settle by himself in the village. He also discussed the matter with his brother Theo, and will now, I think, go to the house where he was previously already accustomed to do his drawing and painting. Vincent was of the opinion that by doing so he would avoid all the difficulties with his sister.’ A piece has been cut out of the letter at this point. (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum Documentation, bd 16, undated letter, but written shortly after 1 April; Nebbeling/Weenink Ladies Collection, De Bilt). See also n. 9.
9. Willemien later wrote to her friend Line Kruysse about this incident with Anna: ‘[Vincent’s] disappointments often embittered him and made him not a normal person. That was a difficult thing for my parents, who could not always follow him and often misunderstood him. My father was a stickler for the proper form, and he [Vincent] never concerned himself with all that; naturally that often caused clashes, and neither of the parties readily forgot words that were spoken in anger. So for the last eight years Vincent had been a problem to many people, and because of the outward appearances they all too often forgot the great deal of good that was in him. The last few years he worked at home with us; after my father’s death Anna thought it would be more peaceful for Ma if he were not to live at home any longer and contrived that he left us. He took that so badly that we have heard nothing from him since then and we only know about him through Theo. I do so hope that he will gradually forget his grievances, for it is such a sad relationship, and something like this so easily leads to discord’ (FR b4536. Breda, 26 August 1886).
In a memoir of her sister Lies, Anna wrote (probably in 1923): ‘The summer that Pa died I spent several weeks at the parsonage with the two children and the nursemaid, and I saw and noticed a great deal that was bad. He gave in to all his desires, and spared nothing and no one. How Pa must have suffered. Although I, too, admire his art, I despise his person. Theo must also have suffered so much’ (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum Documentation, bd57).
10. This plan did not go ahead: Mrs van Gogh did not go to live in Leiden until 1889; she left Nuenen on 30 March 1886 and went to Breda first. Her daughter Anna lived in Leiderdorp, near Leiden.
12. Van Gogh derived this from what Jean Gigoux says about Delacroix in Causeries sur les artistes de mon temps (Gigoux 1885, p. 68). Van Gogh refers to it again in letter 515. Theo had sent Vincent the book, which contains numerous anecdotes about artists: see letters 485 and 492.
a. Read: ‘Gij moet ze toch laten zien’ (you must show them anyway).
b. Read: ‘afschrikt’ (put off).
13. On the day of Mr van Gogh’s death Theo had withdrawn 1000 francs from his current account (FR b2123).
14. By ‘settling affairs’ Vincent means winding up Mr van Gogh’s estate. A minister’s widow was entitled to go on living in the parsonage for a year – but it was necessary to determine the size of the estate (see exhib. cat. ’s-Hertogenbosch 1987, pp. 86-89). The ‘f’ must refer to francs, not guilders.
Van Gogh did cede his share of the inheritance; interestingly, in March 1889 it was these very ‘youngsters’ – Lies and Willemien – who made their shares available to Vincent when he was ill (see letter 506, n. 21 and letter 749, n. 1).
15. This is the first specific mention of Van Gogh’s plan to paint potato eaters. Given the use of the words ‘that thing’, Vincent must have discussed it with Theo.