Utrecht, 24 May ’85

My dear friend!

It gave me great pleasure to receive a sign of life from you again, even if that sign wasn’t entirely as I’d have wanted it to be.
The news of the death of your father came so unexpectedly that I very much wanted some further message, which didn’t come, however. If I remember rightly, my superficial manner of reading newspapers, where the advertisements always go by the board, was the only reason that I didn’t learn the news from the Nieuws van den Dag  1v:2 first.1 At any rate, I know that very, very shortly after receiving the formal announcement,2 I called on a friend who had already read it in the newspaper!
Did you think that I had so little interest in your father or in the events in your family that a common polite formula to announce something so affecting was enough for that interest?
Then you were seriously mistaken.
In connection with what you’ve now sent me,3 I return briefly to your last letter, in which you talk about the art of expressing oneself well in words.4
I wanted to point out to you that, poorly as may I do it verbally, I can do it well  1v:3 in writing, if I take pains. What I wrote to you about your manner of working expresses exactly what I think — even though I didn’t in fact take very great pains with that, but the only consequence has been a less beautiful style! I hoped and I still hope that I’m mistaken in my opinion of your manner of working; but for this very reason I’m really sorry to have to see in what you’ve now sent me so complete a confirmation of my opinion that I myself was shocked by it.
You’ll agree with me that such work isn’t intended seriously.
You can do better than this — fortunately; but why, then, observe and treat everything so superficially? Why not study the movements? Now they’re posing.  1r:4 That coquettish little hand of that woman at the back, how untrue! And what connection is there between the coffeepot, the table and the hand lying on top of the handle? What’s that pot doing, for that matter; it isn’t standing, it isn’t being held, but what then? And why may that man on the right not have a knee or a belly or lungs? Or are they in his back? And why must his arm be a metre too short? And why must he lack half of his nose? And why must the woman on the left have a sort of little pipe stem with a cube on it for a nose?
And with such a manner of working you dare to invoke the names of Millet and Breton? Come on! Art is too important, it seems to me, to be treated so cavalierly.
Adieu, believe me ever

Your friend


Br. 1990: 507 | CL: R51a
From: Anthon van Rappard
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Utrecht, Sunday 24 May 1885

1. On Tuesday, 31 March 1885, Mrs van Gogh put a death notice in the paper, announcing the passing of her ‘dearly beloved Husband’ Theodorus van Gogh on 26 March. See Het Nieuws van den Dag, 31 March 1885, page 2.
2. The death announcement sent to family and friends.
3. Van Gogh had sent Van Rappard an impression of the lithograph The potato eaters (F 1661 / JH 737 [2135]); see letter 514).
4. This letter is not known.