It was with pleasure that I made Wenckebach’s acquaintance.
I regard it as not only possible but quite likely that not only he but Rappard, too, will continue to come here from time to time.
At least, I’ve known Rappard so long and so well that I’m inclined to believe that he’ll retract a certain misunderstanding which meant that we were cool for a while. I’ve just written to him, but I want total retraction, and without reservation, of certain things that he said about my figures and that I insist I do not deserve.1
What I wanted to say in connection with your new studies is that for the sake of the foregrounds, in particular, which always seem to me to be too insubstantial and prevent there being enough space in them, is that I suggest it would be very good if you also gave it a try with a perspective frame. For there’s nothing like it for teaching one to look and teaching one to feel perspective.  1v:2 The mistake you make is such that if you do just one with the perspective frame you’ll feel it instantly, other than how I can put it into words. In order to feel something, one must know it, be very familiar with it so that there’s conviction. Wenckebach told me straightaway that he thought you should ‘do a great deal of drawing’.
The question that he doesn’t solve, though, is ‘how?’ How? when it’s desirable to take the very shortest route and your case is rather different, very different from that of someone who begins when he’s seventeen and so has nothing else to do.
And I see no benefit in making it too difficult, too hard and tough for you. In contrast to and contradicting many others, I maintain that one can definitely still learn to paint something good beginning at a later age, and I stand by that. I do wish we could work together more, though — I would say that I find that really necessary — and  1v:3 unfortunately our getting together always involves rather a lot of time both for you and for me. The old painters always used the perspective frame a lot; it is the shortest way.2
And unless one blocks things out, as a beginner one is inevitably thrown into confusion by all sorts of things in the surroundings which one oughtn’t to see, in fact may not look at.
So I therefore can’t urge it strongly enough.
I also want to tell you that the same model I showed you yesterday can be used indoors as well — if one fixes it in a block by means of a screw.3 And then you can also use it to draw or to paint heads, and for figures outdoors.
And I think it would be of such practical help to you, I think that you would get so many new ideas from it, and feel so much more that you can get yourself a great deal further with it,  1r:4 that I’d be very happy to come to you for it the first few times, even if it’s a whole day, so as to help you get the hang of it.
So let me know whether I should order one for you here or whether you want to make one yourself at home, which you can do with no more than a few screws. Then you can have mine as a model should you need it.
My impression of Wenckebach is very favourable, but all the same I wonder why for God’s sake landscape painters are in the city, why don’t they do what the French do, and firmly install themselves in the country? And he, for one, would be the better for it. You may have noticed that I just bit his head off when he said what others had already said to me, that Stengelin was ‘a strange person’. He’s a Frenchman who has set up a studio in the middle of the heath in Drenthe4 — I didn’t meet him when I was in Drenthe, but I find his example so good and practical that I think it despicable that the Dutch painters who visited him had all sorts of things to say against him. Sincerely, with a handshake

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 517 | CL: -
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Anton Kerssemakers
Date: Nuenen, on or about Thursday, 16 July 1885

1. This is letter 517.
2. See for the perspective frame, which was in use as long ago as the Renaissance: letter 235, n. 10.
3. There are various drawings of perspective frame designs in Van Gogh’s Nuenen sketchbook; he may have shown these to Kerssemakers. See Van der Wolk 1987, pp. 50, 53, 60, 75-76, 79.
4. See for Stengelin and Drenthe: letter 473, n. 6.