My dear Theo,
I wanted to drop you a line to tell you that I have a few things ready that I wanted to send you.
I’ve read Bracquemond’s book more than once, and have thought about it a lot.1 Although what he says about the colours isn’t new — although it comes down to the same thing — at bottom — as the theories that Delacroix discovered2 — although what he says about drawing — modelling is drawing, drawing is modelling3 — isn’t new either — all the same, I’ve seldom read more powerful words for these and other truths. In short — I think the book very good — and have thought about it a lot.
What I have for you are some still lifes — of a basket of potatoes — fruit — a copper kettle &c.,4 but which I made specifically in connection with modelling with different colours, and I would like Portier to see them.  1v:2
I’ll send them to you as soon as I have the money because am at the end of the month.
Am also curious about the Lhermitte, whether there’s been one this month.5
I sent for paint from Schoenfeld in Düsseldorf,6 a few colours that I can’t easily get here.
The fact that the colour isn’t right in the painting of the potato eaters7 is at least in part the fault of the paint. I was reminded of it because I was painting a large still life in which I was looking for similar tones and, not satisfied with it because I was getting the same things as then in it again — redid it.8 And going by that experience, I would have got it much better with mineral blue, which I have now,9 than with what I had until now.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 535 | CL: 424
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, between about Friday, 25 and about Tuesday, 29 September 1885

2. Van Gogh meant the theory of complementary colours.
3. Bracquemond wrote in Du dessin et de la couleur: ‘As Modelling contains the greater part of what defines the word drawing, it should in its specific applications be taken for drawing itself ... modelling is therefore also drawing’ (Le modelé contenant la plus grande partie de ce que définit le mot dessin, il doit, dans ses applications propres, être pris pour le dessin lui-même ... modeler, c’est donc aussi dessiner). See Bracquemond 1885, pp. 116-117, 119.
4. Van Gogh made a series of still lifes in the autumn of 1885 and it is difficult to establish with certainty which specific ones he means here; there are several works featuring baskets of potatoes and fruit. The ‘copper kettle’ is probably Still life with a brass cauldron and jug (F 51 / JH 925 [2527]). See further letter 535, n. 1, for the works sent later.
5. See for the new instalment in Lhermitte’s print series ‘Les mois rustiques’ letter 533, n. 1.
6. The firm of Schoenfeld in Düsseldorf (now Lukas Künstlerfarben und -materialien (Dr. Fr. Schoenfeld GmbH & Co.)), established in 1862, was a well-known paint manufacturer. According to Anton Kerssemakers’s recollection, Van Gogh’s purchase must have meant a significant outlay: ‘in fact he owned nothing of value. Everything bespoke a lack of money but he put everything to good use, made many objects himself or had them made by an ordinary carpenter working to his instructions, such as an easel, paint-boxes, perspective frame, stool, everything! Only once did he order a small paint-box of lacquered tin from Schoenfeld of Düsseldorf, and he went to great trouble to get it’ (Letter to Johan Briedé, 23 June 1914, FR b1423).
7. The potato eaters (F 82 / JH 764 [2510]).
8. Of the known still lifes there are five that are clearly larger than most of the rest: F 59 / JH 921, F 51 / JH 925 [2527], F 107 / JH 933 [2531], F 106 / JH 936 and F 102 / JH 937. Assuming that Van Gogh is saying here that he painted one still life on top of another, the middle three no longer qualify because X-radiographs show that the compositions underneath are not still lifes. X-rays of the other two works are not available.
Van Tilborgh and Vellekoop assume that these are not two works painted one on top of the other and that Van Gogh started on a new canvas; they identify this new canvas as F 107 / JH 933 [2531] (see cat. Amsterdam 1999, p. 175, cat. no. 32).
[591] [2527] [2531] [592] [593] [2531]
9. Mineral blue is an indigo blue pigment, slightly coarser and lighter than Prussian blue. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1993, p. 68 (n. 21).