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532 To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, between about Friday, 25 and about Tuesday, 29 September 1885.

No. 532 (Brieven 1990 535, Complete Letters 424)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, between about Friday, 25 and about Tuesday, 29 September 1885

Source status
Original manuscript

Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b464 V/1962

Van Gogh cannot have written much in September. The previous letter dated from about 2 September (letter 531) and in the present one he says he is ‘at the end of the month’ (ll. 24-25). He also writes that he is curious about the Lhermitte for September ‘whether there’s been one this month’ (ll. 27-28). Assuming that Van Gogh knew by now that Lhermitte’s prints for the months of the year were always published at the end of the month in question – this time the engraving was in the issue that came out on 26 September – and in the absence of any more specific information, we have dated the letter between about Friday, 25 and about Tuesday, 29 September 1885.

original text
Waarde Theo,
Met een woordje wilde ik U zeggen dat ik een paar dingen gereed heb die ik u wel wilde sturen.
Het boek van Bracquemond heb ik meer dan eens gelezen, & heb er nog al over gedacht.1 Ofschoon wat hij zegt aangaande de kleuren niet nieuw is – ofschoon het neer komt op ’t zelfde – au fond – als de theorieën die Delacroix vond2 – ofschoon wat hij zegt over teekenen – modeleeren is teekenen, teekenen is modeleeren3 – ook niet nieuw is – toch, voor deze & andere waarheden heb ik zelden krachtiger woorden gelezen. Enfin – ik vind het boek zeer mooi – & heb er nog al over gedacht.–
Hetgeen ik voor U heb zijn eenige stillevens – van een mand met aardappels – vruchten – een koperen ketel &c.,4 maar die ik juist maakte in verband tot het modeleeren met verschillende kleuren. & ik wou wel dat Portier ze zag.
Ik zal ze U zenden zoodra ik het geld heb want ben in ’t eind van de maand.
Ben ook nieuwsgierig naar de Lhermitte, als er deze maand een is geweest.5
Ik heb verf laten komen van Schoenfeld in Dusseldorf –6 van een paar kleuren die ik hier niet goed krijgen kan.–
Dat het Schij van de aardappeleters7 van kleur niet goed is, ligt voor een deel althans aan de verf. Ik ben er aan herinnerd omdat ik een groot stilleven schilderde waar ik soortgelijke toonen zocht en, er niet over tevreden zijnde omdat ik er weer dezelfde dingen in kreeg van toen – het over maakte.8 En van die ondervinding uitgaande zou ik het veel beter gekregen hebben met mineraal blaauw, wat ik nu heb,9 dan met hetgeen ik tot nog toe had.

b. à t.

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,
1. Félix Bracquemond, Du dessin et de la couleur; see letter 531, n. 2.
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 ). 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 ).
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 , F 107 / JH 933 , 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 (see cat. Amsterdam 1999, p. 175, cat. no. 32).
9. Mineral blue is an indigo blue pigment, slightly coarser and lighter than Prussian blue. See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1993, p. 68 (n. 21).