My dear Theo,
I had wanted to inform you earlier of the safe receipt of your letter and the 150 francs enclosed. I’ve also received the September Lhermitte — it’s splendid.1
You write about the Poussins in the Louvre2 — I like Poussin very much.
But what a long time ago it is — too long — since I saw those paintings.3 As to that — I need to see paintings, and I must do something about it. Precisely because I very much hope to go finding people for my own work, I think it will be good for me to go on a trip every now and then.
Longing most of all for Rembrandt and Frans Hals, one day this week I’m going to the museum in Amsterdam4 with a friend of mine in Eindhoven5 whose studies I once showed you. If I can acquire connections for my own work, I won’t fail to do so — and I firmly believe that with perseverance I’ll win.  1v:2
As for the work, I’ve been painting a lot of still lifes lately,6 as I already wrote, and I like it enormously. I’ll send you some. I know that they’re difficult to sell — but it’s devilish useful and I’ll go on doing a lot to them in the winter.
You’ll get a large still life of potatoes — where I’ve tried to get body into it — I mean express the material. Such that they become lumps that have weight and are solid, which you’d feel if they were thrown at you, for instance.7
Anyway, you’ll just have to see.
That dispute I had with the priest — I haven’t had much more bother with it.8 There’ll always be God-fearing natives in the village who’ll still believe me capable of it, though, because it’s certain that the priest would love to pin the blame for that business on me. Since I’m not to blame, though, the rumours from that quarter leave me  1v:3 completely cold. As long as they don’t get in the way of my painting I don’t take any notice of them whatsoever. I’ve remained on good terms with the peasants to whom it happened and where I went to paint a lot, and am just as welcome in their home as before.
I’m now working on still lifes of my birds’ nests, and I’ve finished 4 of them.9 I think that some people who know nature well might like them because of the colours of the moss, dry leaves and grasses, clay &c.
I’ll write to you again at the end of this week, when I’m back from the little trip to Amsterdam.
Since I have to pay my rent again next month, I can hardly afford the expense. But it’s essential. So more soon.

Yours truly,

I’m sure my work will benefit in the long run if I see more paintings — because when I see a painting I can work out what it’s done with.  1r:4
As for Poussin — he’s a painter who thinks and makes one think about everything — in whose paintings all reality is at the same time symbolic.10 In the work of Millet, of Lhermitte, all reality is also symbolic at the same time.
They’re something other than what people call realists.  2r:5

In the winter, when I have more time for it, I’ll make several drawings of this sort of thing.11 I feel for the brood and the nests — particularly those human nests, those cottages on the heath and their inhabitants.


Br. 1990: 536 | CL: 425
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, Sunday, 4 October 1885

1. Léon Augustin Lhermitte, Les vendanges (The grape harvest), engraved by Clément Edouard Bellenger, the month of September in the series ‘Les mois rustiques’, in Le Monde Illustré 29 (26 September 1885), Supplement to no. 1487. Ill. 222 [222].
2. There were several dozen works by Poussin in the Louvre. Most of them came from the former collection of Louis xiv. After the trip they took together, Theo and Andries Bonger really got a taste for it – in this period they went to the Louvre together every Sunday morning (FR b1821).
3. Van Gogh had not been back to Paris since he left Goupil & Cie at the end of March 1876. In Nuenen he was working in artistic and cultural isolation.
4. In July 1885 the Rijksmuseum opened in a new building on Stadhouderskade designed by the Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers. Van Gogh was in Amsterdam from Tuesday, 6 to Thursday, 8 October; see letter 534.
6. See for painting still lifes: letter 532, n. 8.
7. This is probably Baskets of potatoes (F 107 / JH 933 [2531]).
8. See for the conflict with the clergymen in Nuenen: letter 531.
9. There are five known still lifes of the nests that Van Gogh had collected in June (see letter 507), all entitled Still life with birds’ nests (F 108 / JH 940), (F 109r / JH 942), (F 111 / JH 939 [2533]), (F 112 / JH 938) and (F 110 / JH 941). It is not possible to work out which of these were now ‘finished’ and which were still being worked on. See for those sent later: letter 535, n. 1.
10. This notion is based on what Bracquemond said about Poussin in Du dessin et de la couleur: ‘more than any other master, he provides an example of the search for the contrasts between light and dark lines, leaving aside any form of representation. That is, by conceiving a work of art solely in terms of its essence, its clarity, the only forms that he depicts in their entirety in the final work are those that are strictly necessary’ (il donne l’exemple, plus qu’aucun autre maître, de la recherche du contraste des lignes claires et obscures, abstraction faite d’une représentation quelconque. C’est-à-dire que, ne concevant une oeuvre que par sa substance essentielle, la clarté, il ne retient des formes qu’il représentera complètes dans l’oeuvre définitive que le strict nécessaire) (see Bracquemond 1885, p. 208; cf. Van Uitert 1983, p. 29).
11. As far as we know Van Gogh did not in fact do this.