My dear Theo,
I’ll tell you in a few words what Van de Loo said about Ma. He says
1)  that there’s nothing wrong with her
2) that she can live for another 10 years or so
3) that if she dies before that time, then she would
have to have contracted some disease or other.
Lastly, he seemed to find it very natural that she was sometimes a little bit dazed, and didn’t make anything of it.
So she can do whatever she likes and doesn’t have to feel awkward about travelling or moving house.
So much the better, then. In any event it’s reassuring. Because for my part I believe what he says, and with the good care that Ma gets thanks to Wil there’s little chance of ‘contracting some disease or other’.
Wanted to let you know straightaway. It’s reassuring for me, too.  1v:2
I’m really looking forward to Antwerp now. The first thing I’ll do there will probably be to go and see Leys’s paintings in his dining room, if one can see them.1 You know, that Walk on the ramparts and the one that Bracquemond etched, The table, The servant.2
I imagine that it’ll be beautiful there in the winter, too, with snow on the docks. Obviously I’ll take a few paintings with me, and they’ll be the ones that I would otherwise have sent to you in the next few days.
A large mill on the heath in the evening,3 and a view of the village behind a row of poplars with yellow leaves,4 a still life5 and a number of drawings of figures.6
I’m at something of a stand with the work here at present. It’s freezing hard, so it’s no longer possible to work outdoors. It’s better if I just don’t use any more models as long as I’m living in this house; at any rate not until I come back. Besides, I’m saving my paint and canvas so as to have ammunition there.  1v:3
I recently received a letter from Leurs about my paintings.7 He wrote that Tersteeg and Wisselingh had seen them and thought them ‘not suitable for them’.
All the same, I maintain that I’ll make people change their minds — even if Tersteeg and Wisselingh don’t want to.
I’ve just read a few books in the style of Gigoux’s Souvenirs,8 which my friend in Eindhoven9 had sent for, in which I found some very interesting things about the fellows of those days, starting with Paul Huet.10 And which give me confidence that I haven’t tackled nature the wrong way, nor the technique of painting, although I freely admit that I will and must still change.
There you have those heads that are with you, there must be good ones among them, I’m as good as certain of it.11 So — let’s go.
I don’t think this winter will be dull. It’s obvious that it’ll mainly be a question of working hard. But there’s something singular in the very idea that one has to take the plunge.
I’m taking a stock of the paint that I can easily get ground here myself12 — but it’ll help me if I can find a few more colours in a better quality there. I’m also taking at least 40 stretching frames the same size as those studies of heads that are with you.13 And drawing materials and paper so that, however I get on, I’ll always be able to do something.  1r:4
Because I’ve worked entirely alone for years, I imagine that although I will and although I can learn from others and even adopt technical things — all the same I’ll always see through my own eyes and tackle things originally.
However, nothing could be surer than that I’ll try to learn more things. And if I can — particularly the nude figure. I imagine, though, that in order to get models, as many as I want and good, I won’t be done all at once, but will have to find the money for it by making other things. Be it landscapes, be it townscapes, be it portraits, as I said — or — even if it were signboards and decoration. Or — something I didn’t mention in my last letter among the things that I could do ‘on the side’ — give lessons in painting, letting them begin by painting still lifes — which I believe is a different method from that of the drawing masters. I’ve tried it out on those friends of mine in Eindhoven,14 and I’d dare repeat it.
I’ll certainly leave immediately, as soon as I get the monthly allowance from you. And as to that, should you by chance be in a position to send it a week earlier, I’d leave a week earlier. It goes without saying, though, that I’m not counting on it. I’m glad that I went to see the museum in Amsterdam once more before this, because I’ve seen from the work since that what I saw there has been useful to me. Write soon if you have time. I wanted to tell you Van de Loo’s opinion of Ma straightaway.  2r:5
Since I’m already busy packing up my things, it goes without saying that my thoughts are more there than here.
Here I’ve just kept on ceaselessly painting in order to learn painting, to get firm ideas about colour &c., without leaving much room in my head for other things. But when I escaped to Amsterdam for a few days, I was really delighted to see paintings once again. For it’s sometimes damned hard to be entirely away from paintings and the world of painters and not to see anything by other people. Since then I’ve had quite a yearning to get back into it, at least for a while.
If one’s entirely out of it for a couple of years and wrestles with nature, that can sometimes help, and at the same time one perhaps gets a new stock of confidence and health out of it, which one can under no circumstances have too much of, though, because the painter’s life is often harsh enough.  2v:6
As regards my work, I’ll have to act according to circumstances, I mean, if I could perhaps make the acquaintance of an art buyer and persuade him to show some of my things. But tomorrow doesn’t mean never, and you’ll soon see something of it, particularly if I succeed in making new studies of heads or figures. The one landscape I’m taking with me — and possibly both — but the one with the yellow leaves: I think you’d like it too. I enclose a quick croquis of it.15
The horizon is a dark line against a light line of sky in white and blue. In this dark line little flecks of red, bluish and green or brown, forming the silhouette of the roofs and orchards, the field greenish. The sky higher up, grey, against it the black trunks and yellow leaves. Foreground completely covered with fallen yellow leaves, in which 2 little black figures and one blue. On the right a birch trunk, white and black, and a green trunk with red-brown leaves.
Regards, with a handshake.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 545 | CL: 434
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, on or about Tuesday, 17 November 1885

1. Van Gogh did as he said, see letter 544. See for Henri Leys’ paintings, including the The walk [1055] referred to here, letter 354, n. 3.
2. Félix Bracquemond made three etchings of the composition, which shows a servant at a table: La servante, La table and La servante à la table (Paris, BNF, Cabinet des Estampes). Ill. 624 [624], Ill. 2163 [2163] and Ill. 2164 [2164]. La table and La servante had also been published in Lièvre, Musée Universel 1868-1869.
[624] [2163] [2164]
3. This painting of a mill at dusk is not known; Van Gogh mentioned it previously in letter 540.
4. From ll. 114-146 and the enclosed sketch it appears that he is referring here to Avenue of poplars (F 45 / JH 959 [2538]).
5. Since Van Gogh had planned to send Still life with Bible (F 117 / JH 946 [2535]) together with Avenue of poplars (F 45 / JH 959 [2538]), this painting must be what he means here by ‘a still life’ (see letter 538).
[2535] [2538]
6. We do not know which figure drawings these are.
7. Leurs had had paintings on commission: see letter 530.
8. Causeries sur les artistes de mon temps (1885), in which Jean Gigoux quotes numerous artists’ anecdotes.
10. At the time there were several books containing glowing appreciations of the work and significance of Paul Huet, among them Philippe Burty, Maîtres et petits maîtres (see Burty 1877, pp. 179-229). In the breadth of the artists covered (including Delacroix, Rousseau, Meryon, Gavarni, Hugo and Millet) and biographical details it does resemble Gigoux’s book. Since it includes the saying ‘Japonaiserie forever’, which Van Gogh quotes (see letter 545, n. 2), there is a good chance that it was one of the books Van Gogh read.
In view of the quotation about Gainsborough in letter 543, E.J.T. Thoré (under the pseudonym W. Bürger), Trésors d’art en Angleterre (1865) must have been another of them, as must Histoire des artistes vivants français et étrangers by Théophile Silvestre: see letter 557.
11. Theo had taken with him a number of heads, including Head of a woman (Gordina de Groot) (F 130 / JH 692 [2496]) and probably also Head of a woman (F 160 / JH 722 [2500]): see letter 489, n. 4.
[2496] [2500]
12. This must be paint from Baijens (see letter 478, n. 4).
13. These stretching frames are listed as ‘42 Frames’ at 6.50 guilders in the accounts of the carpenter and general builder Theodorus de Vries, entered on 16 November 1885. See letter 432, n. 13.
15. Avenue of poplars (F - / JH 960) is after Avenue of poplars (F 45 / JH 959 [2538]).