[Letterhead: Goupil and Boussod Paris]

19 October 1888

My dear Vincent,
It’s indeed quite a serious oversight on my part to have spoken to you about De Haan and Isaäcson and not to have said what they’ve already done.1 I wanted above all to keep you au courant with what kind of people they are. The large painting, I haven’t seen it, but judging by a photograph taken of a drawing,  1r:2 it shouldn’t have been as bad as all that. The subject is Uriel Acosta before a tribunal; it’s a scene from Jewish history. The composition has nothing of Rembrandt about it, as the light isn’t concentrated on part of the painting but well spread all over it; however, as the costumes are from that period, people said it was a poor imitation of Rembrandt.2 It’s certain that he has been subject to his influence, but even so, there’s a really personal quality in what I’ve seen of him; it’s the way of spreading the light throughout his drawing. It’s mainly charcoal drawings that I’ve seen, their things having stayed in Holland.  1v:3 I’ll send you two photos of the drawings, so that you can judge; the photos have come out very badly, because the drawings are matt.3 They consider Breitner one of the strongest of the Dutch today; I don’t believe they put him above J. Maris, but well above Israëls. I believe that if you knew them you’d share my view, and that you wouldn’t have suspicions. I’ve seen nothing of Isaäcson yet apart from his croquis, which are very good and very original. He’s waiting for some drawings that should come back from London. Seurat isn’t in town yet, and I don’t know what he’s doing.4 He’s very strong, that fellow, and I agree with you that his carefully chosen frame was well worth all manner of expensive frames.5 Recently I’ve  1v:4 read Tartarin de Tarascon, which I find very fine, and Le Nabab, which I like much less. I’ll read the other Tartarin as well.6 Madame Chrysanthème7 isn’t in the library,8 but somebody has promised to let me have it to read. I’m curious to know it. It’s very annoying that you’ve had trouble with your eyes; where does that come from? So Gauguin’s coming; that will make a big change in your life. I hope that your efforts will succeed in making your house a place where artists will feel at home.
I’ll stop, because otherwise the letter won’t go off this evening.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 713 | CL: T1
From: Theo van Gogh
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Paris, Friday, 19 October 1888

1. Vincent had asked about De Haan and Isaäcson’s work in letter 707.
2. Meijer Isaac de Haan, Uriel Acosta (present whereabouts unknown) shows the seventeenth-century Portuguese religious philosopher Uriël da Costa, who was exiled from the Jewish community by the Board of Rabbis in Amsterdam. The work was shown in the summer of 1888 in the Panorama Building at Plantage Prinsenlaan in Amsterdam, at an exhibition of works by De Haan and his pupils Louis Jacob Hartz and Joseph Jacob Isaäcson. The drawing after the work – which is what Theo must mean here – was published in J. Zürcher, Meijer de Haan’s Uriël Acosta. Amsterdam 1888. Ill. 916 [916]. I.N. Stemming (pseudonym of the painter Johann Eduard Karsen) had criticized the painting as a poor imitation of Rembrandt, unworthy to be called a ‘work of art’. See ‘Meijer de Haan’s Uriel Acosta’, De Nieuwe Gids 3, 1 July 1888, part two, pp. 435-437 (with epilogue on 15 July). Theo read De Nieuwe Gids at this time (FR b916).
J.A. Alberdingk Thijm’s opinion was less harsh. He thought that the ‘design of the painting, the colour, the costumes’ were reminiscent of Rembrandt, but that the execution was too dark and rather slapdash. See Weekblad De Amsterdammer, 15 July 1888, p. 3. Cf. also letter 707, n. 2.
3. These two drawings by De Haan, of which Theo sent photographs, have not been identified. One of them must have been the drawing of the gravedigger that Vincent mentions in letter 736.
4. Seurat had spent the summer in Port-en-Bessin (Normandy). See exhib. cat. Paris 1991, p. 408.
8. We do not know which library Theo borrowed books from; bookshops also lent books. In 1881 his friend Andries Bonger was librarian to the ‘Hollandsche Club’ (FR b1679); in 1882 he refers to the ‘public library’ (bibliothèque populaire) (FR 1745). Jo van Gogh-Bonger also used a library in Paris: in July 1890 she asked Theo to return the books she had borrowed. See Brief happiness 1999, p. 264.