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Sunday morning
3 September, 1882

Vincent Van Gogh
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Van Gogh's Paintings:
Allee des Alyscamps
Barche a emi da affittare
Bivouac of Gypsy
Blick auf Arles
Blossoming Chestnut Branches
The Bridge
Cafe Terrace At Night, 1888
The Church at Auvers
The Cows
Dorfstrasse in Saintes-Maries, 1888
The Draw Bridge
Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles
Field of Poppies
First Steps
The Four Seasons: At the Plough
The Four Seasons: Ox Cart in the Snow
The Four Seasons: Potato Harvest
The Four Seasons: The Sower
Fritillaria in a Vase of Copper
Garden with Flowers
The Green Vineyard
Houses at Auvers
House in Auvers
Houses at Auvers
House and Figure
Il Ponte di Asnieres
Les Irises (Irises)
Mulberry Tree
The Noonday Nap
Oat Field with Cypress
Oat Field with a View of Arles
Oat Field with Mountains in the Back
The Old Mill, 1888
Olive Grove
The Olive Grove
Olive Orchard
The Olive Trees, 1889
The Orchard
Park in Autumn
The Reaping
Restaurant At Sirene
Road to Auvers
Road to St. Remy
Self Portrait, 1889
The Siesta
Snowy Road
Sower with the Setting Sun
Stairway at Auvers
Starlight over the Rhone, 1888
Starlight over the Rhone, 1888
The Starry Night
Sunflowers II
Sunny Path near Auvers
Still Life of Oranges and Lemons
The Stroll, Evening
Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles
Van Gogh paintings on fine porcelain
Vase of Flowers with Poppies
Vase of Irises, Strauss 1890
Vase with Daisies & Anemones
Vase with Daisies & Poppies
View of Arles with Irises
Vineyards at Auvers, 1890
A Wheat Field
The Wheat Field
Wheatfield with a Reaper
Wheatfield with Crows
The Yellow House
Yellow Wheat and Cypresses

My dear Theo,

I have just received your very welcome letter, and as I am taking a bit of a rest today, am answering it right away. Thank you very much for it and for the enclosure, and for the various things you say in it.

And many thanks for your description of that scene with the workmen in Montmartre, which I found very interesting because you convey the colours so well that I can see them. I am glad you are reading the book on Gavarni. I found it very interesting and it made me love G. twice as much.

Paris & its environs may be beautiful, but we have no complaints here either.

This week I did a painting that I think would remind youa little of Scheveningen as we saw it when we walked there together. A large study of sand, sea and sky—the sand & the sea light, so that the whole becomes golden, but animated by the boldly and distinctively coloured small figures and fishing smacks, which tend to set the toanl values. The subject of the sketch I made of it is a fishing smack weighing anchor. The horses stand ready for hitching up before pulling the smack into the sea. I am enclosing a small sketch of it.

It was really hard to do, I just wish I'd painted it on panel or on canvas. I tried to get more colour into it, that is, depth, strength of color.

How strange it is that you & I so often seem to have the same thoughts. Yesterday evening, for instance, I came home from the woods with a study, having been deeply preoccupied with the question of depth of color the whole week, and particularly at that moment. And I should very much have liked to have talked to you about it, especially with reference to the study I had done—and lo and behold, in this morning's letter you chance to mention that you were struck by the very vivid, yet harmonious, colours of Montmartre. I don't know if it was precisely the same thing that struck the two of us, but I do know that you would most certainly have been affected by what struck me so particularly and would probably have seen it in the same light.

As a start, I am sending youa small sketch of the subject and I shall tell you what the problem was. The woods are becoming throughly autumnal, and there are colour effects I don't often see in Dutch paintings.

Yesterday evening I was working on a slightly rising woodland slope covered with dry, mouldering beech leaves. The ground was light and dark reddish-brown, emphasized by the weaker and stronger shadows of trees casting half-obliterated stripes across it. The problem, and I found it a very difficlut one, was to get the depth of colour, the enormous power & solidity of that ground—and yet it was only while I was painting it that I noticed how much light there was still in the dusk—to retain the light as well as the glow, the depth of that rich colour, for there is no carpet imaginable as splendid as that deep brownish-red in the glow of an autumn evening sun, howerever toned down by the trees.

Young beech trees spring from the ground, catching the light to one side, where they are a brilliant green, and the shadow side of the trunks is a warm, intense black-green

Behind those saplings, behind that brouwnish-red ground, is a sky of a very delicate blue-grey, warm, hardly blue at all, sparkling. And against it there is a hazy border of greenness and a network of saplings and yellowish leaves. A few figures of wood gatherers are foraging about, dark masses of mysterious shadows. The white bonnet of a woman bending down to pick up a dry branch stands out suddenly against the deep reddish-brown of the ground. A skirt catches the light, a shadow is cast, the dark silhouette of a man appears above the wooded slope. A white bonnet, a cap, a shoulder, the bust of a woman show up against the sky. These figures, which are large and full of poetry, appear in the twilight of the deep shadowy tone like enormous terres cuites (terracottas) taking shape in a studio.

I am describing nature to you—I'm not sure to what extent I reporduced it in my sketch, but I do know that I was struck by the harmony of green, red, black, yellow, blue, brown, grey. It was very De Groux-like, an effect like, say, that sketch of Le départ du conscrit, formerly in the Palais Ducal.

It was a hard job painting it. The ground used up one and a half large tubes of white—even though the ground is very dark—and for the rest red, yellow, brown, ochre, black, sienna, bistre, and the result is a reddish-brown, but one ranging from bistre to deep wine-red and to a pale, golden ruddiness. Then there are still the mosses and a border of fresh grass which catches the light and glitters brightly and is very difficult to capture. So there in the end you have it, a sketch that I maintain has some significance, something to tell, whatever may be said about it.

I said to myself while I was doing it: don't let me leave before there is something of the autumnal evening in it, something mysterious, something important. However—because this effect doesn't last—I had to paint quickly, putting the figures in all at once, with a few forceful strokes of a firm brush. It had struck me how firmly the saplings were planted in the ground—I started on them with the brush, but because the ground was already impasted, bursh strokes simply vanished into it. Then I squeezed roots and trunks in from the tube and modelled them a little with the brush.

Well, they are in there now, springing out of it, standing strongly rooted in it.

I a way I am glad that I never learned painting. In all probability I would then have learned to ignore such effects as this. Now I can say to myself, this is just what I want. If it is impossible, it is impossible, but I'm going to try it even though I don't know how it ought to be done. I don't know myself how I paint it, I just sit down with a white board in front of the spot that appeals to me, I look at what is in front of my eyes, and I say to myself: that white board has got to turn into something — I come back, dissatisfied, I lay it to one side and when I have rested a bit, I go and look at it with a kind of awe. Then I am still dissatisfied, because I have that splendid scenery too much in mind to be satisfied. Yet I can see in my work an echo of what appealed to me, I can see that the scenery has told me something, has spoken to me and that I have taken it down in shorthand. My shorthand may contain words that cannot be deciphered, mistakes or gaps, and yet there is something left of what the wood or the beach or the figure has told me, and it isn't in tame or conventional language derived from a studied manner or from some system, but from nature herself.

Enclosed another little sketch from the dunes. There are small bushes there whose leaves are white on one side, dark green on the other side & are constantly moving & glittering. Beyond them dark trees.

You can see that I am plunging full speed ahead into painting, I am plunging into colour. I have refrained from doing so up till now & am not sorry for it. Had I not already done some drawing, I should be unable to get the feeling of, or be able to tackle, a figure that looks like an unfinished terre cuite. But now that I sense I have gained the open sea, painting must go full speed ahead as fast as we are able.

If I am going to work on panel or canvas, then the expenses will go up again, everything is so expensive, paint is expensive, too, and so quickly used up. Well, these are complaints all painters must have, we must see what can be done. I know for certain that I have a feeling for colour and shall acquire more & more, that painting is in the very marrow of my bones.

I value your loyal and effective help more than I can say. I think of you so much; I should so like my work to become vigorous, serious, virile, so that you too may get some pleasure from it as soon as possible.

One thing I should like to bring to your attention as a matter of importance—wouldn't it be possible to obtain paint, panels, brushes, &c., at discount prices? I am having to pay the retail price at the moment. Have you any connection with Paillard or someone like that? If so, I thik it would be much more economical to get paints, say, wholesale, for instance white, ochre, sienna, and we could then come to some arrangement about the money. Everything would be cheaper, it goes without saying. Do think it over.

One doesn't paint well by using a lot of paint, but in order to do a ground effectively or to get a sky bright, one must sometimes not spare the tube. Sometimes the subject calls for less paint, sometimes the material, the nature of the subjects themselvers, demands impasto. Mauve, who paints very frugally in comparison with J. Maris and even more so in comparision with Millet or Jules Dupré, nevertheless has cigar boxes full of the remnants of tubes in the corners of his studio, as plentiful as the empty bottles in the corners of rooms after a soirée or dinner such as Zola describes, for instance.

Wel, if there could be a little extra this month, that would be wonderful. If not, then not. I shall work as hard as I can. You ask about my health, but what about yours? I would imagine my remedy would be yours as well: to be out in the open, painting. I am well, I still feel like it even when I'm tired, and that is getting better rather than worse. It's also a good thing, I think, that I live as frugally as possible, but my main remedy is painting.

I sincerely hope that your luck is in and that you will have even more. Please accept a handshake in my thoughts, and believe me,

Ever yours,

You will see that there is a soft, golden effect in the little marine sketch and a more sombre, more serious mood in the woods. I am glad that both exist in life.

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