Letter 0011

Letter 0011: From Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh

London, 20 July 1873

My dear Theo,

Thanks for your letter, it was very welcome. I am glad you are doing well and that you like living at Mr. Schmidt's. Mr. Obach was very pleased to have met you. I hope that in the future we'll do much business with each other. That painting by Linder is very beautiful.

As to the photo engravings, I have never seen them being made. I do know a little about how they are done, but not enough to explain it.

At first the English art did not appeal to me. One must get used to it. But there are excellent painters here, among others, Millais, who has painted 'The Huguenot,' 'Ophelia,' etc., of which I think you have seen the engravings. His things are beautiful. Then there is Boughton, whose 'Puritans Going to Church' is in our Galerie Photographique. I have seen beautiful things by him. Among the old painters Constable, a landscape painter, lived about thirty years ago. He is splendid. His work reminds me of Diaz and Daubigny. Then there are Reynolds and Gainsborough, whose painted very beautiful ladies' portraits, and Turner, whose engravings you surely have seen.

Some good French painters also live here, including Tissot, of whose work there are several photographs in our Galerie Photographique, and Otto Weber, and Heilbuth. The latter is currently painting exquisitely beautiful pictures in the style of Linder.

When you have time you must write and tell me if there are any photographs of Wauters' work other than 'Hugo Van der Goes' and 'Mary of Burgundy,' and if you know about any photographs of pictures by Lagye and De Braekeleer. Not the elder Braekeleer, but, I believe, a son of his who had at the last exhibition in Brussels three beautiful pictures called 'Antwerp,' 'The School,' and 'The Atlas.'

I am quite happy here. I walk a lot and the neighborhood where I live is quiet, pleasant, and attractive. I was really very lucky to find it. Still, I often think with regret of the delightful Sundays at Scheveningen and such, but never mind all that.

You’ll surely have heard that Anna is at home and not well. It’s a bad start to her holiday, but let’s hope she’s better by now.

Thanks for what you wrote me about the paintings. If you happen to see anything by Lagye, De Braekeleer, Wauters, Maris, Tissot, George Saal, Jundt, Zeim, or Mauve, you must not forget to tell me. Those are painters I am very fond of, and whose work you will probably see something of now and then.

Enclosed is a copy of the poem about the painter who “entered `The Swan,' the inn where he was lodging,” which I am sure you remember. It reminds me of Brabant, and I am fond of it. Lies copied it for me the last evening I was home.

How much I would like to have you here. What pleasant days we spent together at The Hague. I think so often of that walk on the Rijswijkseweg, when we drank milk at the mill after the rain. When we send back the pictures we have from your office, I will send you a picture of that mill by Weissenbruch. perhaps you remember him, his nickname is Merry Weiss. That Rijswijkseweg holds memories for me which are perhaps the most beautiful I have. If we meet again perhaps we shall talk about them once more.

And now, boy, I wish you well. Think of me from time to time and write me soon, it is such a delight to get a letter.


My regards to Mr. Schmidt and Eduard. How are Uncle Hein and Aunt? Write to me about them, do you go there often? Give them my warm regards.

Slowly the toll of the bell calling to prayer resounded lazily over the fields,
Which lay blissfully bathed in the gold of the evening sun.
O solemn and moving moment when every mother in the village
Stops the whirring wheel to bless herself with the sign of the cross.

O solemn and moving moment, when the bell that proclaims far and wide
The end of the day’s work and makes those powerful, sweating heads
Bow down for Him who causes the sweat in the furrow to run.

For the artist, too, on the slope of the shady hill,
Absorbed in his painting from early morning,
The bells now gave the sign to retreat. Slowly he wipes
His brush and palette, stowed now with his canvas in the valise,

Soon though, this silence was gently disturbed by the sweet sounds
Of the evening. In the distance, from a hollow in the hill echoed
Lingeringly the sound of the cow horn, calling the cattle in.
And at this sign from the herdsman there soon appeared in the furrowed,
Sandy mountain road the whole colorful herd of cows.

Cracking and smacking, the lad's whip drove them forward,
While they, as if by turns, their necks stretched out, with friendly lowing
Greeted from far way the cow shed where the milkmaid
Waited for them each evening to ease their taut udders.

Thus on the paths running out from the village like spokes
From an axle, there slowly came movement and life.
Here was a farmer, dragging home a plough
On a sledge, whistling a tune, and riding beside on his bay horse;
There, a blushing girl, on her head garland of sweet clover
Laced with daisies and poppies, called from afar to the others,
Kindly and sweetly, her clear toned ‘good evening’.

Further... on the same track where the painter’s path
Led, he heard peals of joyous laughter.
Rocking from side to side, a wagon, nearly toppling
Under its load of freshly harvested buckwheat, came rumbling closer,
Both horse and load adorned with fluttering ribbons and greenery.
Children with wreaths of flowers on their little flaxen heads,
Were seated on top, happily waving branches of alder,
Or scattering flowers and leaves, which rained down on all sides,
While round the wagon a group of country lads and lasses
Skipped and sang loudly enough to startle the whole sleepy plain.

Quietly smiling, the Painter, from behind the thicket,
Watched as the revelers slowly wound their way down the rutted road.
‘Aye’, he thus mumbled, ‘Aye, the Lord must think it
A happy sound, the joy with which these hearts
So simply pour forth their thanks as they gather the last
Fruits, which He yearly allows to grow, fully ripe from their toil.
Yes, the purest prayer of simplicity and innocence is joy!’

And thus contemplating the calm and deep delight upon which the soul
Feasts in the fields; or with his artist’s mind remembering
In silent rapture the glorious scene of a moment ago,
He found he had walked, unnoticing, into the village.

Already the purple and yellow had faded to grey in the west,
And in the east there had risen close by the little church the full
Copper colored disc of the moon, shrouded in mist,
When he entered The Swan, the inn where he boarded.

Jan van Beers
(The Boarder)

From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: 20 July 1873
Place: London
Letter 0011
Translation © vangoghonline.com

Charles 'Carl' Obach was the manager of the London office of Goupil and had recently visited the continent and met Theo at the Brussels office.

Anna is Vincent's sister and she had recently arrived in Helvoirt ill, suffering from a fever and a severe headache.

Rijswijkseweg can also be thought of as Rijswijk Road. Vincent mentions this walk to the mill several times in letters to Theo, indicating the walk made a large impact on him and was a fond memory. They likely discussed the idea of them both becoming painters during this walk. Remember Vincent often encouraged Thro to become a painter himself, always tempered by the fact that Theo provided much of the support Vincent required to continue his own painting. In fact Vincent often credited his brother with equal responsibility for the work he did and thought that if history judged his work worthy, that they should share credit for it.

He includes a copy of the poem 'The Evening Hour' in this letter as he did to friends in letter 0010.
The poem reminded him of the part of The Netherlands where they grew up. When Vincent says Lies copied the poem for him he is referring to their sister Elisabeth.