Letters 0003

Letter 0003: From Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh

The Hague, January 1873

My dear Theo,
I heard from home that you arrived in Brussels and are well, and your first impression was good. I understand how strange everything will be in the beginning, but keep your courage, it will be fine. You must agree to write to me soon as to how things are going and how you like your boardinghouse. I hope that will work out.

Pa wrote me that you were good friends with Schmidt, and that is good; I believe he is a good man and one who will help you find your way.

How pleasant the days at Christmas were, I think of them often; they will remain in your memory a long time as they were your last days spent at home. You must above all write to me about what paintings you see and which ones you like.

I'm busy now at the beginning of the year. My new year has begun well, I have been given a raise in pay of 10 guilders so that I now I earn 50 guilders per month. In addition to that I received a bonus of 50 guilders. Is that not wonderful? I hope now to be able to provide entirely for myself.

I am so glad you are also employed by this firm. It's a fine firm. The longer one is here, the more ambitious one gets. The beginning is perhaps more difficult than in other firms, but keep tough and you'll be fine.

Ask Schmidt what is the cost of the "Album Corot, Lithographs by Émile Vernier." Our office was asked about it and I know it is in stock in Brussels.

The next time I write I will send you my photograph. I had it taken last Sunday.

Have you ever been to the Palais Ducal? Go there if you have the chance.

How is Uncle Hein? I am so sorry for him and hope so that he may get better. Give him and our Aunt my warm regards.

Did Uncle Cent stop in Brussels?

Well chap, stay well, all of your friends here send greetings and wishes that all will go well for you. Say hello to Schmidt and Eduard for me, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Your loving brother

You know my address is Lange Beestenmarkt 32 or Maison Goupil & Co., Plaats.

From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: January 1873
Place: The Hague
Letter 0003
Translation © vangoghonline.com

Letters home

Vincent is sending greetings and best wishes regarding Theo's new job and life in the city of Brussels where he is boarding with the family of the minister Hendrik van den Brink. Tobias Schmidt was Theo's boss in his new position at Goupil & Co. If Vincent seems a bit concerned for the well-being of Theo remember that at age 19 he was the older brother, and Theo was moving to a city without his family at the age of 15.

The 50 guilder bonus was generous and so was Vincent as his father wrote Theo and confided that Vincent had sent the family 25 of the 50 guilders to help them financially. This was a substantial help considering Theo, in his new position, was earning about 15 guilders a month. At this point Vincent was doing well and seemingly shared the career mindset encouraged in his family.

The photograph Vincent promises to send Theo is one of only two verified pictures we have of him. See below.

Vincent asks if Theo has visited the Palais Ducal which housed both the Musée des Plâtres (Museum of Plaster) and the Musée Moderne (Modern Art Museum). Like many artists Vincent practiced drawing from plaster anatomy models, especially when unable to afford a modeling fee, and even near the end of his life he was using these plaster forms to improve his ability.

It is unclear what Uncle Hendrik (Hein) Vincent van Gogh suffered from but it has been described as a wasting disease. Hein is the brother of Vincent's father and was a retired art dealer. Another of his father's brothers, Uncle Cent, also shared the name Vincent van Gogh, and was a retired art dealer. The van Gogh family was deeply involved in the business of art dealing, but Vincent's decision to be an artist was not always seen favorably.

Vincent ends the letter with greetings to his friend and Theo's boss Tobias Schmidt, and to Edouard, probably Edouard Michel Ferdinand Hamman, who would later become a landscape painter himself.

Vincent van Gogh at age 19 in 1873
Vincent van Gogh, age 19, 1873. Photograph by J.M.W. de Louw.