Retranscription of a letter to his brother Theo (August 1880)
Cuesmes, 20 August 1880
If I’m not mistaken, you should still have Millet’s ‘The labours of the fields’. Would you be so kind as to lend them to me for a short while, and to send them to me by post?
You should know that I’m sketching large drawings after Millet, and that I’ve done The four times of the day, as well as The sower.
Well, if you saw them perhaps you wouldn’t be too unhappy with them. Now, if you’d like to send me The labours of the fields, perhaps you could also add some other sheets by or after Millet, J. Breton, Feyen-Perrin, &c. Don’t buy any specially, but lend me what you may have.
Send me what you can, and don’t have any fears on my account. If only I can go on working, I’ll recover somehow. But you’d be a great help to me by doing this. If you pay a visit to Holland sooner or later, I hope you won’t pass by without coming to see the scratches.
I’m writing to you while drawing and I’m in a hurry to get back to it, so goodnight, and send the sheets as soon as possible, and believe me
c/o Charles Decrucq
rue du Pavillon 3
The Millets that I’ve done are The four times of the day, the format more or less that of a sheet from the Bargue drawing course.
You’ll understand well enough yourself what I need to make it unnecessary for me to tell you, but I’ll tell you nevertheless, so that you can know my thinking.
They’re mainly figure studies, such as Millet’s The diggers, or the lithograph after his Winnower. And figures by Brion or Frère or Feyen-Perrin or Jules Breton.
I believe you could find just what I need at the Alliance des Arts, where they have the lithographs by Contemporary Artists &c., which are sold there extremely cheaply. A sheet that I’d be immensely glad to have is Daubigny’s large etching after Ruisdael, The bush, which is on sale at the print-shop in the Louvre.
I’ve done a scratch of miners, male and female thrutchers, going to the pit in the morning, in the snow, on a path beside a thorn-hedge: passing shadows, dimly visible in the dusk. In the background, the large mine buildings and the slag heap are becoming indistinct against the sky. I’m sending you the croquis so that you can picture it for yourself. But I feel the need to study figure drawing from masters like Millet, Breton and Brion or Boughton, or someone else. What do you think of the croquis? Does the idea seem good to you?
In the photographs after J. Breton by Bingham there is, if I remember rightly, one of women gleaners. Dark silhouettes against a sky in which the sun is setting, red. There you are, it’s things like that I need to have before my eyes. It’s because I think you’d prefer to see me doing something good than doing nothing at all that I’m writing to you on this subject, and perhaps it would be a reason why good understanding and friendship might be re-established between the two of us, and we might perhaps be useful to one another.
I’d very much like to execute the drawing in question better than I have done. In the one that I’ve done, as it stands, the figures might be about 10 centimetres high. The pendant is of the miners’ return, but it’s less successful as it stands. It’s very difficult, as it involves an effect of brown silhouettes encircled by light against a streaky sunset sky.
Send The labours of the fields by return of post if you can and if you will.
< Letter sketch >
I’ve dropped a line to Mr Tersteeg to ask him if perhaps there would be some way for me to have Bargue’s Exercices au fusain for a while, i.e. the studies of the nude model you’re familiar with. I don’t know if he’ll do it or not, that’s to say send me them, but supposing he didn’t, couldn’t you influence him a little in my favour? Because these Exercices au fusain would be eminently useful to me. But perhaps he’ll do me the favour of sending me at least some sheets, if not the whole course.