Letter 03/05/1883 - by Vincent van Gogh

Letter 03/05/1883 - by Vincent van Gogh

Letter 03/05/1883 - by Vincent van Gogh
Courtesy of www.VincentVanGogh.org

My dear friend Rappard

Thanks for your letter of 27 February, which I'm answering today. First of all your questions about lithography. You'll have seen that it's the same paper for ink or crayon. I get this paper from Jos. Smulders & Co., paper dealers, Spuistraat of this city; their warehouse is in Laan, and there they have a large stock of stones in various sizes. They called it 'Korn paper',1 and had ordered it for one of the ministries, where various maps were drawn on it for lithographing.

There were a few sheets over and I took all of it. He then said that he would order a few more sheets. I don't know whether he did so, but in any case Smulders knows all about it and can order it within a few days by post. It's rather expensive, 1.75 guilders a sheet. Lithographic crayon - as well as a type made specially for the paper, more expensive than the ordinary type and in my view greatly inferior to the sort not specially made for it - as well as autographic ink, liquid and in pieces, can also be obtained from Smulders and other places, for these ingredients can surely be found at all lithographers.

The scraper I used is this shape and I bought it at Smulders. There's also what's known as a point, for scratching in hairs, say, at all events for quick, delicate scratches like those made by an etching needle, only white in black.

Needless to say, you can in fact use various things as a scraper. The shape doesn't matter much - I did it with my pocket-knife as well.

How much do I pay for my experiments?? He's promised to quote a fixed price, together with prices for printing and stones. The prices I paid provisionally don't count since we had come to an arrangement, because the printer himself didn't know at that point - and there were failures &c. However, I'm to get a quotation from Smulders which will be rather interesting but which he had to take time to work out. He was to quote me prices, that is, for stones of different sizes bought 12 at a time, and for printing one series of 1 and one series of 2 dozen drawings. And the price for paper. When I last spoke to him he was terribly busy and said, remind me at the end of March, then we'll check on everything together in the warehouse. So for the present I know next to nothing about the actual prices.

The running of the ink when printing doesn't depend directly on the thickness of the lines, at least I've seen enormously thick lines transferred perfectly. As to your friend who draws with a fine pen, that's up to him, but I think it's absolutely wrong, because I fear that in this way he's trying to get something out of the process that isn't in its nature. If one wants to work with a fine point and still be forceful, I know of only one way, namely etching. If one wants to work with a pen in autographic ink, my feeling is that one should certainly not use a pen finer than an ordinary writing pen.

Very fine pens, like very elegant people, are sometimes amazingly impractical, and in my view often lack the suppleness or elasticity that most ordinary pens have to some degree.

Last year I bought at least 6 expensive, special penholders and various pens - it was all rubbish. But at first sight they looked very practical. Anyway, I don't know either, some may be good, and a good result may come from working with autographic ink and fine pens - so be it - I'll be pleased if it works out well, but I should think one would get more satisfaction from the fuller, bolder stroke of an ordinary quill pen, for example.

Now another thing - do you know natural chalk? Last year I was given a few large pieces by my brother, this size, no less.

I worked with it but didn't pay it much attention and forgot about it. Now lately I found a piece again and I was struck by how beautiful its colour was, its blackness.

Yesterday I did a drawing with it, women and children at a hatch at the public kitchen where soup is sold.4 And I must tell you that this experiment pleased me very much indeed.

I scrawl some lines here at random to show you the range of black.

Don't you think it's beautifully warm?

I immediately wrote to my brother for more of the same. Shall I send you a piece when I get it? But if you already know of it and can get it at your place, then you send me some. For I intend to use it continually in combination with lithographic crayon.

It's just as if there were soul and life in the stuff, and as if it understands what one intends and itself cooperates. I'd like to call it Gypsy chalk.

Because the pieces are very big, there's no need to use a holder. It has the colour of a ploughed field on a summer evening! I'll get half a barrel if that's the measure it's sold by, which I doubt, however.

Album des Vosges is already a fairly old publication, but it certainly does exist.9 And it's beautiful. Your list of woodcuts has some fine things, especially the Lançons. I have Smugglers, but I lack Aid Committee, for example. But I have Soup distribution in duplicate - perhaps the same one but perhaps not,11 and have an inn with Rag-pickers12 in duplicate. So you can have them. I know sketches by Renouard of cats, pigs, rabbits13 but I haven't got them. I have Speech by Gambetta14 and moreover Beggars on New Year's Day too.