Letter 06/23/1883 - by Vincent van Gogh

Letter 06/23/1883 - by Vincent van Gogh
Courtesy of www.VincentVanGogh.org

I am beginning to get a plan for a much larger drawing, one of the potato harvest, and it so fills my thoughts that you may well see something in it.

For the landscape I would want some flat ground and a line of dunes. The figures about a foot high, the composition to be across the width, about one by two.

In the forefront in a corner, kneeling figures of women, lifting potatoes, as a repoussoir.

As a background to them, a row of diggers, men and women.

And the perspective of the area should be arranged so that I have the place where the wheelbarrows will be in the opposite corner of the drawing from where the women are lifting the potatoes.

Well, apart from the kneeling figures of the women, I would already be able to let you see all the other figures in large-size studies.

Yes, I would like to start on this drawing one of these days; I have also got the plots more or less in my head, and will take my time to search for a nice potato field and make studies for the lines of the landscape.

By the autumn, when the potato harvest takes place, the drawing should be finished, at least as a completed sketch, and then I shall only have the shading and the finishing off to do.

The row of diggers would have to be a row of dark shapes, seen only at first sight, or from a distance, but very finished and varied in their movement and type. For example, a young, plainly dressed chap contrasted with one of those real old-Scheveningen types in a brown and white overlapping coat and old-fashioned top hat, such a dull black one that they pull down to their neck; and a short, sturdy female figure, sober in black, contrasted with a tall, itinerant day laborer in white trousers, light blue smock, and straw hat, a bald head next to a young woman.

These thoughts come to my mind, just from setting off the studies I have already done against each other.

I was looking for something that would be quite a different subject from those [of Butin and Legros], i.e., the potato pickers, kneeling on the ground, working with their short forks, about which I recently wrote to you that I was making some studies. I now have on the easel one sketch of them with four figures: three men and a woman. I would like to do something wide and bold in silhouette and design. I keep on searching for it.

Here is a rough sketch of potato pickers, but on the drawing they are rather further apart.