Letter 10/16/1883 - by Vincent van Gogh

Letter 10/16/1883 - by Vincent van Gogh
Courtesy of www.VincentVanGogh.org

This was a very different field from the one I scribbled for you yesterday,8 but this is the singular thing about it here, always precisely the same and yet just that variation; the same subjects as in paintings by masters who work in the same genre and yet differ, oh it's so singular here - and so quiet, so peaceful. I can find no other word for it but peace.

Say a lot about it, say little about it; it's all the same, it makes no difference.

It's a question of wanting something very new, undertaking a sort of re-creation of yourself, very coolly, with the firm idea - it'll be fine.9 Not that you may not have concerns, of course, it won't happen of its own accord, but it must be a feeling of 'I'll do what seems simplest to me - I'll put aside everything that isn't simple - I don't want the city any more - I want to go to the country - I don't want an office any more - I want to paint'. There you have it. Then handle it like a business matter, although it's deeper, indeed infinitely deep, but concentrate your thoughts on it decisively.

Well, in the future see yourself and me as painters.

If there's trouble, if there are objections, see it all the same - see your own work already. Look at a bit of nature - think, I want to paint that. Surrender yourself to that firm idea of becoming a painter.

All at once people, even your best friends, become more or less like strangers. You're involved with something else - precisely. All at once you think, blast, I'm dreaming, I'm on the wrong road. Where's my studio, where's my brush?

Thoughts like these, when one feels them, are very deep. Naturally one says little or nothing about them, it would be a mistake to ask for advice about it, wouldn't throw any more light on it for you. It's a matter of ensuring that one doesn't work against it; on the contrary, that one has good will, courage for it. I'm not saying that one must expect the something on High to do absolutely everything, no, but the Something on high exists, nonetheless;10 at least if Millet believed in it you'll obviously want to trust him in this - that he wasn't sitting dozing when he knew that it existed. Well, one may give it some thought, that's all I'm saying, that life is serious, and a correct decision doesn't remove the difficulties attached to carrying it out, and after all life is serious and one should take it so seriously that one does one's best to raise one's life to something of the kind, and so in the case of an evident need to change one must allow doing right to weigh more heavily than what people say about it. 2v:7

What was said about it at the time won't be brought up later and will be less important. Now, the art trade brings with it certain prejudices that I believe you may perhaps still cling to, particularly ideas that painting is a gift - well yes, a gift, but not as they make it appear; one must reach out and take it (and that taking is a difficult thing), not wait until it manifests itself of its own accord. There's something to it, but it's absolutely not as they make it appear, one learns by doing. One becomes a painter by painting. If one wants to become a painter, if one has passion, if one feels what you feel, then one can do it, but this can go hand in hand with difficulty, worries, disappointments, times of melancholy, of powerlessness and all that. That's how I see it.11 I find it so stultifying that I had to make a little scratch to take my mind off it; forgive me, I'll say no more about it, it's not worth the effort.