Vincent van Gogh - Wheat Field with a Partridge 1887

Wheat Field with a Partridge 1887
Wheat Field with a Partridge
Oil on canvas 34.0 x 65.5 cm. Paris: Summer, 1887
Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, on or about Monday, 24 March 1884.
My dear Theo,
Because it’s possible that you didn’t properly understand what I asked you before, and so that there can’t be any question later of having misunderstood something or anything like that, I say it again.
At the end of January or beginning of February I wrote to you that, on coming home, it became all too evident to me that the money which I usually received from you was regarded firstly as something PRECARIOUS, secondly as, yes, what I’ll call a gift of charity to a poor nincompoop. While I could observe that this opinion was even imparted to people who have absolutely nothing to do with it — for instance the respectable natives of these parts — and, for example, 3 times in one week I heard people who were then complete strangers to me ask, ‘why is it that you don’t sell?’ Just how pleasant everyday life is when one sees this all the time, I leave to you.

In addition to this, I had already made up my mind this summer — on account of your letting me feel the reins then, that it was in my interests to go along with this and that — just to let you feel that, for my part, if you made it difficult for me by fiddling with those reins a lot, I would leave the reins in your hands but not be on the end of them myself — in other words — if I’m not at liberty in my private life, I decline this allowance from you. In short that my work (not my private life) should be what determined whether or not I stayed on my feet financially, at least as far as the 150 francs are concerned. Summing these things up, I said in a letter at the end of January that I didn’t want to keep it exactly as it was until today, namely without any specific agreement.
That I would like, though — would even like very much — nothing better than that — to go on in the same way, provided there’s a specific agreement about supplying work. And that to try this out I would send one thing and another by March.
Your answer was evasive, it certainly wasn’t something forthright like: Vincent, I appreciate all these complaints and I approve of us coming to an agreement that you will send me drawings monthly which you can consider as the equivalent of the 150 francs that I usually send you, so that you can consider this money as money earned. I most certainly noticed that you simply did not write anything like the above.
Well, I thought, I’ll send one thing and another by March anyway and see how it goes. I then sent 9 watercolours and 5 pen drawings, wrote to tell you that I had a 6th pen drawing as well, and the painted study of the old tower that you had especially wished for at one time. But now that I see that your expressions remain just as vague, I can do nothing other than say to you most decidedly that this is no way to behave.
As far as my work is concerned, up to now it was indeed apparently the case that you would rather I didn’t send something than that I did.
If that’s still the case — well, then in my view either I’m not worthy of your patronage or you think only too flippantly about my drawings. I have still not withdrawn my proposal for a regular supply of work. When I speak of the fact that I want to be able to consider the 150 francs or whatever it may be, more or less as the equivalent of what I send you, in this respect it’s still a very private affair, and we leave aside altogether the question of whether or not my work has commercial value.
But then I’m more justified in the view of Tom, Dick and Harry, whom I don’t have to anticipate accusing me of living off private means or — absolutely regarding me as ‘having NO means of support’.
At the same time, it’s a sign of confidence in my future on your part, which I most certainly won’t try to force on you, though — and I tell you again that whatever you decide in this matter won’t change the past, and that I most certainly won’t ignore your help in the past and really will appreciate it.
But you have to decide entirely of your own accord whether or not our relationship will endure in the future — for the current year, say.
I end with the assurance, though, that if you refuse to enter into my proposal to supply you with work regularly (you can do whatever you like with that work as regards whether or not you deal in it, although I do in any event insist that you show it from time to time as you already did at the very outset, and rightly to my mind) then I would go ahead with a separation. It seems to me that honour is at stake — so either this change or — finished. Regards.
Yours truly,

What I prefer not to hear later would be that this or that agreement is more a notion of mine than the intention of the other side, namely yours. You know that you told me C.M. said something of the sort to you about me this summer. As a result I learned that it was important to dot the i’s and cross the t’s where agreements are concerned.
I believe, because I already wrote to you repeatedly about this change, that by now summing it up once again, everything has been explained plainly and clearly enough, and that for my part I may also ask for a plain yes or a plain no.
The reason I haven’t sent you the 6th pen drawing yet is because, just as I insist that you show my work now and then, I’ll also occasionally let Rappard see some of my things from now on, since he knows quite a few people — and that drawing was with R. at the time and I should have got it back, but he still has it along with two other ‘winter garden’ pen drawings. Well then, I’ve already dropped you a line about the painted study in a previous letter, that I was discouraged from sending it because if you don’t see anything in the ones from Drenthe I don’t think you’ll like this one either. It seems to me — as I recall — that among the ones from Drenthe there are some that I would do precisely the same way if I had to do them again.
For the current month I already had the following drawings, Winter garden — Pollard birches — Avenue of poplars — the Kingfisher, which I would otherwise have sent you in April.