Your letter and the enclosure were very welcome. I need hardly tell you it comes just in time and is of great help to me.
It is real autumn weather here, rainy and chilly, but full of sentiment, especially splendid for figures that stand out in tone against the wet streets and the roads in which the sky is reflected. It is what Mauve does so often and so beautifully. So I have again been able to work on the large water color of the crowd of people in front of the lottery office [The poor and money, F970, JH222, Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam] and I also started another of the beach, of which this is the composition [fig. 1].
(...) I conclude the same way you ended your letter: that we have in common a liking for looking behind the scenes in a theater; or, in other words, we both are inclined to analyze things. It is, I believe, exactly the quality one needs for painting - in painting or drawing one must exert that power. It may be that to some extent nature has endowed us with a gift (but you certainly have it, and so do I - for that perhaps we are indebted to our childhood in Brabant and to surroundings which contributed more than is usually the case to our learning to think) but it is especially later on that the artistic feeling develops and ripens through work (...).
Adieu, boy, thanks for what you sent me and a warm handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
(on 22 October 1882)
In December 1881 Van Gogh moved to The Hague, where he remained until September 1883. He had fled to the Dutch coastal city exasperated by a serious row with his parents which exploded around Christmas 1883. But he immediately adapted to the new surroundings and the twenty months he spent here gave him 'moments of domestic bliss that were not to fall to his lot again' (J. Hulsker, op. cit., p. 92). Although he had first looked for a place in the picturesque fishing village of Scheveningen, his financial situation did not allow him to rent a room in what was becoming a home for bohemian artists and a fancy resort - he was thus compelled to settle in Schenkstraat, on the edge of the town. He found a small studio, with enough light for him to work, and embarked upon an exciting experimental journey, marked by the enthusiastic discovery of new drawing and painting techniques. Watercolour and pencil drawing were soon to be at the centre of his passionate quest. His experiments and achievements with watercolour were deeply influenced by the example of his cousin Anton Mauve, with whom the young Vincent had spent a very formative stay in the autumn and winter of 1881. Van Gogh's productive and intense exchanges with Mauve, by 1882 a renowned painter and an influential man in the art-world, were certainly one of the brightest spots of the The Hague years. As J. Hulsker commented, 'It is remarkable to see how much Mauve did help a beginner like Vincent, especially since he was a rather inaccessible figure who otherwise refused to have pupils. "Mauve has now shown me a new way to make things, that is, how to make watercolours", Vincent wrote in the middle of January (letter 170). "Well, I am quite absorbed in this now and sit daubing and washing out again; in short, I am trying to find a way". Mauve's help in making watercolours should not be underestimated, for he was a very good artist in this field (...). Van Gogh possessed an enourmous power of assimilation and an astonishing alertness of mind, which enabled him to take in many things in a short time and to learn from others. Some of his watercolours are very close to Mauve's' (Vincent and Theo Van Gogh, A Dual Biography, Ann Arbor 1990, p. 115). The Beach at Scheveningen, like The poor and money (the Van Gogh's Museum's only large watercolour from this period) and Young Scheveningen woman, knitting (F870, JH84), are amongst the most clearly indebted works to Anton Mauve's technical and aesthetical lesson. But unlike the other watercolours executed in the autumn of 1882, The Beach at Scheveningen is not a depiction of the destitute and the poor of Schenkstraat; on the contrary, it is a snapshot of a bourgeois Sunday stroll on the beach. A lighter palette matches Van Gogh's less biting tone and less engaged choice of subject. The colours are not played around the earthy hues of his contemporary compositions, but on delicate nuances of pink, beige and blue, heightened by the red of the fishermens' blouses. The attentive observation of the couple promenading on the shore, the impressionistic rendition of the landscape and careful use of the perspective concur to a composition of great balance and freshness, unburdened by the anguish and darkness of Vincent's Hague works.