Dear Theo,

. . . . Yesterday I drew some decayed oak roots, so-called bog trunks (that is, oak trees which have perhaps been buried for a century under the bog, from which new peat had been formed; when digging the peat up, these bog trunks come to light).

These roots were lying in a pool, in black mud.

Some black ones were lying in the water, in which they were reflected, some bleached ones were lying on the black earth. A little white path ran past it all, behind that more peat, pitch-black. And a stormy sky over it all. That pool in the mud with those rotten roots was completely melancholy and dramatic, just like Ruysdael, just like Jules Dupré.

This is a scratch of the peat fields.

There are very often curious contrasts of black and white here, for instance, a canal with white sandy banks, across a pitch-black plain. In the above sketch you can see it too, black figures against a white sky, and in the foreground again a variation of black and white in the sand.

- Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh (6 – 7 October, 1883)

 

black mud, black
which bleached black
white path past more
peat pitch

black sky, pool in the
mud, rotten root
just like, just like
a scratch

peat —
black white, white pitch
black sketch, black white
black white

 

Two Women in the Peat-Field, with a Wheelbarrow

Van Gogh’s Two Women in the Peat-Field, with a Wheelbarrow, painted after the observations referred to in van Gogh’s letter.