The Seven Sketchbooks of Vincent van Gogh
sketchbook shows that I try to catch things "in the act" , Vincent
wrote to his brother Theo in 1882 (letter
190). And to give Theo - in Paris - an idea of what he had to put up
with in The Hague, Vincent enclosed a sketch with his letter, Street Workers
on the Geest, "that was done...in a street where I was standing in
the mud, amid all the noise and confusion."
Just as Vincent sought to catch things "in the act", so can we, a hundred years later and over his shoulder, attempt to "catch" him. In his sketchbboks we see him at work, see what occupied him from day to day. Here we have arranged the sketches for your convenience but in the books one finds many of them upside down - the sketches drawn then and there Vincent not considering up or down. We may consider both the orientation of the sketches as well as the succesion in which they were made to be Vincent's "secret".
This section was made mainly by the help of the book by Johannes van der Wolk "The Seven Sketchbooks of Vincent van Gogh", a facsimile edition, published by Thames and Hudson 1986 and unfortunately out of print. (see Litterature & Movies).
Mr. van der Wolk has reconstructed the sketchbooks insofar as it has been at all possible. One of the "tricks" in trying to reconstruct the sketchbooks and to find out where many of the loose sheets belonged were to fold signatures - the sections in which a book is divided in its binding. The four sketchbooks of which the covers have been preserved (SB 1, 2, 6, and 7) proved fairly easy to construct whereas SB 3, 4, and 5, of which only a few folios have been preserved, were much more difficult.
There is substantial reason to suppose that Vincent made use of more of
this kind of pocket-size sketchbooks, however only fragments of these
remain. The sketchbooks mentioned here are all bought ready-made. They
are professionally bound, and some have the additional feature of a storage
compartment or a pencil holder. However, Vincent apparently more than
once constructed his own sketchbooks by folding and cutting a large sheet
of paper into a signature. The little sketchbook made for Betsy Tersteeg
is one example. Late in 1881 Vincent wrote Theo about making one's own
sketchbooks: "However, for studies and scribbles the Ingres paper
is excellent. And it is much cheaper to make one's own sketchbooks in
different sizes than to buy them ready-made."(