On 1 November 1883, Vincent took a day trip from Nieuw-Amsterdam and Veenoord to the village of Zweeloo, riding along with his landlord, Hendrik Scholte. Vincent wrote to his brother about the day, which had made a strong impression on him, passing by “like a dream”:
“The dwellings here are very wide, among oak trees of a superb bronze. Tones of golden green in the moss, of reddish or bluish or yellowish dark lilac greys in the soil, tones of inexpressible purity in the green of the little wheatfields. Tones of black in the wet trunks, standing out against golden showers of whirling, swirling autumn leaves, which still hang in loose tufts, as if they were blown there, loosely and with the sky shining through them, on poplars, birches, limes, apple trees. The sky unbroken, clear, illuminating, not white but a lilac that cannot be deciphered, white in which one sees swirling red, blue, yellow, which reflects everything and one feels above one everywhere, which is vaporous and unites with the thin mist below. Brings everything together in a spectrum of delicate greys.”
Vincent hoped to encounter fellow artists in Zweeloo, and in particular Max Liebermann, about whom he had heard much from his brother Theo. But he did not come across Liebermann or any other artists, and rather than waiting for a lift back, he left on foot.
Vincent made various drawings during his day trip. He sketched an apple orchard that Liebermann had also painted, made a drawing of a spinner, and sketched the Dutch Reformed church in Zweeloo, which reminded him of Jean-Francois Millet’s painting L’Eglise de Greville, which he had seen in Paris. Vincent’s sketch depicts a shepherd returning from the field with his flock in front of the church, while Millet’s painting shows a farmer with a shovel.