The Letters of Vincent van Gogh
A new selection of post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gough's letters, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh put a human face on one of the most haunting figures in modern Western culture. In this Penguin Classics edition, the letters are selected and edited by Ronald de Leeuw, and translated by Arnold Pomerans in Penguin Classics.Few artists' letters are as self-revelatory as Vincent van Gogh's, and this selection, spanning his artistic career, sheds light on every facet of the life and work of this complex and tortured man. Engaging candidly and movingly with his religious struggles, his ill-fated search for love, his attacks of mental illness and his relation with his brother Theo, the letters contradict the popular myth of van Gogh as an anti-social madman and a martyr to art, showing instead a man of great emotional and spiritual depths. Above all, they stand as an intense personal narrative of artistic development and a unique account of the process of creation.The letters are linked by explanatory biographical passages, revealing van Gogh's inner journey as well as the outer facts of his life. This edition also includes the drawings that originally illustrated the letters.Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was born in Holland. In 1885 he painted his first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters, a haunting scene of domestic poverty. A year later he began studying in Paris, where he met Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Seurat, who became very important influences on his work. In 1888 he left Paris for the Provencal landscape at Arles, the subject of many of his best works, including Sunflowers.If you enjoyed The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, you might also like 100 Artists Manifestos, available in Penguin Modern Classics.'If there was ever any doubt that Van Gogh's letters belong beside those great classics of artistic self-revelation, Cellini's autobiography and Delacroix's journal, this excellent new edition dispels it'The Times

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh Details

TitleThe Letters of Vincent van Gogh
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 31st, 1997
PublisherPenguin Classics
ISBN-139780140446746
Rating
GenreArt, Nonfiction, Biography, History

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh Review

  • Kalliope
    January 1, 1970
    STARRY LETTERS In my youth I felt saturated with Van Gogh’s art. Its popularity made it predictable. As one of the greatest victims of the phenomenon that Walter Benjamin explores in his The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, one could expect to see posters of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, or his Room, or Starry Night, in a third of the rooms of students. I suspected that more than this bright colours, always welcome in dingy lodgings, it was the legend grown out of the morbid aspect o STARRY LETTERS In my youth I felt saturated with Van Gogh’s art. Its popularity made it predictable. As one of the greatest victims of the phenomenon that Walter Benjamin explores in his The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, one could expect to see posters of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, or his Room, or Starry Night, in a third of the rooms of students. I suspected that more than this bright colours, always welcome in dingy lodgings, it was the legend grown out of the morbid aspect of his supposed suicide that explained the ubiquity of his art.As a museumgoer, I have seen many of his paintings in various galleries and cities. I also visited long ago his museum in Amsterdam. But it was more recently, in an exhibition with a room devoted to him, when I felt completely enraptured in wonder in front of a couple of his paintings.But I have wanted to read his letters for years and reading these has been a delight.Most of them are addressed to his brother Theo, but there are a few to painter friends, such as Anton van Rappard and Émile Bernard. It was his sister in law who collected and edited them and gave them for publishing in 1913. They span from the Summer of 1872 until a couple of days before his death on 1890.Reading his Letters I feel that he could not have disapproved, since he himself was addicted to reading biographies of other painters, those he admired, hoping to find a guide to his own path as a painter. If not looking for the same guidance, I have approached them to help me get closer to his art.It has been a fascinating process to be able to follow how he gradually discovered his painting vocation, which happened relatively late. At first he felt his calling was for the church. Once he became disappointed with the clerical life, he thought of becoming a social helper. During this time, though, references to paintings and art, and close descriptions of landscapes, fill his letters. It was not until he was around 26 that he finally decided to become an artist. This was in 1879 and he had to begin his training, drawing and materials, from the start.What comes across clearly, whether he is discussing art or whatever else, is the profound intensity with which he approached anything he undertook and the passion with which he defended his ideas. One could say he was a Romantic, not in the historical sense, but in the theoretical one. He pursued with his art his religious longings. Aestheticism at its purest.During my read I felt compelled to post many updates. Most of these are either descriptions in text of what could have been visual. If even before he drew and painted he would send accounts of his visual impressions, once he began producing paintings, at a very fast rate, he would send textual versions of his painterly renditions. And in text colour dominates. His paintings are described as a succession of things in tones. The colour of the tree, the colour of his table, the colour of the grass, the colour of the sun, the colour of someone's coat… He does not discuss compositions or arrangements or drawing. His art discussions veer towards the most visual, colours. Why has he chosen which colour and what it signifies. We see then that even if he painted outdoors and very rarely from memory, he was not a naturalist. He developed his own system for colours based on correspondences with his own moods and very personal impressions. But this was not fixed. It could not be, It varied with his emotions.And this personal meaning to his painting is what explains that even if it was after his arrival in Paris in 1886, where he fell under the spell of Impressionism, when he changed his palette from the earth tones to the bright and primary colours, he pursued something very different from the French painters. He aim was not to record of the sensory. And that is also why he did not get close to the analytical art of the Pointillistes. Van Gogh had a profoundly and intensely intimate relation with painting, with the act of painting itself. His brushstroke is rich and thick and expressive. His canvases have a loaded texture. And this texture has his mark.With such a personal approach to his art we should not be surprised that his stated favourite genre was portraiture-- of others and of himself. I should like to do portraits which will appear as revelations to people in a hundred years time. I am not trying to achieve this by photographic likeness but by rendering our impassioned expressions, by using our modern knowledge and appreciation of colour as a means of expressing and exalting character. .To follow this epistolary approach to his art is also suitable because Van Gogh was a very literary man. This literary outlook tinted his vision of his surroundings. A compulsive reader, he peppers his letters with references to a wide array of writers. Very knowledgeable of French literature, and even if he turned his back to the Naturalist painters, his preferences in literature were for the Naturalists, in particular those who included a lens focused on the social content. He mentions regularly Zola, Flaubert, Maupassant, Daudet etc. From English literature his favourites were clearly Charles Dickens and, very dear to him, George Eliot. This selection of letters is a perfect antidote to the alienating effect of ubiquitous reproduced images. Reading them is highly refreshing. They succeed in enlivening the aesthetic emotion when contemplating Van Gogh’s very dazzling and unforgettable works.---I want to thank Jasmine who, during my reading and as a comment to one of my updates, drew my attention to this great documentary. Benedict Cumberbatch impersonating Van Gogh. The text is composed out of sections of the letters and other primary documentation. Strong recommendation:https://vimeo.com/109538758
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  • Roy Lotz
    January 1, 1970
    For great things do not just happen by impulse but are a succession of small things linked together. The main problem when encountering Van Gogh is that his life has become the quintessential artistic myth of our age. The obscure genius ahead of his time, toiling in solitude, tortured by personal demons, driven by a creativity that sometimes spilled over into madness—and so on. You’ve heard it all before. You have also seen it before. His paintings suffer from the same overexposure as does his For great things do not just happen by impulse but are a succession of small things linked together. The main problem when encountering Van Gogh is that his life has become the quintessential artistic myth of our age. The obscure genius ahead of his time, toiling in solitude, tortured by personal demons, driven by a creativity that sometimes spilled over into madness—and so on. You’ve heard it all before. You have also seen it before. His paintings suffer from the same overexposure as does his life story. Starry Night hangs, in poster form, in dorm rooms and offices; it is used in commercials and as desktop backgrounds. The challenge, then, as with all iconic art, is to unsee it before it can be properly seen.The best way to pop this swollen bubble of this myth is, I think, to read these letters. Here an entirely different Van Gogh is revealed. Instead of the mad genius we find the cultured gentleman. Van Gogh could read and write English, French, and German fluently, in addition to his native Dutch. He peppers his letters with references to Dickens, Elliot, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Balzac, Zola. His prose is fluent, cogent, and clear—sometimes even lyrical. His knowledge of art history is equally impressive, as he, for example, compares Shakespeare’s and Rembrandt’s understanding of human nature. Not only this, but he was far from insulated from the artistic currents of his day. To the contrary, he was friends with many of the major artists in Paris—Seurat, Signac, Gauguin—and aware of the work of other prominent painters, such as Monet and Cézanne.But, of course, Van Gogh’s myth, like many, has some basis in truth. During his lifetime he did not receive even a fraction of the recognition his work deserved (though if he had lived a little longer it likely would have). He was often unhappy and he did suffer from a mental illness of some sort, which did indeed lead him to sever a portion of his own ear. What is less clear is the role that his unhappiness and his mental illness played in his work. In our modern world, still full of Romanticism, we are apt to see these factors as integral to his artistic vision, the source of his inspiration and style. Van Gogh himself had, however, quite a different opinion, seeing his suffering and illness as a distraction or an obstacle, something to be endured but not sought.The letters in this volume span from 1872 to 1890, the year of his death. Most of them are addressed to his brother, Theo, who worked as an art dealer in Paris and who supported Vincent financially. There are also a few letters to his sister, Wil, and to his artist friends. From the beginning we see Van Gogh as an enthusiastic and earnest man, very liable to be swept up into passions. His first passion was the church. Following in his father’s footsteps, Van Gogh went to England to work as a preacher. His letters from this period are full to bursting with pious sentiments; in one letter he even includes a sermon, which he composed in English. He quickly grew disenchanted with conventional religion, however, and soon he is pining after his cousin, Kee, who rejects him and refuses to see him. Not long after that he takes in a woman named Sien, a former prostitute, and his letters are filled with his dreams of family life.But in all of these letters, even before he decided to take up art—which he did comparatively late, at the age of 27—Van Gogh show a keen visual awareness and appreciation. He includes long, detailed, and sometimes rapturous descriptions of towns and landscapes. He is also, from the start, independent to the point of stubbornness. He persists in trying too woe his cousin even in the face of his whole family (including Kee herself) discouraging him. He insists on taking in Sien despite the disapproval of nearly everybody, including his brother and his mentor, Mauve. When it came to art he was absolutely uncompromising, refusing to paint anything just for money, and getting into passionate disagreements with some of his artist friends (Gauguin, most notoriously).Van Gogh’s intractability often landed him in trouble. He had a bad relationship with his parents and often quarrelled with his brother, Theo, who was his closest confidant. But it is also, I think, the quality that is ultimately most admirable in him. His personal standards drove him to work hard. He was no savant. His letters are filled with exercises and studies. He was tough on his own work and constantly strove to improve it. And though he sometimes got discouraged, there is never any hint of quitting or compromising. This is the classic story, often told. But it is easy to lose sight of how dreary and dispiriting this life could be, day to day. In films the struggling artist is enmeshed in a moving drama, and the audience always knows it will come right in the end. But for Van Gogh this was a plodding daily reality of struggle and failure, with no audience and no guarantee of ultimate success.That we admire Van Gogh for persisting is, in large part, because his art was truly great. But what would we think if he was mediocre? This, you might say, is the paradox of persistence: We admire those who persist in the face of struggle when they have genuine talent; but when they do not, the spectacle becomes almost pathetic. What would we think of a man financially supported by his brother, constantly quarrelling with and alienating his parents, toiling away in isolation, who produced nothing beautiful? We might be inclined to call such a person naïve, foolish, or even selfish. Whether we admire or scorn stubbornness, in other words, depends on whether it eventually pays off. But in the meantime nobody can know if it will, least of all the stubbornly persistent person. It is, in short, a great risk.Yet it cannot be said that Van Gogh wagered everything on his talent, since there is not even a hint of calculation or self-interest in his continuing persistence. He is so manifestly, uncompromisingly, absolutely obsessed and absorbed by art that there is no other option for him. Even when institutionalized and hospitalized he thinks of nothing but when, how, where, and what he can paint next. And though he at times expresses regret for the sacrifices this entails—he is especially vexed by the toll it takes on his love-life—he never discusses art with even a touch of bitterness. He is willing to live in a hovel and survive on crumbs if it means he can afford paint. To see such unqualified devotion, not in a novel or on a stage, but in the real, intimate context of his daily life is (to use a hackneyed word) inspiring. Vincent's story had a tragic ending. On a summer day in July he walked into a wheat field where he was painting and shot himself in the chest. He survived two more days, finally passing away in his brother’s arms on July 29. The circumstances surrounding this death are rather remarkable, and I don’t wonder that two biographers, Naifeh and Smith, have raised questions about it. The tone of his final letters, while troubled, are far from despairing. He even includes an order of paints in his final dispatch to Theo. And it is also extraordinary to think that a man who had shot himself in the chest could walk a mile back to the inn, or that a man locally known for his mental instability could get a gun. The recent film, Loving Vincent (which I haven’t seen), is focused on this question.Theo did not long survive his brother: he succumbed to syphilis within just six months. Theo had married his wife, Jo, less than two years earlier, which proved an extremely fortunate circumstance—for art’s sake, at least—since it was Jo who championed Vincent’s legacy and who published his correspondence. Theo and Jo’s only son, named after his uncle Vincent, was responsible for founding the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which I recently visited. To any who get the chance, I highly recommend this paired experience, for the letters and the paintings are mutually enriching. Few people in history seemed to have lived so entirely for the sake of posterity: churning out paintings which few people saw, writing letter after letter few people read, creating a story and an oeuvre that now have the power to tear you in two.
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  • Francisco
    January 1, 1970
    I want to be careful in writing this review because I want to do what I can to urge you to put this book in your list of Books I Should Read During my Lifetime. You have such a list, don't you? No? Will you think about making one? It consists of the books that a large majority of your fellow humans believe are representative of what is most significant about this gift you have received, which we call life. Lots of the books that should go on that list are not necessarily ones you would pick from I want to be careful in writing this review because I want to do what I can to urge you to put this book in your list of Books I Should Read During my Lifetime. You have such a list, don't you? No? Will you think about making one? It consists of the books that a large majority of your fellow humans believe are representative of what is most significant about this gift you have received, which we call life. Lots of the books that should go on that list are not necessarily ones you would pick from a book store or library shelf. It's okay to put a book on the list out of a mysterious sense of obligation that you might feel. And once on the list, if you begin to read and it does not speak to you, that is okay too. There will be others who will. Only be patient with this book. It may take you a few pages to become interested in the author and to see in his struggles to be true to a calling lessons for your own life. This book is a compendium of letters from Vincent van Gogh. It does not contain all of Van Gogh's letters. But the letters selected (mostly to Van Gogh's brother Theo) tell a fairly complete story of Van Gogh's inner life. Now and then the editor will insert snippets of Van Gogh's life and circumstances at the time of the letter so that we have a good context for the letter we are reading. Lots and lots of letters consist of Van Gogh pleading with his brother to send him money (Van Gogh sold the grand total of one painting during his lifetime) but somehow even these letters are important to the slow vision of Vincent that you are gradually forming and befriending as you read. Not to mention the glimpse these letters give you of true friendship and devotion between Vincent and Theo. But why is this one of those books that should be placed in your Lifetime List? Someone once said that vocation is that place where your heart's joy meets the word's great need. And I think that this book shows you one man's struggle to develop and remain true to the inner joy that art brought to him and to have that joy be useful, of service to others. He says in an early letter, when he is discovering his aptitude to draw and paint: "I feel a power in me which I must develop, a fire that I may not quench, but must keep ablaze, though I do not know to what result it will lead me, and shouldn't wonder if it were a gloomy one. . . " And indeed he kept the blaze of that power throughout his short life even when gloominess was all there was. The power was kept alive sometimes by a fiery, consuming enthusiasm and sometimes by the cold steel of will and duty. But always there was that practice, practice, practice the need to align through visual description and color the emotions elicited by nature, by the poor peasants, simple objects and ordinary people he insisted in painting. At some point, the constant practice of his craft would have allowed him to paint pictures that would sell. But that would have been a departure from that place where his heart's joy met what he saw as the world's need. This a book for your Lifetime List because we are all called (and a call can come from you or from outside of you) to find that joy and find a way to make it useful.
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  • Luís C.
    January 1, 1970
    "[His letters] enable us to know more about Van Gogh's life and mentality than we do of any other artist. The letters form a running commentary on his work, and a human document without parallel."Source: http://www.vggallery.com/letters/main...
  • Edward
    January 1, 1970
    About This EditionTranslator's NoteIntroductionBiographical Outline--Early Letters--Ramsgate and Isleworth--Dordrecht--Amsterdam--The Borinage--Etten--The Hague--The Hague, Drenthe and Nuenen--From Nuenen to Antwerp--Paris--Arles--Saint-Rémy--Auvers-sur-OiseBibliographyIndex
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  • Ammara Abid
    January 1, 1970
    This book is exceptional, thought-provoking, painstakingly beautiful and soulful. Not only literary letters but they encompassed whole life of a genius artist.I absolutely love this book ♡It's worth reading."What I find such a pleasant surprise about painting is that you can, with the same effect you put into a drawing, take something home with you that conveys the impression much better and is much more pleasing to look at. And at the same time more accurate, too. In a word, it is more rewardin This book is exceptional, thought-provoking, painstakingly beautiful and soulful. Not only literary letters but they encompassed whole life of a genius artist.I absolutely love this book ♡It's worth reading."What I find such a pleasant surprise about painting is that you can, with the same effect you put into a drawing, take something home with you that conveys the impression much better and is much more pleasing to look at. And at the same time more accurate, too. In a word, it is more rewarding than drawing. But it is absolutely essential to be able to draw the proportions correctly and to position the objects fairly confidently before you start. If you make a mistake here, it will all come to nothing." "What I’m trying for is the shortest means to that end - on the understanding that the work is of genuine and lasting merit, which I can only expect if I put something really good into it and make an honest study of nature, not if I work exclusively with an eye to saleability - for which one is bound to suffer later.""The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too." " And when I read, and really I do not read so much, only a few authors, - a few men that I discovered by accident - I do this because they look at things in a broader, milder and more affectionate way than I do, and because they know life better, so that I can learn from them."" If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it,keep going, keep going come what may."" The lamps are burning and the starry sky is over it all."
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  • Matt
    January 1, 1970
    Robert Hughes writes in one of his essays on Van Gogh that the myth's around Van Gogh run exactly opposite to the truth. He recommends delving into Van Gogh's letters as a way to get beyond the myths and better understand both the artist and his work. Van Gogh is often given an aura of a mad genius, whose hallucinations and fits gave rise to the intense colors and patterning of his paintings and drawings. In fact, his fits (most likely due to epilepsy) were debilitating, and often kept him out o Robert Hughes writes in one of his essays on Van Gogh that the myth's around Van Gogh run exactly opposite to the truth. He recommends delving into Van Gogh's letters as a way to get beyond the myths and better understand both the artist and his work. Van Gogh is often given an aura of a mad genius, whose hallucinations and fits gave rise to the intense colors and patterning of his paintings and drawings. In fact, his fits (most likely due to epilepsy) were debilitating, and often kept him out of commission for weeks at a time. Hughes closes and essay saying that Van Gogh was a great painter in spite of his madness, not because of it - and having read his letters, I'm inclined to agree.However, I somehow found the letters both more and less than I expected. The biggest disappointment was that they failed to provide as much insight into Van Gogh's working process and aesthetic ideas than I hoped. Much of his talk about his work is merely a description of recent paintings (at most a vague description of his goals) or a long list of influences. While it's interesting to see who he was looking at, I didn't come away with much more understanding of the piece by piece construction of his paintings, or of any grander aesthetic theory.On the other hand, I now have a much greater understanding of the character and biography of Van Gogh than of any other artist I've ever studied. I can look at any piece, and place where it was in his development, where he was physically and mentally at the time, and what issues he was grappling with in his life. I may not have had much more access to his artistic thoughts, but I'm able to process his work in a much wider context than I was before. And there are many, many interesting anecdotes to be learned - like the fact that the work that he is known for, his famously intense paintings and hatched drawings, were down in less than three years - from 1887 to 1890 (a period during which he produced over 1000 combined paintings and drawings).I also have some gripes with the editing of this edition - the letters are interspersed with brief biographical sketches which contextualize the letters, but there are also many letters left out. Without having read every single letter, it's hard for me to know whether the choice of letters reflects and editorial slant (and I have a sneaking suspicion that many letters were chosen for biographical upheaval rather than artistic insight, but have no real grounds for that claim).It's difficult to recommend this book to everyone. Those obsessed with Van Gogh or painting in general might find a lot to learn - and those who enjoy reality TV might get a similar kick out of the bizarre twists and turns of this self-narrated life. The rest will probably find it a bit dull.
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  • ZaRi
    January 1, 1970
    تئوی عزیزم!احساس زیبایی طبیعت،حتی احساس ظرافت ونکته های آن، با احساس عقیده وایمان فرق دارد، اگرچه به نظر من بین آن دو،رابطه ی نزدیکی موجود است.(احساس ما نسبت به هنرنیزهمین است.)درهرحال زیاد هم پایبند این موضوع نباش.هرکس طبیعت را یک نوع احساس می کند ولی کمتر کسی است که بتواند خدا را احساس کند،خدایی که باروح ما پیوستگی دارد.هرآن کس که دربرابرخدا سجده کند،باید برابرروح وحقیقت نیزسرتعظیم فرودآورد. پاریس،17سپتامبر1875
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  • M. Sarki
    January 1, 1970
    I first began my reading of these letters as a way to learn more about the art process, the way to creation coming from the mind of such a gifted artist such as Vincent Van Gogh. I also was interested in his life, his story, and how he got to this end. Personal letters seem to be so much more profitable to me as a reader than fiction, or even a biography. Throughout the entire book I came to feel, and inhabit, his struggle, his pain, his lack of recognition for what he deemed so important in tot I first began my reading of these letters as a way to learn more about the art process, the way to creation coming from the mind of such a gifted artist such as Vincent Van Gogh. I also was interested in his life, his story, and how he got to this end. Personal letters seem to be so much more profitable to me as a reader than fiction, or even a biography. Throughout the entire book I came to feel, and inhabit, his struggle, his pain, his lack of recognition for what he deemed so important in total to his life. I learned through almost countless correspondences that he was rarely given the respect he felt he deserved, and he had just terrible luck with women. It was so sad the difficulties he faced socially. But I never felt once he was suicidal in his thinking. He was a creator, and a sick man obviously, but his genius insisted that he live and make history. I am of the opinion that Van Gogh shot himself in order that his brother Theo’s family could once again thrive as they had fallen on hard times and were suffering. A gut shot is a slow death, and in it one has the opportunity to say what needs to be said to those around him even though the end of life is inevitable. In regards to the art of Van Gogh, the letters presented a complete study in the use of color. I came to understand his selections based on these letters explaining in great detail why he chose specific colors to use in his paintings. The man was authentic, and that is all one might hope to become in such a short and often confusing life we are all faced with. Vincent Van Gogh was gifted in so many ways, and had such high hopes as dreamers often do. The letters are a testament to his great love for his brother, and the many works of genius he left for those of us who today appreciate it. And as good a literary work as anything I have ever read.
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  • Lauren Kammerdiener
    January 1, 1970
    "How much sadness there is in life. Still, it won't do to become depressed, one should turn to other things, and the right thing is work, but there are times when one can only find peace of mind in the realization: I, too, shall not be spared by unhappiness."
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  • David Sarkies
    January 1, 1970
    The Mind of an Artist31 March 2018 - Adelaide Well, straight out I can say that this book isn’t the easiest of reads, namely because it is a collection of letters between Vincent and his brother Theo. It doesn’t contain all of the letters, namely because Vincent was quite a prolific, and very eloquent, letter writer, and Theo was one of those people that kept everything, which means that we literally have a copy of all of the letters that he sent Theo, as well as some that he sent to others (inc The Mind of an Artist31 March 2018 - Adelaide Well, straight out I can say that this book isn’t the easiest of reads, namely because it is a collection of letters between Vincent and his brother Theo. It doesn’t contain all of the letters, namely because Vincent was quite a prolific, and very eloquent, letter writer, and Theo was one of those people that kept everything, which means that we literally have a copy of all of the letters that he sent Theo, as well as some that he sent to others (including his sister Wil, and some of his friends). Then again, this was back in the days when people namely communicated by letter, but then we live in an age where people mainly communicate by WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype, and I’m sure there are people out there that keep pretty much every message sent to them. Anyway, the letters are divided into two sections – those when Vincent was a priest and missionary, and those where he was an artist (though this is my division). The book divides them into sections based on where Vincent was living at the time, and he certainly moved about quite a bit. What the letters do is that they give us a insight into Vincent’s thoughts and feelings, as he did pour out his souls in these letters. We see him when he is joyful, and when he is frustrated, and we even learn about the loves of his life (there weren’t many mind you), as the thoughts that are going through his head as he his creating his works of art. Many of us know Vincent the artist, but there are more facets to his life than the works that hang in many of the galleries around the world. For instance while he started off working as an art dealer, he fell out with his employer and ended up at theological college. It is interesting to read his letters from this stage of his life as he seems to be quite fundamentalist, however as it turns out that theology wasn’t down his alley either, so he decided to become a missionary to the Dutch miners. Actually, this aspect of his life probably isn’t all that surprising considering his father was also a preacher. However, there is theology, and that can actually be pretty dull and boring at times – while I enjoy philosophy and discussing theology, I discovered going down the road of formally studying it simply didn’t create the same desire in me than simply casually reading about it and chatting with my friends (or even writing posts on the internet), so I can relate to Vincent in that regards. One thing that stands out is that he really didn’t seem to know how to get along with people. In a way he was a but of a drifter, and he was very unlucky in love. For instance, he falls in love with a relative, and she basically tells him that there is no chance in hell, and he literally carries on about it for the next three to four letters. This is the beauty of these letters because we really get to see the struggles that he faces when attempting to relate to people, and while he constantly tries to tell us that he is over her, he not only continues to write about her, but he also continues to attempt to get in contact with her – ah, what it is to be young, in love, and socially inept. Most of the second part of the book we follow his journey as he learns the art of becoming a painter, and he was very fortunate that his brother continues to support him throughout this endeavour. Van Gogh never really had any money, which meant that he rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to paint people (you needed money, and friends, to paint portraits). Well, near the end of his life, when he was in St Remy, and in the asylum, you do start to see more portraits (such as the doctor and the postman), but in most cases he is stuck painting landscapes and still lifes (and a number of self portraits as well). One of the best ways to read this book is to follow his paintings as he talks about them (as I was doing with the updates). Mind you, as we come to the end of his life, his output literally goes through the roof (though for a while he was not allowed to paint, namely because he would have psychotic attacks and attempt to swallow his paints), but before his death he was literally painting one painting a day (sometimes two). There are also quite a few paintings of the asylums that he was in, some of them quite famous. Oh, and we can’t forget the sunflowers either (and he actually painted quite a few of them). Another thing that I noticed was that most of his famous paintings are actually in the major galleries around the world, including the MOMA and the d’Orsay (I would love to see Starry Night, but I doubt I will ever make it to New York to do so). Vincent and his brother must have had one of those very special relationships, because after Vincent died, he brother didn’t last all that long, and he died leaving behind his wife Jo and his son Vincent. Yet, it was his sister in law’s persistence that has turned Van Gogh from a shunned artist into one of the greatest painters of the 19th Century. However, sometimes I wonder what might has been, because by the end of his life, his skill as an artist was starting to become known among the critics. Still, it was Jo’s desire for the world to see the beauty of Vincent’s art that has resulted in his works hanging in museums right around the world. Anyway, I’ll finish off this post with some of his paintings. I have also written three blog posts on Vincent as well, one from when I visited the museum in Amsterdam, one of a special exhibition there on his madness, and one of an exhibition of his works that came to Melbourne. This is a painting of his doctor, Dr Gauchet: This one of the many paintings of sunflowers that he did: And finally this is of his room in Arles:
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  • Gregory Hunt
    January 1, 1970
    Reading Van Gogh's letters is rewarding to any artist who's interested in the creative process. As a musician, I found these letters inspiring in parts. Be warned, most of what you'll read is about money, painting supplies, and what he happened to be working on at the moment and when he expected to finish, but he will occasionally talk about his philosophies on art and his personal thoughts and troubles. Make no mistake, he was indeed a tortured individual, but he was highly read and hyper-aware Reading Van Gogh's letters is rewarding to any artist who's interested in the creative process. As a musician, I found these letters inspiring in parts. Be warned, most of what you'll read is about money, painting supplies, and what he happened to be working on at the moment and when he expected to finish, but he will occasionally talk about his philosophies on art and his personal thoughts and troubles. Make no mistake, he was indeed a tortured individual, but he was highly read and hyper-aware of the world of art. I was a little surprised how devoted to Japanese art he was even though I knew it was an influence. He was almost obsessed with them.There are a handful of very sad moments here where I felt compassion for him. I truly believe he was one of the most unlucky artists ever while he was alive. Two weeks ago, I visited the New York Met and saw many of his most famous paintings including the Cypresses (incredible), and its a real shame no one appreciated him while he was alive because that's pretty much all he was living for. He talks at great length about other contemporaries and, of course, about Paul Gauguin. He and his brother Theo, who financed Vincent, made a poor decision when they asked Gauguin to join Vincent. They should have chosen another, in my opinion. Even though Vincent has nothing but kind words about Gauguin, one gets the sense he was a knave.For whatever reason, one particular passage Van Gogh wrote about death and the stars in the sky made a lasting impression on me.
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  • Jason
    January 1, 1970
    if i had to choose just 2 books on a desert island it would be the bible and van gogh's letters!
  • S.J. Pettersson
    January 1, 1970
    I wasn't aware that Gauguin was at Vincent's bedside when he passed and when I read the letter G wrote describing what happened I began to cry so hard. Not out of sadness but out of love for his dignity, passions and unwavering commitment, both artistic, social and in hindsight, political, to the infinite possibilities of art of which he humble only considered himself a forbearer paving the way for more important artists to come who would truly be able to paint the essence of all people, not pos I wasn't aware that Gauguin was at Vincent's bedside when he passed and when I read the letter G wrote describing what happened I began to cry so hard. Not out of sadness but out of love for his dignity, passions and unwavering commitment, both artistic, social and in hindsight, political, to the infinite possibilities of art of which he humble only considered himself a forbearer paving the way for more important artists to come who would truly be able to paint the essence of all people, not poses, artificial scenarios etc. but the most magical event of all; reality. I have travelled to many cities in the world to be able to stand in front of his Reality and feel that he is my constant companion in life. Not just as an artist, but then, no great artist is just a "great artist," if that was all he was he would be a fraud and acute viewers, listeners, readers etc. would immediately see through him, but instead as a true friend of mine, a man who loved artists and people above art, saw the world in its beauty and splendor in shades, light and types of paint. A man who worried about his brothers health (and G's) above his own and his art. A rich and deep thinker who readily accepted his lot in life if he could just paint and draw without causing pain to others and without being a burden to them. In general I am not in favor of publicizing personal and private letters of people who have left us behind, but in this case the world of words and thoughts would be as infinitely poorer without these surviving letters as the world of images would be without his peerless paintings.
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  • Saiful Sourav
    January 1, 1970
    ভাই থিওর কাছে ভযান গঘের চিঠিতে- গমের কষেতে ছবি আঁকার সময় বাতাসের তোড়ে কয়টা ছবি হারানো গেছে, ইদানিং কি করছে, ছবি কেউ বুঝছে না আর মোটেও বেচা যাচছে না বলে দারুণ দশা, আরো কিছু বরাশ আর পেপার কিনতে হবে ইতযাদি কথাবারতা ছাড়াও আরো মেলা কথা । যেমন বলল কালারের টোন নিয়ে কথা । বসতুর পরকৃত রঙ কেন আঁকবে না তার আলোচনা পৃষঠার পর পৃষঠা । থিও ছিল তখনকার একজন আরট কালেকটর পলাস সমঝদার । সুরাতের পেইনটিং এ কোথায় জানি সকিল বেশি সৌনদরয কম অথবা পল গগা কিভাবে কি করে, দেগা'র লাইটিং আর ফিগর বা আরো অনেক সমসাময়িক চিতরকরদের কাজ ভাই থিওর কাছে ভ্যান গঘের চিঠিতে- গমের ক্ষেতে ছবি আঁকার সময় বাতাসের তোড়ে কয়টা ছবি হারানো গেছে, ইদানিং কি করছে, ছবি কেউ বুঝছে না আর মোটেও বেচা যাচ্ছে না বলে দারুণ দশা, আরো কিছু ব্রাশ আর পেপার কিনতে হবে ইত্যাদি কথাবার্তা ছাড়াও আরো মেলা কথা । যেমন বলল কালারের টোন নিয়ে কথা । বস্তুর প্রকৃত রঙ কেন আঁকবে না তার আলোচনা পৃষ্ঠার পর পৃষ্ঠা । থিও ছিল তখনকার একজন আর্ট কালেক্টর প্লাস সমঝদার । সুরাতের পেইন্টিং এ কোথায় জানি স্কিল বেশি সৌন্দর্য কম অথবা পল গগা কিভাবে কি করে, দেগা'র লাইটিং আর ফিগর বা আরো অনেক সমসাময়িক চিত্রকরদের কাজ নিয়ে কথা ছাড়াও তাদের সাহিত্যপাঠ অভিজ্ঞতার শেয়ারিং, আন্ডার্স্ট্যান্ডিং; প্রকৃত প্রস্তাবে গঘের কথাই সর্বাঙ্গে । তার ভাই এক পৃষ্ঠার বেশি লেখার কিছু অথবা প্রয়োজনীয়তা কোনটাই খুব একটা খুঁজে পেত না তবে পয়সা পাঠাতো । সমস্ত প্রতিকূলতার মধ্যেও কর্মময় জীবন ও ব্যক্তি জীবনের ভ্যান গঘের কিছু রূপরেখা ।
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  • Marko
    January 1, 1970
    Vec 10 minuta pokusavam da napisem neki rivju koji ce biti dovoljno dobar i dostojan ovog predivnog bica, koji je voleo ljude i prirodu sa retko vidjenom strascu, ali ne mogu. Osecao sam se prelepo i inspirisano. Osecao sam se...well, osetio sam sve, ono undefinable sve. Jeste da nema na srpskom, ali je treba svakako kupiti i nikad ne skidati s police, da bude vecni podsetnik da je nekad on hodao istim svetom kao i mi.
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  • Joaco
    January 1, 1970
    The habit of reading whatever I feel like from the stack of books it keeps piling in my bedroom led me to these beautiful Letters of Vincent van Gogh.I was not expecting much from them, maybe some insight into van Gogh depressive character or perhaps some everyday experiences from the time he lived, maybe getting a better idea of what it means to be an artist. Vincent, however, delivered much more than expected.The letters are separated in periods of his life which coincide to where he was livin The habit of reading whatever I feel like from the stack of books it keeps piling in my bedroom led me to these beautiful Letters of Vincent van Gogh.I was not expecting much from them, maybe some insight into van Gogh depressive character or perhaps some everyday experiences from the time he lived, maybe getting a better idea of what it means to be an artist. Vincent, however, delivered much more than expected.The letters are separated in periods of his life which coincide to where he was living. This way you have a clear idea how he was seeing his world develop in each stage: the early period while he was studying to be an art dealer and how he was beginning to doubt the path laid for him; his life in England and how he was starting to get acquainted with his spiritual and deeply humane side; his return to his family house and the difficulties of this due to his strong personality which would not yield to the rules of society; his time in Paris where he lives with his brother and so practically we have no record from him; his life in Arles in the south of France where he would eventually live with Gauguin; his time in Saint-Remy, the metal institution where he spent some time; and finally Auvers-sur-Oise where he would eventually commit suicide.The above however cannot convey how touching, powerful and full of wisdom his letters were. From the very beginning, Vincent describes his surroundings with a color pallet as he was painting it. Not only that, he was also great in describing how he felt contemplating the things he described. There is a particularly touching moment when he describes to Theo how his pupils in England who had nothing to eat were treated badly by the headmaster. Of course this was just a prelude to Vincent's search for spiritual enlightenment which would end in failure as he was too much of an ascetic and the religious authorities considered he was mad. However, Vincent's passion was just a character trait. This passion would always provide him with the strength to live a miserable life; economically dependent of his brother Theo. While this would have filled others with resentment, Vincent affection to Theo was present from the beginning and only once in all his letters reprimanded his brother. In person it was completely different as Theo could not stand to live with him while they shared lodging in Paris. Eventually, Vincent would move on, continuing working on his ideas of what should be painted and how; asking Theo for money; arguing with friends and family; and living with hardly any food.It is impossible to condense in a short review van Gogh's life experiences, but if any of the above interested you, it will be worth your while reading his letters.
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  • Taymara Jagmohan
    January 1, 1970
    Quite pleasant.I read the few lines concerning himself, and his most favored brother, Theo, but I couldn't muster the courage to read between the lines of his personal letters.His letters weren't just conventional, but they were meant for his brother. Clearly if he had preferred for the entirety of the World to honorably view/read the letters, then he would have granted the dispensation. I didn't like how his letters were just published. This is a man of secrecy. One with true talent, not just y Quite pleasant.I read the few lines concerning himself, and his most favored brother, Theo, but I couldn't muster the courage to read between the lines of his personal letters.His letters weren't just conventional, but they were meant for his brother. Clearly if he had preferred for the entirety of the World to honorably view/read the letters, then he would have granted the dispensation. I didn't like how his letters were just published. This is a man of secrecy. One with true talent, not just your modish idea of a few dollars paid for your words.Of course art is an inspiration from Literature, but what's more striking a question is-Does art inspire Literature, or Literature inspires art?In this book, Vincent answered such a question and he said his LITERATURE was his personified muse to all his oeuvres. I love his stability, and his many words.He has inspirations, unlike those critical, devious artists. He likes romanticism, and honors Millet. Look at a bowl of millets, and you'll ken why he springs into a heart of imagination when he sees them. There are wonderful.The book was oddly warm, and caressed my mind. Just the few lines I needed to read on a sun-tanned afternoon. The earth smiled while I sat on my chair, and the pen was tangible. It was beautiful! :)
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  • Tammy Marie Jacintho
    January 1, 1970
    I felt the full impact of Vincent’s loneliness, despair, and rebounding hopefulness. I felt the weight of what it means to be an artist, what it means to strive for your own voice, to know the strengths and weaknesses of your own hands. I experienced, through Vincent, a true representation of monastic isolation. Vincent’s isolation allowed him to deepen his dialogue with his beneficiaries. And, his most steadfast Muse was Theo. Theo and God. In many ways they were interchangeable, as Vincent ido I felt the full impact of Vincent’s loneliness, despair, and rebounding hopefulness. I felt the weight of what it means to be an artist, what it means to strive for your own voice, to know the strengths and weaknesses of your own hands. I experienced, through Vincent, a true representation of monastic isolation. Vincent’s isolation allowed him to deepen his dialogue with his beneficiaries. And, his most steadfast Muse was Theo. Theo and God. In many ways they were interchangeable, as Vincent idolized his brother. And while Theo was Vincent’s best friend, this devotion was only surpassed by his fervor for the Divine. Worldly and Heavenly aspirations were both necessary components of his artistic identity.Looking at his art, one sees that there is a spiritual dimension to his vision. It is a sort of double transfiguration occurring in both the creator and the object. That is, the artist is changed through the creation of the object, and the physical world is changed into a spiritual object by the artist. The object is proof of the transformation. Vincent’s art was the residue left behind after a mystical experience. His ascent or mania, in many ways, resembled the behavior of mystics. There is a break down of the real and a descent into the super-real where the world becomes a mirror for the intensity of feeling. This is manifest in the amorphous gestalt and intense tinctures found in his later works. One can warm their hands at his fires, feel the chill of his winds, and swim in the many faceted greens that take the viewer deep below the surface. The layers of paint, the fine comb of his brush, all bring the world into focus. Therefore, we believe we can touch the rooms, the fields, the winding roads... We know too desperation in a darkened church and in a murder of crows... These are the things that make Vincent’s work so striking today. It is that we feel it, all these years later. And we feel these letters. Reading them is like striking flint on bone. There’s something hot burning alongside something cold. There’s something primordial about his fear. There’s something familiar about his hope. These letters were necessary, like his art. His letters speak to the need of a man working his way into himself. He calls himself forth. He dares himself. He confesses himself. He reveals himself. And through this self, he pulls the most distilled and refined experiences to the surface. Like the Transcendentalists, he becomes his thoughts. He becomes Vincent Van Gogh.
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  • Keith Michael
    January 1, 1970
    so great. such a rare and impassioned human being, van gogh. he was one of the last virtuous men. i listened to don mclean's song "vincent" after i read this and cried undignified blubbery tears; "the world was never meant for one as beautiful as you! why vincent, why!"Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don't know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can't do a thing’. The canvas ha so great. such a rare and impassioned human being, van gogh. he was one of the last virtuous men. i listened to don mclean's song "vincent" after i read this and cried undignified blubbery tears; "the world was never meant for one as beautiful as you! why vincent, why!"Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don't know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, ‘You can't do a thing’. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of `you can't' once and for all.
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  • Francis Coco
    January 1, 1970
    Once I house sat for a man I worked with while he was on vacation and as a thank you, he gave me a Cookie Jar with Van Gogh's Starry Night. At the time, I wasn't so crazy about Van Gogh because I felt his art was so commercialized - Starry Night seemed to be everywhere! But, a few years later I saw a Van Gogh piece in person and that changed everything. - - Brilliant. I just fell in love with Van Gogh. So, I read these letters and found them fascinating, even the mundane stuff about what supplie Once I house sat for a man I worked with while he was on vacation and as a thank you, he gave me a Cookie Jar with Van Gogh's Starry Night. At the time, I wasn't so crazy about Van Gogh because I felt his art was so commercialized - Starry Night seemed to be everywhere! But, a few years later I saw a Van Gogh piece in person and that changed everything. - - Brilliant. I just fell in love with Van Gogh. So, I read these letters and found them fascinating, even the mundane stuff about what supplies he needed and what he felt he could do or what he feared he could not do- Anyway, leaving this review makes me want to pull the book back out and read it again- I think I will...
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  • Bjørk Rúnadóttir
    January 1, 1970
    4.5
  • Aman Mittal
    January 1, 1970
    Admire as much as you can. Most people do not admire enough.I can't stop admiring his art work. Sometimes I just want to drown myself in them. Anyone familiar with the drawings and paintings Van Gogh produced will certainly observe that he just not created any beauty with his art work, but the beauty that would give people something to think about. During his short, intense life, one will discover that The Letters of Vincent van Gogh highlight many facets of his personality that are suggested by Admire as much as you can. Most people do not admire enough.I can't stop admiring his art work. Sometimes I just want to drown myself in them. Anyone familiar with the drawings and paintings Van Gogh produced will certainly observe that he just not created any beauty with his art work, but the beauty that would give people something to think about. During his short, intense life, one will discover that The Letters of Vincent van Gogh highlight many facets of his personality that are suggested by his work as a visual artist.These complete letters linked with brief passages of connecting narrative and showing all the pen-and-ink sketches provide both a unique self-portrait and a vivid picture of the contemporary cultural scene. Vincent van Gogh emerges as a complex but captivating personality, struggling with utter integrity to fulfil his artistic destiny. These letters illuminate his constant conflicts as a painter, torn between realism, symbolism and abstraction; between landscape and portraiture; between his desire to outline peasant life and the exciting diversions of the city though his work; between his uncanny versatility as a sketcher and his ideal of the full-scale finished paintings. Vincent van Gogh wrote at length to friends, fellow artists and his family, above all, to his brother Theo, the Parisian art dealer, who was his confidant. Theo van Gogh was the man who saved even the smallest scrap of paper. There were more than 600 letters he received from Vincent and it is possible due to him, that one can get a detailed insight on Vincent van Gogh. These letters are also a proof of the artistic bond that both the brothers shared. Another amazing aspect that these letters manifest is Vincent's writing eloquence, clarity of thought and ability to describe his art and other artists.While Vincent developed as an artist, he also learned to express his ideas more concisely and fundamentally with same telling effect that one can find in his sketches and drawings. His description of landscapes, people or situations are fascinating of their drawn comparisons.Literature was a big part of van Gogh's life. He, many a times in his letters, reveals his delight and admiration for the works of authors like Hans Christian Anderson, George Eliot, Zola, Charles Dickens, Goethe, and Victor Hugo. His love for written words, he not only shared with his brother but his family too in the early days of him becoming a painter.Van Gogh's life did not simply speed towards madness. After a youth full of false starts and disappointments, his decision to become an artist was unconditional. His sense of isolation found an equivalent of becoming a painter even when the madness was the price that he had to pay.We spent our whole lives in unconscious exercise of the art of expressing our thoughts with the help of words.
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  • lavinia
    January 1, 1970
    Van Gogh's letters are clearly the best way to know the artist, to understand his life, but not to get into his mind and understand his work. Throughout his life, van Gogh depended a lot on his brother Theo for financial support, and their letters are most of the time about lack of money. It's very interesting to read about the artists that he admired, and understand how he was influenced at first by Millet when he started painting peasants, potatoes, peasants and potatoes, and then by the frenc Van Gogh's letters are clearly the best way to know the artist, to understand his life, but not to get into his mind and understand his work. Throughout his life, van Gogh depended a lot on his brother Theo for financial support, and their letters are most of the time about lack of money. It's very interesting to read about the artists that he admired, and understand how he was influenced at first by Millet when he started painting peasants, potatoes, peasants and potatoes, and then by the french impressionists. It's a shame that from the two years while he lived in Paris, and was exposed for the first time to impressionists, there are very few letters because he was living with his brother at that time. I would have been curious to know how he shifted from the darker Dutch scenery to the vibrant colors of more contemporary French style. So for the artistic perspective, the book is not very rich, since you never actually get explanations for why he wanted to paint that way, or why he chose a specific scene.However, I really enjoyed the explaining notes inserted among the letters. These were highly useful for understanding context, knowing more about what was currently happening in van Gogh's life. The letters are also full of an abundance of cultural insights, I got to learn more about other painters, and even the more "gossiping" part, when he has the fights with Gauguin, how he cuts his ear, or how he describes his crisis, these are also captivating to read.Besides the historical value of the letters, they are still "good reads": from time to time, van Gogh would talk very philosophical about life in general, or he would give advices to his brother. He would often talk about love, saying how sacred it is, and he would talk a lot (in the first few years of correspondence) about religion, and God, and his beliefs. I don't know how deep these thoughts would seem if they weren't spoken by the great artist, but even simple as they are, of common sense, they feel like an intimate path towards van Gogh's soul, describing his sensitivity. Although I am sad that he never wrote about his paintings and what he felt when finishing them, these personal thoughts and advices to his brother were a way to allow us, so many years after his disappearance, to get a small glimpse of how van Gogh thought and felt about life.
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  • Jose
    January 1, 1970
    I'm smitten. It is impossible to think "Van Gogh" without being aware of the well-known irony of his elevation to the very highest altars of ART (and commerce) after a life cut short by despair and scarcity. In this letters Van Gogh makes his case. Vehemently, honestly and without much embellishments beyond their raw directness, he appeals to his patient brother Theo often for money but even more often for understanding. And even though he might have been difficult and stubborn, he makes all kin I'm smitten. It is impossible to think "Van Gogh" without being aware of the well-known irony of his elevation to the very highest altars of ART (and commerce) after a life cut short by despair and scarcity. In this letters Van Gogh makes his case. Vehemently, honestly and without much embellishments beyond their raw directness, he appeals to his patient brother Theo often for money but even more often for understanding. And even though he might have been difficult and stubborn, he makes all kinds of sense. Among the themes : His religious beliefs, badly shaken by the evidence of hypocrisy and abandonment; his loneliness and desperate "inopportune" love for his cousin Kee Vos and the need for female companionship; rows against his father , ex-employers and teachers as well as his admiration for them, often in the same paragraph. And of course his art as the hard-fought vehicle for all that faith and passion, his appreciation for beauty and his hard work to stay afloat. Incredibly touching and sincere, the story of Van Gogh would still be told were the letters to vanish but they certainly deliver us the artist as the genuine article. As his life as an artist evolves against all odds, VG starts to enter more and more into the "thinking" behind his "working" efforts. Some of the letters he addresses to artists (Bernard, Gaugin) are full of insights into what constitutes art and its meaning. He formulates a life long ambition of forming an artist colony of sorts. He delves into what is a subject worth painting (and what isn't, he was a harsh critic, an honest one), the influence of Millet a constant above all others but also the beauty of Japanese prints and the old Dutch masters. Van Gogh comes across as a very intelligent and aware artist able to follow the art and literary worlds despite his desperate plight. His search for authenticity and quality is relentless and may have been the final straw that rendered him depressed, sick and spent even when things were just starting to look rosier. One of the best books one can read about art just because it is honest to a fault and direct.
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  • Ted Prokash
    January 1, 1970
    Most of what I knew about Van Gogh, previous to reading his letters, was gleaned from the 1956 Kirk Douglas movie, Lust For Life, and the 1994 Lee Harvey Oswald Band song, Van Gogh and the Chemical Haze (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uwty...). Both fine offerings in their own right. This collection of correspondence is a deeper delving indeed.I have no legitimate understanding of the visual arts . . . but let's not turn this in to a litany of the things I don't understand, eh?! If you have an Most of what I knew about Van Gogh, previous to reading his letters, was gleaned from the 1956 Kirk Douglas movie, Lust For Life, and the 1994 Lee Harvey Oswald Band song, Van Gogh and the Chemical Haze (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uwty...). Both fine offerings in their own right. This collection of correspondence is a deeper delving indeed.I have no legitimate understanding of the visual arts . . . but let's not turn this in to a litany of the things I don't understand, eh?! If you have any artistic leanings whatsoever, Van Gogh is your patron saint. He comes across (in his own words, après tout) as almost entirely noble and sympathetic. Neurotic, yes, but doggedly dedicated. You have to work your way through some tedious religious paeans early on here, but then every book worth its salt tests the reader's patience. Things really get fascinating when Vincent decides to devote himself to art. The specter of failure and futility looms over everything poor Vince does, but the man never gives up. Even with his poor health, poverty, an indifferent public and seemingly God and family lined up against him, this beautiful, gaunt little Dutchman soldiers on. To a man who's played in the same hopeless failure of a rock band for 20 years, and publishes 100,000-word novels on Amazon, Van Gogh's example is mana. It is terribly sad to follow Vincent's slide into madness, all the more so because he is fully aware it is happening. It would seem some consolation that he did begin to earn the respect of his peers and critics alike before his death. True to his character, however, Vincent thought it all rather embarrassing, and himself, wholly unworthy. In summary; I'm a fan-boy for life. Van Gogh's exhaustive studies of his own prosaic environs have me lingering on the familiar view of cold, Lake Michigan, et al, a little bit longer - looking at the world with a new curiosity. That's something, alright.
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  • Maan Kawas
    January 1, 1970
    A great book that contains a great selection of Vincent Van Gogh’s letters, basically to his brother Theo, which are revealing and provide better understanding of this great artist’s ideas and life! The letters look like a work of literature, and tell a lot about the different circumstances and challenges in Van Gogh’s life. The letters included many painful and sad experiences in his life that left my eyes wet, such as his unrequited love, threats from his father (guardianship), his illness, th A great book that contains a great selection of Vincent Van Gogh’s letters, basically to his brother Theo, which are revealing and provide better understanding of this great artist’s ideas and life! The letters look like a work of literature, and tell a lot about the different circumstances and challenges in Van Gogh’s life. The letters included many painful and sad experiences in his life that left my eyes wet, such as his unrequited love, threats from his father (guardianship), his illness, the suicide attempt, etc. Moreover, they allowed me to understand the contexts of many of his wonderful paintings, such as the “Potato Eaters”, “the Night Café”, and the “Almond blossoms”. After the completion of the book, I appreciate more the artist as well as the man, who was a very sensitive sympathetic loving person, who suffered a lot, and was lonely, misunderstood, and met with harsh criticism and hardship. I found his relationship with his dearest brother Theo, and the support Theo provided to Vincent throughout his life wonderful and somehow unique. Finally, I also loved Van Gogh’s passion for reading and taste of books, which shows a refined and a well-educated man.
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  • Chris Lugo
    January 1, 1970
    This is literally the best book describing the experience of being an artist that I have ever read. Not only was Van Gogh a profound and deeply symbolic painter, he was also an excellent writer who understood how to use words in the same fashion that he used paint in order to express his profound pathos and admiration of the natural world. A true artist is someone who not only observes the beauty of nature but also lives it within their experience. Van Gogh was an example of the artist as experi This is literally the best book describing the experience of being an artist that I have ever read. Not only was Van Gogh a profound and deeply symbolic painter, he was also an excellent writer who understood how to use words in the same fashion that he used paint in order to express his profound pathos and admiration of the natural world. A true artist is someone who not only observes the beauty of nature but also lives it within their experience. Van Gogh was an example of the artist as experience, and his letters mainly to his brother Theo capture the essence of his soul and love of art. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a better understanding into the mind of an artist.
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    Next to An American Master: De kooning, this is my favorite book about(by) an artist. There are so few actual written documents left from any artist, and van Gogh was as good a writer as he was a painter. His relationship and love for his brother Theo is amazing. He is one of the few master's we can really understand because of his beautiful correspondence with Theo. I have read these letters over and over.
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  • Cristina Chițu
    January 1, 1970
    Do go on doing a lot of walking & keep up your love of nature, for that is the right way to understand art better & better. Painters understand nature & love her & teach us to see. It is good to love as many things as one can, for therein lies true strength, and those who love much, do much and accomplish much, and whatever is done in love is done well.And not being too troubled by our weaknesses, for even he who has none, has one weakness, namely that he has none, and anyone who Do go on doing a lot of walking & keep up your love of nature, for that is the right way to understand art better & better. Painters understand nature & love her & teach us to see. It is good to love as many things as one can, for therein lies true strength, and those who love much, do much and accomplish much, and whatever is done in love is done well.And not being too troubled by our weaknesses, for even he who has none, has one weakness, namely that he has none, and anyone who believes himself to be consummately wise would do well to be foolish all over again. There may be a great fire in your soul, but no one ever comes to warm himself by it, all that passers-by can see is a little smoke coming out of the chimney and they walk on.To which De Bock retorted, 'Mr Destrée, which is easier, painting a panorama or refusing to paint one? Which is more artistic, doing it or not doing it?' What am I in the eyes of most people? A nonentity or an oddity or a disagreeable person - someone who has and will have no position in society, in short a little lower than the lowest. Very well - assuming that everything is indeed like that, then through my work I’d like to show what there is in the heart of such an oddity, such a nobody. A lucky dog who complains — without reason!And they call me ‘the melancholy one’ and I ask you to congratulate me on a no, nay, never.And get very angry if people tell me that it’s dangerous to sail at sea and remark that one might drown; I don’t get angry because I think they’re wrong in saying so, but because they seem to forget that 'there is safety in the very heart of danger’.defended his worship of 'the love which they, theologians, call sin'So don't study or swot too much, for that makes one sterile. Enjoy yourself too much rather than too little, and don't take art or love too seriously.Anyway, it's not a bad idea for you to become an artist, for when one has fire within and a soul, one cannot keep bottling them up-better to burn than to burst, what is in will out. But what I wanted to say is this: after the period of melancholy is over you will be stronger than before, you will recover your health, and you will find the scenery round you so beautiful that you will want to do nothing but paint.'an artist greater than all other artists, scorning marble and clay and paint, working in the living flesh.' The painter's role (...) was that of a monk who goes to the brothel every two weeks. practice on this ungrateful planet where 'love of art drives out true love'Theo continued to worry about the repercussions of Vincent's frenetic activity: 'I am always frightened when you work like one possessed, for that is a bound to sap your strength.' But Vincent had no choice, for as he later told Wil, 'It is only when I stand painting before my easel that I feel in any way alive.'it is really quite true that a painter, as a human being, is too absorbed in what his eyes see to have enough grasp on other things in his life.For me, life may well continue in solitude. I have never perceived those to whom I have been most attached other than as through glass, darkly. Well, I have risked my life for my work, and it has cost me half of my reason-all right.Bernhard described to Aurier how the coffin had been covered with yellow flowers, 'his favorite color(...) a symbol of the light of which he dreamed both in his heart and in his work. Close by, too, his easel, his camp stool and his brushes had been placed on the ground beside the coffin.'
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