Van Gogh’s Letters: He Didn’t Always ‘Burst Forth’ With Emotion

Ahh. Starry Night will always be my favorite. And maybe the Yellow House too — both the painting and the book. If you haven’t read “The Yellow House” which is about Van Gogh’s and Gauguin’s nine months in Arles together, it’s an easy read and a gem!

But the “breaking” news is that Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum is out with a compendium of Van Gogh’s letters. Chock full of illuminating thoughts on his life, the letters are surely to entice Hollywood into a movie, right?

Shedding new light on the Arles painter:

In Lust for Life, Van Gogh is presented as writing his letters as a highly-strung personality, slapping his words onto paper in great emotion. This did happen, but only occasionally, usually when it involved a family row. In contrast, reading through the 2,180 pages of the new edition of the letters shows that the artist was highly focused. True, he was an obsessive in one sense, in his dedication to developing as an artist, but the letters are usually carefully (and sometimes beautifully) written, normally with a clear purpose in mind. 

The Letters also reminds us that Van Gogh approached his painting in a similar fashion. He did not throw his paint on the canvas in a burst of emotion, but considered carefully the effects he was striving to achieve. This comes through clearly in the stream of comments that he made to his brother Theo and his artist friends, in describing the pictures he was completing.


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