The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh

Front Cover
Penguin Books Limited, 1997 - Art - 560 pages
2 Reviews
Most unusually among major painters, Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) was also an accomplished writer. His letters provide both a unique self-portrait and a vivid picture of the contemporary cultural scene. Van Gogh emerges as a complex but captivating personality, struggling with utter integrity to fulfil his artistic destiny. This major new edition, which is based on an entirely new translation, reinstating a large number of passages omitted from earlier editions, is expressly designed to reveal his inner journey as much as the outward facts of his life. It includes complete letters wherever possible, linked with brief passages of connecting narrative and showing all the pen-and-ink sketches that originally went with them. Despite the familiar image of Van Gogh as an antisocial madman who died a martyr to his art, his troubled life was rich in friendships and generous passions. In his letters we discover the humanitarian and religious causes he embraced, his fascination with the French Revolution, his striving for God and for ethical ideals, his desperate courtship of his cousin, Kee Vos, and his largely unsuccessful search for love. All of this, suggests De Leeuw, demolishes some of the myths surrounding Van Gogh and his career but brings hint before us as a flesh-and-blood human being, an individual of immense pathos and spiritual depth. Perhaps even more moving, these letters illuminate his constant conflicts as a painter, torn between realism, symbolism and abstraction; between landscape and portraiture; between his desire to depict peasant life and the exciting diversions of the city; between his uncanny versatility as a sketcher and his ideal of the full-scale finished tableau. SinceVan Gogh received little feedback from the public, he wrote at length to friends, fellow artists and his family, above all to his brother Theo, the Parisian art dealer, who was his confidant and mainstay. Along with his intense powers of visual imagination, Vincent brought to the

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User Review  - MSarki - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

The letters of Vincent van Gogh

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This popular edition of selected Van Gogh letters is based on the expanded four-volume Dutch edition De Brieven van Vincent van Gogh (Van Gogh Museum and SDU, 1990). The translations read smoothly and ... Read full review

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About the author (1997)

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was born in Holland. He became an assistant with an international firm of art-dealers and in 1881 he went to Brussels to study art. After an unsuccessful love affair with his cousin he returned to Holland and in 1885 he painted his first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters, a haunting scene of domestic poverty. A year later his brother Theo, an art dealer, enabled him to study 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 Proven al landscape at Arles, the subject of many of his best works, including "Sunflowers" and "The Chair and the Pipe." It was here Van Gogh cut off his ear, in remorse for threatening Gauguin with a razor during a quarrel, and he was placed in an asylum for a year. On July 7, 1890 Van Gogh shot himself at the scene of his last painting, the foreboding "Cornfields with Flight of Birds," and he died two days later.

Ronald de Leeuw has been the director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam since 1986. He trained as an art historian at the universities of Los Angeles, California, and of Leiden, The Netherlands. As a specialist in nineteenth-century painting, he has been responsible for numerous exhibitions in The Netherlands and abroad, including the 1990 Vincent Van Gogh Centennial retrospective in Amsterdam. Since 1990 Ronald de Leeuw has also directed the Museum Mesdag in The Hague, known for its fine Barbizon and Hague School holdings. In 1994 he was appointed professor extraordinary in the history of collecting at the Free University of Amsterdam.

Arnold Pomerans was born in 1920 and was educated in South Africa. He emigrated to England in 1948, and from 1948 to 1955 taught physics in London. In 1955 he became a full-time translator and has had just under two hundred major works issued by leading British and US publishers. Among the authors translated by him are Louis de Broglie, Anne Frank, Sigmund Freud, George Grosz, Jan Huizinga, Jean Piaget and Jules Romain.

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