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Letters of Vincent Van Gogh

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  28,723 ratings  ·  158 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 entire ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 1st 1997 by Touchstone Books (first published 1963)
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Kalliope



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
...more
Francisco
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 ...more
M. Sarki
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 ...more
Matt
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 ...more
MarkoGilmore
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.
Gregory Hunt
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 ...more
S.J. Pettersson
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 ...more
Jason
if i had to choose just 2 books on a desert island it would be the bible and van gogh's letters!
Jose
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 ...more
Taymara Jagmohan
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
...more
Tammy Marie Jacintho
A more moving account of brotherhood is hard to find.

If Vincent's brother, Theo, felt overwhelmed or prostrate at times under the burden of Vincent’s need for financial support, affection, and encouragement, we do not see it. Thus, Theo fulfills the role of Muse--and brings Vincent to discover his potential as an artist.

This is my second reading, and I believe ten years separate my two experiences. My first experience brought me many epiphanies about the role of the artist in society, and it tau
...more
Keith Michael
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
...more
Chris Lugo
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 ...more
Aman Mittal
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
...more
Jill
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.
Madhav
This is literally the best book describing the experience of an artist.What I enjoyed most about his letter are his humanity & joy for life.
Maan Kawas
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 ...more
S,
I don't tend to read biographies, because they usually study the people like subjects, like examples of historical pieces that just happened. I might find them enjoyable to read, but in the end, I always feel disappointed about not being able to know the people I've read so much about. So I tend to leave biographies unread.

But this was no ordinary biography.

For the first time, I felt I actually got to know the subject person on a personal level. I was not only reading descriptions of van Gogh's
...more
Gregory
I like everything about this book, only about half way I am reading this at the same time as the: The Mustard Seed and Aquinas Summa some how they all relate in very interesting way. Creativity in understanding or art runs along the same lines as a spiritual quest of life. All three authors display cogent concepts towards understanding and enjoying the hidden joys of life.

I am amazed at Van Gogh's writing eloquence, clarity of thought and ability to describe his art and other artists. However, w
...more
Ashy
I really loved this book, which is made up of letters that Vincent wrote to his brother Theo. As his brother is an art dealer and also supports Vincent financially, they discuss art in detail (his own and that of others who are contemporary or who have inspired him) as well as literature of the time. It is such a privilege to read a book in someone's own voice, it is like meeting them and talking to them directly through over a century of time! I enjoyed his ruminations on what makes good art, h ...more
Arti
While reading van Gogh’s letters is a fascinating journey into the mind of the artist, it is also poignantly heartbreaking. This is an abridged version of van Gogh’s letters, almost all written to his brother Theo from the various places he had stayed from 1872-1890, Holland, Belgium, England and France.

A few decades separate his life from Hemingway’s, but I think he too had his “moveable feast”. To the painter, it’s not Paris, but the open country of southern France, in particular, Arles and St
...more
Jeffrey
Such visions of beauty always impress me thus: as indecipherable equations whose symbolic properties have grown so absurd, so abstract and unreal their significance has transcended all human comprehension. They leave me cold, lonely, scornful, an inhuman taste like lead in my mouth. All too often it seems we are eager to digest the popular ideals of the day – ideals such as Sex, Peace, God, Love, Money, Race, Country, Etc. It’s as if our human evolution has reached a state of advancement so far ...more
lavinia
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 ...more
Nicola
Beautiful writing: vivid, idealized, with flourish here and there. Taught me more about the disciplined artist than the moody one; there was a real sense of a trajectory from the "idle," restless man to the focused, starving (money spent more on models, paints, and canvasses than bread) artist. Intriguing elisions. I became more and more interested by the silence and possibilities of Theo's letters--what rejoinders, mental (beyond the pecuniary) support, hopes, sadnesses, etc. Theo might have fe ...more
Dvora
Although there are only a very few letters included, considering how many he wrote that survive, still it is a good compilation. I liked the book very much mostly because of its subject. When I went to Arles a few years ago, it was the avenue and its trees in the Alyscamps that I photographed. I wasn't so much interested in the ancient tombs. But that avenue in the fall (I was there in October) with some yellow leaves on the trees, the rest having fallen, was so beautiful. It was later, when I s ...more
Jillian
this isn't my usual type of reading, but i happened upon this when i was back visiting S&S recently and snatched it off the free book shelf.
for anyone interested in art or art history, this is definitely worth a read. van gogh was a really intelligent, contemplative, and at times cranky guy; he was definitely not crazy, just someone who, sadly, was incredibly talented but got hit with an extremely severe mental illness. it's actually pretty heartbreaking to read the story of his life at the
...more
Rosa Ramôa
"Se você ouve uma voz dentro de si dizer ‘você não pode pintar’, então pinte sem dúvida, e essa voz será silenciada".
(Vincent Van Gogh)
Mamta Agarwal
Extremely honest, great insight into his own life and world of art, artists
Anna
Винсент Ван Гог всегда являлся для меня потрясающим художником с уникальным и узнаваемо-самобытным стилем. Я училась в художке, закончила арх вуз, и эта нидерландская фигура в истории мировой живописи никогда не была для меня тайной. Его краткую или полную биографию и список самых известных картин обязаны были знать все выпускники. Но только вот никакое изложение биографии другим человеком не способно рассказать о душе и характера Ван Гога лучше, чем его собственное эпистолярное наследие, изложе ...more
Basma Amin
Again letters, don't know how to rate them... I found this rather interesting, a bit boring when he gets into details about art dealers and his friends and which canvases he sold; because I have no clue which canvases he was talking about (the names are mentioned but not the images), nor about the exchanges going on. Something I think that would've been useful for this book, is that Mark -the editor- should've included the drawings that Vincent Van Gogh was talking about after each letter. The b ...more
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