Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Letters of Vincent van Gogh” as Want to Read:
The Letters of Vincent van Gogh
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  36,668 Ratings  ·  201 Reviews
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
Paperback, 509 pages
Published July 31st 1997 by Penguin Classics (first published 1963)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

The Shock of the New by Robert HughesThe Story of Art by E.H. GombrichThe Letters of Vincent van Gogh by Vincent Van GoghThe Judgment of Paris by Ross KingThe Power of Art by Simon Schama
Best Art and Art History Books
3rd out of 236 books — 192 voters
The Letters of Vincent van Gogh by Vincent Van GoghAndy Goldsworthy by Andy GoldsworthyGoya by Fred LichtConcerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily KandinskyChagall by Jacob Baal-Teshuva
Best Art Books
1st out of 116 books — 53 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 06, 2015 Kalliope rated it it was amazing


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
Luís Blue Coltrane
"[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."

Feb 03, 2015 Francisco rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 06, 2015 M. Sarki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-wonders
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
Jun 17, 2007 Matt rated it liked it
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
Gregory Hunt
Dec 30, 2010 Gregory Hunt rated it liked it
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
May 09, 2013 S.J. Pettersson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: worn-spines
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
Nov 13, 2014 MarkoGilmore rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.
lauren kellie
"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."
Jul 16, 2010 Jason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
if i had to choose just 2 books on a desert island it would be the bible and van gogh's letters!
Tammy Marie Jacintho
Aug 24, 2016 Tammy Marie Jacintho rated it really liked it
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
Dec 18, 2014 Jose rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 08, 2012 Taymara Jagmohan rated it it was amazing
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
Keith Michael
Dec 13, 2010 Keith Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommendations
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
Sofi Mdivnishvili
Jun 24, 2016 Sofi Mdivnishvili rated it really liked it
,,უმეტესობის თვალში აბა, რას წარმოვადგენ? ნული ვარ მხოლოდ, ახირებული, უსიამოვნო ადამიანი, საზოგადოებაში რომ ვერც ახლა და ვერც მომავალში მდგომარეობას ვერ მოიპოვებს, ერთი სიტყვით - არარაობა, არარათა შორის არარა. რა გაეწყობა, ვთქვათ, ასეა ყველაფერი. მე მინდა, რომ ჩემი ნაშრომით ყველას ვაჩვენო, რა აქვს გულში ამ ახირებულ ადამიანს, ამ არარას!"
May 01, 2008 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aman Mittal
Jan 26, 2015 Aman Mittal rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 20, 2012 lavinia rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-culture, history
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
Chris Lugo
Jul 09, 2009 Chris Lugo rated it it was amazing
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
Ted Prokash
Sep 06, 2016 Ted Prokash rated it it was amazing
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 ( 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
Skyelis Tyler
May 05, 2009 Skyelis Tyler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: letters
inspiring and so life-affirming. stunning prose, too.
reading this was almost religious when, after a bout of angst and depression, chris loaned it to me as though it were medicine. it was.
i gotta give this (great edition) back to chris! gotta get my own copy!
this will become one of my little bibles.
Mar 08, 2014 Madhav rated it really liked it
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.
Thomas Vincent
Jan 11, 2016 Thomas Vincent rated it it was amazing
Here's five more stars for your starry night, Vincent.

I find it astounding that someone would, in part, write such beautiful prose when the sole intended audience is their younger brother. Sure, a lot of these letters involve asking for money, an explaining his works (which I found interesting anyway) but I find it very odd that people are so disappointed by that, given that Van Gogh was writing these for practicality's sake, not for publication. In amongst the everyday discussions, where you ob
Maan Kawas
Dec 27, 2014 Maan Kawas rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 21, 2014 S, rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 24, 2012 Gregory rated it it was amazing
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
May 05, 2011 Ashy rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 31, 2011 Arti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Oct 27, 2012 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
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
Paolo Ciampi
Feb 17, 2013 Paolo Ciampi rated it it was amazing

Non lo conoscevo, Vincent Van Gogh. Conoscevo solo i suoi quadri, che forse non è la stessa cosa. Ma ora quante cose ho appreso su di lui, leggendo le sue lettere al fratello Theo. E quante sorprese, su pagine che pensavo solo di autocommiserazione e follia più o meno manifesta.

Quasi mi sembra di averlo incontrato nella vita, questo solitario alla perenne ricerca di amore e amicizia. La sua aria assorta, grave, segnata da pensieri come schegge appuntite.

E quasi mi semba di aver discusso con lui:
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Italia: Lettere - Vincent van Gogh 4 39 Oct 25, 2013 08:29AM  
  • Van Gogh: The Life
  • M.C. Escher: The Graphic Work
  • The Last Nude
  • Concerning the Spiritual in Art
  • Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature
  • Rembrandt, 1606-1669: The Mystery of the Revealed Form
  • On Photography
  • Art Through the Ages
  • History of Art
  • Good Faeries Bad Faeries
  • The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait
  • Color: A Natural History of the Palette
  • Drawing from Memory
  • The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales
  • The Lost Painting
  • Amphigorey (Amphigorey, #1)
  • Seven Days in the Art World
  • The King's Agent
Vincent Willem van Gogh, for whom color was the chief symbol of expression, was born in Groot-Zundert, Holland. The son of a pastor, brought up in a religious and cultured atmosphere, Vincent was highly emotional and lacked self-confidence. Between 1860 and 1880, when he finally decided to become an artist, van Gogh had had two unsuitable and unhappy romances and had worked unsuccessfully as a cle ...more
More about Vincent Van Gogh...

Share This Book

“There is peace even in the storm” 184 likes
“To suffer without complaint is the only lesson we have to learn in this life” 156 likes
More quotes…