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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  23,716 ratings  ·  166 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, 560 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Penguin Classics (first published 1963)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Louisa
Sep 30, 2014 Louisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Oh Vincent, how I love thee.
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
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
Kelly
a treasure. a brilliant mind. a brilliant heartfelt man. big big hero. any weird pop cultural idea you have of this man will be dispelled when you pick up the first volume of his letters. he is smarter and more sensitive than you. and more Calvanistically driven to achieve his vision. his sister politely called him tedious.

half way through volume one i had to put it down, as his small shifts towards mental illness was too close to the hardship of my own brother to read on with. too hard to see...more
Jason
if i had to choose just 2 books on a desert island it would be the bible and van gogh's letters!
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
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
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
Monica
I am reading Van Gogh's letters for the first time and I find that although this paperback version of a coffee table book seems voluminous, it is actually very readable and digestible.

Van Gogh wrote more than 700 letters to his brother and friends so going through them all may be a bit difficult for a beginner like me. This volume extracts the more important and interesting letters and organises them according to major phases of his creative output including:

1) the earlier years (his 20s) when...more
mazal bohbot berrie
After more than 1,500 pages of Vincent van Gogh's letters, most of them addressed to his younger brother, Theo, a reader is exhausted by the struggles, arguments, and ultimate suicide of the creator of some of the most coveted paintings on earth, and yet elated by the triumph of art and family devotion over constant sorrow.

However depressing the life of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), his struggle is continually redeemed by lucid, analytical observations on art and artists as disparate as his blac...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
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.
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
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
강남건마
Oct 20, 2014 강남건마 rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: "강남건마 www.anma2014.com"
Recommended to 강남건마 by: "강남건마 www.anma2014.com"
[어떤 초대장] ㅡ서쪽으로부터 온 소식


휘이이이이이잉!

황토빛 바람이 거칠게 몸을 때리고 시계는 한 치 앞도 보이지 않을 만큼 어두웠다.
서쪽으로부터 불어온 뿌연 황사바람 탓이었다. 메마른 사막에서 일어난 황사는 바람을
타고 대륙을 가로지르며 오색찬란한 봄빛을 자신의 색깔로 물들이고 있었다.

"쳇. 빌어먹을 똥색 바람, 눈이 다 맵네그려."

보초를 서고 있던 청성파 출신 강상원의 입에서 자연스레 욕지기가 튀어나왔다.

"올해는 유난이군. 작년에도 "강남건마 www.anma2014.com " 이 정도는 아니었던 것 같은데."

함께 보초를 서던 해남파의 정하"강남건마 www.anma2014.com "군이 맞장구치며 대답했다. 두 사람의 입에는 지금
모두 먼지막이용 두건이 씌워져 있었다. 그러나 멀쩡히 드러난 두 눈이 이 황사바람에
괴롭힘 당하는 것까지는 피할 길이 없었다. 비록 둘 다 명문정파 출신이긴 했지만
여기서는 그다지 큰 간판이 되지 못했다. 왜냐하면 여기서 그런 건 그저 기본 중...more
Skyelis Tyler
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.
Patsy Parker
I just remembered that I have read this! It was very good. It was amazing to be able to read how Van Gogh thought and learn about the relationship he had with his brother Theo. It is sad that Van Gogh never was able to get help, though.
Georgia Barker
A beautiful insight into Vincent's mind. His letters to his brother where so loving, some of them short, but all showed how much beauty he saw in natural world that was so kind to him while the human world was so cruel.
Bpatoosk
Absolutely excellent. Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is that from page one you know the words are penned by a man who goes insane, chops off his own ear and shoots himself - which means there is never the temptation to take his words as immutable and inspired truth, and instead one comes alongside him as a fellow fallible sojourner. I smiled as I read him contradict himself from one letter to the next, and scribbled star after star at his early years letters when he pens his doubt, hi...more
Hassan Shehawy
Those letters are just amazingly BEAUTIFUL!
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Goodreads Italia: Lettere - Vincent van Gogh 4 32 Oct 25, 2013 08:29AM  
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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...
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“To suffer without complaint is the only lesson we have to learn in this life” 95 likes
“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.” 63 likes
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