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The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  74,958 ratings  ·  376 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, 528 pages
Published July 31st 1997 by Penguin Classics (first published 1914)
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Peter Dowson Absolutely! I`ve read it without any special "art" preparation and broaden my mind with a lot of new information in this field. And if you want to get…moreAbsolutely! I`ve read it without any special "art" preparation and broaden my mind with a lot of new information in this field. And if you want to get more knowledge about art, approach platform.

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Nov 04, 2012 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
Roy Lotz
For great things do not just happen by impulse but are a succession of small things linked together.

The main problem when encountering Van Gogh is that his life has become the quintessential artistic myth of our age. The obscure genius ahead of his time, toiling in solitude, tortured by personal demons, driven by a creativity that sometimes spilled over into madness—and so on. You’ve heard it all before. You have also seen it before. His paintings suffer from the same overexposure as does hi
Jan 27, 2015 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
E. G.
About This Edition
Translator's Note
Biographical Outline

--Early Letters
--Ramsgate and Isleworth
--The Borinage
--The Hague
--The Hague, Drenthe and Nuenen
--From Nuenen to Antwerp

Beautiful letters written by a beautiful soul and one of the most gifted artists of all time, in my humble opinion. 😊
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have had an interest in painting from my younger days. I never painted myself, nor could I draw or sketch, yet I was drawn into this branch of art. Perhaps it is because I had a poet's mind or perhaps it is because I'm a reader who learned to imagine and read between the lines. Whatever the reason is, I enjoyed viewing them and forming my own interpretations, even though my idea of the painting vastly contradicted the idea of its author. In my twenties, I read about the different periods of ar ...more
Ammara Abid
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is exceptional, thought-provoking, painstakingly beautiful and soulful. Not only literary letters but they encompassed whole life of a genius artist.
I absolutely love this book ♡
It's worth reading.

"What I find such a pleasant surprise about painting is that you can, with the same effect you put into a drawing, take something home with you that conveys the impression much better and is much more pleasing to look at. And at the same time more accurate, too. In a word, it is more rewardin
May 16, 2007 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
M. Sarki
Feb 09, 2012 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 recognitio
Lauren Kammerdiener
"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."
Lewis Weinstein
charming and poignant ... presents in his own words, mostly in letters to his brother, the struggles of one of the greatest artists ever ... who eventually took his own life while still a young man ... there are also numerous references to his paintings and the problems of painting

Some years ago my wife and I travelled through France to the major locations in Van Gogh's life, including his small tombstone in the tiny village of Auvers ... it was an emotional journey for us
Jun 09, 2010 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!
David Sarkies
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Mind of an Artist
31 March 2018 - Adelaide

Well, straight out I can say that this book isn’t the easiest of reads, namely because it is a collection of letters between Vincent and his brother Theo. It doesn’t contain all of the letters, namely because Vincent was quite a prolific, and very eloquent, letter writer, and Theo was one of those people that kept everything, which means that we literally have a copy of all of the letters that he sent Theo, as well as some that he sent to others (inc
Gregory Hunt
Dec 30, 2010 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
Mar 29, 2013 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
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art, biography
What a literary treasure to get a glimpse into personal life of the most beloved artist of all times. These letters, written to his brother and his confidant Theo, are full of realism, understanding and compassion towards human dejection, people’s misery, spirituality and religiosity, of love and admiration for nature, and art. A true artist and a wonderful observer of life.

I dream my painting and I paint my dream.

- What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unplea
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cajonera
The habit of reading whatever I feel like from the stack of books it keeps piling in my bedroom led me to these beautiful Letters of Vincent van Gogh.

I was not expecting much from them, maybe some insight into van Gogh depressive character or perhaps some everyday experiences from the time he lived, maybe getting a better idea of what it means to be an artist. Vincent, however, delivered much more than expected.

The letters are separated in periods of his life which coincide to where he was livin
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an incredible read. I read this to separate the myths from the truths and I figured the best way to do this was to get it from the man himself by reading his letters. Noting this Penguin edition includes a selection of his letters I read delphi complete works of Vincent Van Gogh illustrated which includes every letter, not realising it would be 2000, some weeks many letters would be written, and where they would be very long. Reading both editions in tandem made it doubtful that I would fi ...more
Patrick Sherriff
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
Great stuff. My reivew is here: ...more
Dec 07, 2010 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
Francis Coco
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Once I house sat for a man I worked with while he was on vacation and as a thank you, he gave me a Cookie Jar with Van Gogh's Starry Night. At the time, I wasn't so crazy about Van Gogh because I felt his art was so commercialized - Starry Night seemed to be everywhere! But, a few years later I saw a Van Gogh piece in person and that changed everything. - - Brilliant. I just fell in love with Van Gogh. So, I read these letters and found them fascinating, even the mundane stuff about what supplie ...more
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dear Sweet Vincent. I love him v much and he was truly a beautiful writer! Words, paint, art. I feel like I got to know him so much...I miss him! All heart. <3 ...more
Tejashree Murugan
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Stuff I liked:
“Art is jealous, she doesn’t like taking second place to an indisposition. Hence I shall humour her.”

“What am I in the eyes of most people - a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person - somebody who has no position in society and never will have, in short, the lowest of the low.
All right, then - even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.
That is my ambition, based less on resentmen
Marija Andreeva
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
So beautiful, so tender and intimate.
This is better than any biography of van Gogh that you could read.
It is so moving and in the same time so tender to watch how his mind-set changes and gets darker and more melancholic with time.
Nov 07, 2014 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
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have been devouring this book. A page-turner and an invaluable treasure of documents to learn about Vincent's most intimate thoughts and feelings.
Aman Mittal
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Tammy Marie Jacintho
Mar 28, 2010 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 13, 2012 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
Ted Prokash
Aug 18, 2016 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
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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

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