Vincent van Gogh
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- 1 Quotes of Vincent van Gogh
- 2 Quotes about Vincent van Gogh
- 3 Misattributed
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Quotes of Vincent van Gogh
- sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
Quotes, 1874 - 1880
- Find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful.
- (in Dutch:) Vindt maar mooi zooveel je kunt, de meesten vinden niet genoeg mooi.
- short quote from a letter to his brother Theo van Gogh, January 1874 
- Some time ago I saw a painting by Thijs Maris [= Matthijs Maris, one of the three brothers Maris, all three famous Dutch impressionist painters of the w:Hague School ] that reminded me of it. An old Dutch town with rows of brownish red houses with step-gables and tall flights of steps, grey roofs, and white or yellow doors, window-frames and cornices; canals with ships and a large white drawbridge, a barge with a man at the tiller going under it.. Some distance away a stone bridge over the canal, with people and a cart with white horses crossing it. And everywhere movement, a porter with his wheelbarrow, a man leaning against the railing, gazing into the water, women in black with white caps.. ..A greyish white sky over everything...
- quote from Vincent's Letter #031 to Theo van Gogh (London, 6 April 1875) 
- My dear Theo, Thanks for your letter of this morning. Yesterday I saw the Corot exhibition. It included a painting of the 'Mount of Olives'; I’m glad he painted that. On the right, a group of olive trees, dark against the darkening blue sky; in the background hills covered with shrubs and a couple of tall trees, above them the evening star.. .. I've also seen the Louvre and the Luxembourg, as you can imagine. The Ruisdaels in the Louvre are magnificent, especially 'The bush', 'The breakwater' and 'The ray of sunlight'. I wish you could see the small Rembrandts there, the 'Supper at Emmaus', and two pendants, 'The philosophers'.
- quote from his Letter #034 to Theo (Paris, 31 May 1875) 
- My dear Theo, Feeling, even a fine feeling, for the beauties of nature isn't the same as religious feeling, although I believe that the two are closely connected. The same is true of a feeling for art. Don't give in to that too much either. Hold fast especially to your love for the firm [of the Paris' art dealers Goupil, where both brothers worked - Vincent started in 1869 and Theo in 1873] and for your work.. ..Nearly everyone has a feeling for nature, some more than others, but there are few who feel that God is a spirit, and that they must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Pa is one of the few, Ma too, and also Uncle Vincent, I believe.
- quote from his Letter #049 to Theo on 'religious feeling' (Paris, 17 Sept. 1875) 
- You know what I want. If I may become a clergyman, if I fulfill that position so that my work is equal to that of our Father [who was a clergy-man], then I shall thank God. I have good hope that I shall succeed, it was once said to me by someone who was further on in life than I, and who was no stranger in Jerusalem:.. I believe that you are a Christian, you see, it was so good for me to hear those words.. ..It is good to believe that there is a God who knows what we need, better than we know it ourselves, and who helps us when we need help. It is also good to believe that, just as in the olden days, now, too, an angel is not far from those who feel godly sorrow.. ..I've carefully read the story of Elijah so often, and so often has it given me strength up to now: [Vincent then quotes 1 Kings 19:3-15, leaving out all but the beginning of verses 14 and 15]
- quote from his Letter #0118 to Theo (Amsterdam, 31 May 1877) 
- We walked along Buitenkant and there by the sand works at the Oosterspoor [former train-station in Amsterdam], I can' tell you how beautiful it was there in the twilight. Rembrandt, Michel, [French Barbizon painter] and others have painted it, the ground dark, the sky still lit by the glow of the sun, already gone down, the row of houses and towers standing out above, the lights in the windows everywhere, everything reflected in the water. And the people and carriages like small black figures everywhere. Like one sometimes sees in a Rembrandt. And it put us in such a mood that we began talking about all sorts of things.
- original Dutch text: Wij wandelden aan den Buitenkant [Prins Hendrikkade] & daar aan die zandwerken aan de Oosterspoor (voormalig treinstation in Amsterdam), kan U niet zeggen hoe schoon het daar was in de schemering. Rembrandt, Michel (Franse Barbizon schilder) en anderen hebben het wel geschilderd, de grond donker, de lucht nog verlicht door den gloed van de ondergegane zon, de rei huizen en torens er boven uit, de lichten overal in de vensters, alles weerkaatsende in het water. En de menschen en rijtuigen als kleine zwarte figuurtjes overal. Zooals men dat op een Rembrandt soms ziet. En het stemde ons zoo dat wij over allerlei begonnen te spreken.
- quote from Vincent's Letter #119 to Theo (Amsterdam, Monday, 4 and Tuesday, 5 June 1877) 
- Vincent was walking with his uncle, clergyman in Amsterdam
- Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney and then go on their way.
- Letter no. 155(?) (June 1880), published in the online version of  "Vincent van Gogh – The Letters; The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition"]. Retrieved 29 July 2014
- Variants: One may have a blazing hearth in one's soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way.
- There may be a great fire in our hearts, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke.
- First and foremost, the masterly etching, 'The bush', by Daubigny/Ruisdael. [= Daubigny's etching 'The bush', he made after Jacob van Ruisdael ].. ..I plan to do two drawings, either in sepia or something else, one of them after this etching [by Daubigny] — the other [etching, made] after T. Rousseau's 'The oven in Les Landes'. This latter sepia is already done — it's true — but if you compare it with Daubigny's etching, you'll understand that it becomes weak, even though the sepia drawing considered on its own may very well have a certain tone and sentiment. I have to go back to it and work on it again.. ..I couldn't tell you how happy I feel to have taken up drawing again. It had already been on my mind for a long time, but I always saw the thing as impossible and beyond my reach.
- I felt my energy revive, and said to myself, In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing. From that moment everything has seemed transformed for me.
- Letter #158 to Theo (24 September 1880)
- Variant translation: "I felt my energy revive and I said to myself, I shall get over it somehow, I shall set to work again with my pencil, which I had cast aside in my deep dejection, and I shall draw again, and from that moment I have had the feeling that everything has changed for me"
Letter to Theo (July 1880)
- I have often neglected my appearance. I admit it, and I also admit that it is "shocking." But look here, lack of money and poverty have something to do with it too, as well as a profound disillusionment, and besides, it is sometimes a good way of ensuring the solitude you need, of concentrating more or less on whatever study you are immersed in.
- Now for the past five years or so, I don't know how long exactly, I have been more or less without permanent employment, wandering from pillar to post. You will say, ever since such and such a time you have been going downhill, you have been feeble, you have done nothing. Is that entirely true?
- What is true is that I have at times earned my own crust of bread, and at other times a friend has given it to me out of the goodness of his heart. I have lived whatever way I could, for better or for worse, taking things just as they came. It is true that I have forfeited the trust of various people, it is true that my financial affairs are in a sorry state, it is true that the future looks rather bleak, it is true that I might have done better, it is true that I have wasted time when it comes to earning a living, it is true that my studies are in a fairly lamentable and appalling state, and that my needs are greater, infinitely greater than my resources. But does that mean going downhill and doing nothing?
- I must continue to follow the path I take now. If I do nothing, if I study nothing, if I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it — keep going, keep going come what may.
But what is your final goal, you may ask. That goal will become clearer, will emerge slowly but surely, much as the rough draught turns into a sketch, and the sketch into a painting through the serious work done on it, through the elaboration of the original vague idea and through the consolidation of the first fleeting and passing thought.
- What has changed is that my life then was less difficult and my future seemingly less gloomy, but as far as my inner self, my way of looking at things and of thinking is concerned, that has not changed. But if there has indeed been a change, then it is that I think, believe and love more seriously now what I thought, believed and loved even then.
- Let me stop there, but my God, how beautiful Shakespeare is, who else is as mysterious as he is; his language and method are like a brush trembling with excitement and ecstasy. But one must learn to read, just as one must learn to see and learn to live.
- So please don't think that I am renouncing anything, I am reasonably faithful in my unfaithfulness and though I have changed, I am the same, and what preys on my mind is simply this one question: what am I good for, could I not be of service or use in some way, how can I become more knowledgeable and study some subject or other in depth? That is what keeps preying on my mind, you see, and then one feels imprisoned by poverty, barred from taking part in this or that project and all sorts of necessities are out of one's reach. As a result one cannot rid oneself of melancholy, one feels emptiness where there might have been friendship and sublime and genuine affection, and one feels dreadful disappointment gnawing at one's spiritual energy, fate seems to stand in the way of affection or one feels a wave of disgust welling up inside. And then one says “How long, my God!”
- Well, right now it seems that things are going very badly for me, have been doing so for some considerable time, and may continue to do so well into the future. But it is possible that everything will get better after it has all seemed to go wrong. I am not counting on it, it may never happen, but if there should be a change for the better I should regard that as a gain, I should rejoice, I should say, at last! So there was something after all!
- I think that everything that is really good and beautiful, the inner, moral, spiritual and sublime beauty in men and their works, comes from God, and everything that is bad and evil in the works of men and in men is not from God, and God does not approve of it.
But I cannot help thinking that the best way of knowing God is to love many things. Love this friend, this person, this thing, whatever you like, and you will be on the right road to understanding Him better, that is what I keep telling myself. But you must love with a sublime, genuine, profound sympathy, with devotion, with intelligence, and you must try all the time to understand Him more, better and yet more. That will lead to God, that will lead to an unshakeable faith.
- Try to grasp the essence of what the great artists, the serious masters, say in their masterpieces, and you will again find God in them. One man has written or said it in a book, another in a painting.
- The dreamer sometimes falls into the doldrums, but is said to emerge from them again. And the absent-minded person also makes up for it with bouts of perspicacity. Sometimes he is a person whose right to exist has a justification that is not always immediately obvious to you, or more usually, you may absent-mindedly allow it to slip from your mind. Someone who has been wandering about for a long time, tossed to and fro on a stormy sea, will in the end reach his destination. Someone who has seemed to be good for nothing, unable to fill any job, any appointment, will find one in the end and, energetic and capable, will prove himself quite different from what he seemed at first.
- There is a great difference between one idler and another idler. There is someone who is an idler out of laziness and lack of character, owing to the baseness of his nature. If you like, you may take me for one of those. Then there is the other kind of idler, the idler despite himself, who is inwardly consumed by a great longing for action who does nothing because his hands are tied, because he is, so to speak, imprisoned somewhere, because he lacks what he needs to be productive, because disastrous circumstances have brought him forcibly to this end. Such a one does not always know what he can do, but he nevertheless instinctively feels, I am good for something! My existence is not without reason! I know that I could be a quite a different person! How can I be of use, how can I be of service? There is something inside me, but what can it be? He is quite another idler. If you like you may take me for one of those.
- People are often unable to do anything, imprisoned as they are in I don't know what kind of terrible, terrible, oh such terrible cage.
I do know that there is a release, the belated release. A justly or unjustly ruined reputation, poverty, disastrous circumstances, misfortune, they all turn you into a prisoner. You cannot always tell what keeps you confined, what immures you, what seems to bury you, and yet you can feel those elusive bars, railings, walls. Is all this illusion, imagination? I don't think so. And then one asks: My God! will it be for long, will it be for ever, will it be for eternity?
- Do you know what makes the prison disappear? Every deep, genuine affection. Being friends, being brothers, loving, that is what opens the prison, with supreme power, by some magic force. Without these one stays dead. But whenever affection is revived, there life revives.
Quotes, 1881 - 1885
- Whenever I tell Pa anything, it's all just idle talk to him, and certainly no less so to Ma, and I also find Pa and Ma’s sermons and ideas about God, people, morality, virtue, almost complete nonsense. I also read the Bible sometimes, just as I sometimes read Michelet or Balzac or Eliot, but I see completely different things in the Bible than Pa sees, and I can't agree at all with what Pa makes of it in his petty, academic way.
- original Dutch: Als ik 't een of ander vertel aan Pa dan is het als een ijdele klank voor hem en voor Moe zeker niet minder en eveneens vind ik de preeken en begrippen van Pa en Moe omtrent God, menschen, zedelijkheid, deugd, zoo goed als al te maal laria. Ik lees ook wel eens in den Bijbel, net zoo goed als ik soms in Michelet of Balzac lees of Eliott, doch in den Bijbel zie ik weer heel andere dingen dan Pa en 't geen Pa er uithaalt volgens een akademisch maniertje dat kan ik er volstrekt niet in vinden.
- Letter to Theo Van Gogh, written December 1881, 
- That God of the clergymen, He is for me as dead as a doornail. But am I an atheist for all that? The clergymen consider me as such — be it so; but I love, and how could I feel love if I did not live, and if others did not live, and then, if we live, there is something mysterious in that. Now call that God, or human nature or whatever you like, but there is something which I cannot define systematically, though it is very much alive and very real, and see, that is God, or as good as God. To believe in God for me is to feel that there is a God, not a dead one, or a stuffed one, but a living one, who with irresistible force urges us toward aimer encore; that is my opinion.
- In his letter to Theo, c. 21 December 1881, Letter #164, as translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, as published in The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1991) edited by Robert Harrison]
- At the moment I quite often go to draw with Breitner [in the streets of The Hague], a young painter who's acquainted with Rochussen as I am with Mauve. He draws very skilfully and very differently from me, and we often draw types together in the soup kitchen or the waiting room &c. He sometimes comes to my studio to look at woodcuts, and I go to see the ones he has as well.
- In his letter to his brother Theo, The Hague, Monday, 13 February 1882, , from the original letter; location and translation: Van Gogh museum, Amsterdam]]
- I recently saw the exhibition of French art (on the Boschkant) [The Hague] from the collections of [[w:Hendrik Willem Mesdag|Mesdag], Post &c. .. ..I especially liked the large sketch by T. Rousseau from the Mesdag collection, a drove of cattle in the Alps. And a landscape by Courbet ['Hilly landscape', 1858/1859 59], http://vangoghletters.org/vg/illustrations/731.jpg] yellow hilly, sandy ground, with fresh young grass growing here and there, with black brushwood fences against which a few white birch trunks stand out, grey buildings in the distance with red and blue slate roofs. And a narrow, small, light delicate grey band of sky above. The horizon very high, however, so that the ground is the main thing, and the delicate little band of sky really serves more as contrast to bring out the rough texture of the masses of dark earth. I think this is the most beautiful work by Courbet that I've seen so far.
- In his letter to Theo, from The Hague, 15/16 July 1882 - original manuscript of letter no. 246 - at Van Gogh Museum, location Amsterdam - inv. b237 a-b V/1962, 
- the exhibition was in The Hague, July 1882; The 51 works exhibited came from the collections of H.W. Mesdag (15 works), T. Mesdag Kz. (10 works) and F.H.M. Post (12 works)
- The Dupré's [paintings] are superb and there's a Daubigny.. ..that I couldn't get enough of. The same goes for a small Corot [probably the painting 'Pond at Ville-d'Avray'], a stretch of water and the edge of a wood on a summer morning about 4 o'clock. A single small pink cloud indicates that the sun will come up in a while. A stillness and calm and peace that enchants one.
- In his letter to Theo, from The Hague, 15/16 July 1882 - original manuscript of letter no. 246 - at Van Gogh Museum, location Amsterdam - inv. b237 a-b V/1962, 
- the exhibition was on the Boschkant, in The Hague, July 1882
- 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 will never 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 resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion.
Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.
- In his letter to Theo, from The Hague, 21 July 1882, 
- Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.
- Variant: Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.
- In his letter to Theo, from The Hague, 22 October 1882, 
- I fear that in a few years there may be a kind of 'panic', in this form: 'since Millet' we have sunk very low — the word decadence, now whispered or pronounced in veiled terms (see Herkomer), will then sound like an alarm bell. Many, like I myself, now keep quiet, because they already have the reputation of being awkward customers,5 and talking about it doesn't help. That — namely, talking — isn't what one needs to do — one must work, though with sorrow in the heart. Those who later cry out the loudest about decadence will themselves belong to it the most. I repeat: by this shall ye know them, [from: Matt. 7:16.] by their work, and it won't be the most eloquent who say the truest things. See Millet himself, see Herkomer, they're certainly not orators, and speak almost reluctantly.
- In his letter to Theo, from The Hague, 5 Nov 1882 - original manuscript of letter no. 280 - at Van Gogh Museum, location Amsterdam - inv. b263 a-b V/1962, 
- It constantly remains a source of disappointment to me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be. The difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be overcome at once. To make progress is a kind of miner’s work; it doesn’t advance as quickly as one would like, and as others also expect, but as one stands before such a task, the basic necessities are patience and faithfulness. In fact, I do not think much about the difficulties, because if one thought of them too much one would get stunned or disturbed.
A weaver who has to direct and to interweave a great many little threads has no time to philosophize about it, but rather he is so absorbed in his work that he doesn’t think but acts, and he feels how things must go more than he can explain it. Even though neither you nor I, in talking together, would come to any definite plans, etc., perhaps we might mutually strengthen that feeling that something is ripening within us. And that is what I should like.
- In his letter to Theo, The Hague, 11 March 1883, , as translated by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, in The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1991)
- Your description of Troyon and Rousseau, for instance, is lively enough to give me some idea of which of their manners they are done in. There were other paintings from the time of Troyon's municipal pasture that had a certain 'mood' that one would have to call 'dramatic', even though they aren't figure paintings.
- In his letter to Theo, from the Hague, c. 11 July 1883 - original manuscript at Van Gogh Museum, location Amsterdam - inv. nos. b322 a-c V/1962, 
- At the exhibition 'Les cent chefs d'oeuvre' at Galerie Georges Petit - in Paris, 1883 there were 9 paintings of Troyon. Vincent had asked Theo in Paris to give him a description of the works at this exhibition. Vincent already appreciated Troyon's painting style, he knew from his Paris' years at art-gallery Goupil where he worked
- Speaking of Rousseau, do you know Richard Wallace's [owner] Rousseau? ['The forest of Fontainebleau': Morning, a landscape, with cattle drinking, c. 1850] An edge of a wood in the autumn after rain, with a vista of meadows stretching away endlessly, marshy, with cows in them, the foreground rich in tone. To me that's one of the finest — is very like the one with the red sun in the Luxembourg ['The edge of the forest of Fontainebleau, at sunset', c. 1849]. The dramatic effect of these paintings is something that helps us to understand 'a corner of nature seen through a temperament' [
- If you hear a voice within you saying, "You are not a painter," then by all means paint, boy, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working. He who goes to trends and tells his troubles when he feels like that loses part of his manliness, part of the best that's in him; your friends can only be those who themselves struggle against it, who raise your activity by their own example of action.
- In his letter from Drenthe, October 1883, 'Van Gogh's Letters', 
- Love always brings difficulties, that is true, but the good side of it is that it gives energy... .I have not yet had enough experience with women. What we were taught about them in our youth is quite wrong, that is sure, it was quite contrary to nature, and one must try to learn from experience. It would be very pleasant if everybody were good, and the world were good, etc. — yes — but it seems to me that we see more and more that we are not good, no more than the world in general, of which we are an atom — and the world no more good than we are. One may try one's best, or act carelessly, the result is always different from what one really wanted. But whether the result be better or worse, fortunate or unfortunate, it is better to do something than to do nothing. If only one is wary of becoming a prim, self-righteous prig — as Uncle Vincent calls it — one may be even as good as one likes.
- In his letter to Theo, from Nuenen, c. 9 March 1884, 
- My dear Theo, Sincere wishes for your good health and serenity on your birthday. I would like to have sent you the painting of the potato eaters for this day, but although it's coming along well, it's not quite finished yet. Although I'll have painted the actual painting in a relatively short time, and largely from memory, it's taken a whole winter of painting studies of heads and hands. And as for the few days in which I've painted it now — it's consequently been a formidable fight, but one for which I have great enthusiasm. Although at times I feared that it wouldn't come off. But painting is also 'act and create'.
- In his letter #0497 to Theo, Amsterdam, 30 April 1885, 
- Vincent refers to his famous painting 'Potato Eaters'
- If you saw the first painted color-studies that I made when I came here to Nuenen  — and the present canvas  — side by side — I think you'd see that as far as colour is concerned — things have livened up. I think that the question of the breaking of colours in the relationships of the colours will occupy you too one day. For as an art expert and critic, one must also, it seems to me — be sure of one's ground and have certain convictions. At least for one's own pleasure and to be able to give reasons, and at the same time one must be able to explain it in a few words to others, who sometimes turn to someone like you for enlightenment when they want to know something more about art.
- In his letter #0497 to Theo, Amsterdam, 30 April 1885, 
- Vincent refers to his famous painting 'Potato Eaters'
- What surprising fellows those French painters are. A Millet, Delacroix, Corot, Troyon, Daubigny, Rousseau, and a Daumier.. ..Something else about Delacroix — he had a discussion with a friend about the question of working absolutely from nature, and said on that occasion that one should take one's 'studies' from nature — but that the 'actual painting' had to be made 'by heart'. This friend was walking along the boulevard when they had this discussion — which was already fairly heated. When they parted the other man was still not entirely persuaded. After they parted, Delacroix let him stroll on for a bit — then (making a trumpet of his two hands) bellowed after him in the middle of the street — to the consternation of the worthy passers-by:
'By heart! By heart!' (Par coeur! Par coeur!)
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this article and some other things about Delacroix..
- I keep on making what I can't do yet in order to learn to be able to do it.'
- In his letter to Theo, September 1885, in 'Van Gogh Letters' 
Letter to Theo (Oct. 1884)
- Now, there are people who say to me "Why did you have anything to do with her," — that's one fact. And there are people who say to her, "Why did you have anything to do with him," — that's another fact.
Apart from that, both she and I have grief enough and trouble enough, but as for regrets — neither of us have any. Look here — I believe without question, or have the certain knowledge, that she loves me. I believe without question, or have the certain knowledge, that I love her. It has been sincerely meant. But has it also been foolish, etc?
Perhaps, if you like — but aren't the wise ones, those who never do anything foolish, even more foolish in my eyes than I am in theirs?
- You will say that I am not a success — vaincre or être vaincu, [to conquer or to be conquered], it doesn't matter to me, one has feeling and movement in any event, and they are more akin than they may seem to be or than can be put into words.
- Oh, I am no friend of present-day Christianity, though its Founder was sublime — I have seen through present-day Christianity only too well. That icy coldness hypnotized even me, in my youth — but I have taken my revenge since then. How? By worshipping the love which they, the theologians, call sin, by respecting a whore, etc., and not too many would-be respectable, pious ladies. To some, woman is heresy and diabolical. To me she is just the opposite.
- Oh, Theo, why should I change — I used to be very passive and very gentle and quiet — I'm that no longer, but then I'm no longer a child either now — sometimes I feel my own man.
- I tell you, if one wants to be active, one must not be afraid of going wrong, one must not be afraid of making mistakes now and then. Many people think that they will become good just by doing no harm — but that's a lie, and you yourself used to call it that. That way lies stagnation, mediocrity.
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 has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of 'you can't' once and for all.
Life itself, too, is forever turning an infinitely vacant, dispiriting blank side towards man on which nothing appears, any more than it does on a blank canvas. But no matter how vacant and vain, how dead life may appear to be, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, who knows something, will not be put off so easily. He wades in and does something and stays with it, in short, he violates, "defiles" — they say. Let them talk, those cold theologians.
Quotes, 1886 - 1890
- There is no blue without yellow and without orange, and if you put in blue, then you must put in yellow, and orange too, mustn't you? Oh well, you will tell me that what I write to you are only banalities.
- Gauguin interests me very much as a man — very much. For a long time now it has seemed to me that in our nasty profession of painting we are most sorely in need of men with the hands and the stomachs of workmen. More natural tastes — more loving and more charitable temperaments — than the decadent dandies of the Parisian boulevards have. Well, here we are without the slightest doubt in the presence of a virgin creature with savage instincts. With Gauguin blood and sex prevail over ambition.
- I've just finished a canvas of a café interior at night [''Night Café''], lit by lamps. Some poor night-prowlers are sleeping in a corner. The room is painted red, and inside, in the gaslight, the green billiard table, which casts an immense shadow over the floor. In this canvas there are 6 or 7 different reds, from blood-red to delicate pink, contrasting with the same number of pale or dark greens.
- Vincent refers to his famous painting The Night Café' - Letter #0678 to his sister Willemien (Arles, 9/14 September 1888), 
- Now I'm working on a hospital ward. In the foreground a big black stove around which a few grey or black shapes of patients, then behind the very long ward, tiled with red with the two rows of white beds, the walls white, but a lilac or green white, and the windows with pink curtains, with green curtains, and in the background two figures of nuns in black and white. The ceiling is violet with large beams. I had read an article on Dostoevsky, who had written a book, 'Souvenirs de la maison des morts' and that spurred me on to begin work again on a large study that I'd begun in the fever ward in Arles. But it's annoying to paint figures without models. I've read another of Carmen Sylva's ideas, which is very true: when you suffer a lot – you see everybody at a great distance, and as if at the far end of an immense arena – the very voices seem to come from a long way off. I've experienced this in these crises to such a point that all the people I see then seem to me, even if I recognize them – which isn't always the case – to come from very far away and to be entirely different from what they are in reality..
- Vincent refers in this quote to his late painting 'Ward in the hospital' - Letter #0812 to his sister Willemien (Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, c. 21 October 1889, 
- Gauguin, if he'll accept it, you [Theo] shall give him a version of the [painting] 'Berceuse'  that wasn't mounted on a stretching frame, and to Bernard too, as a token of friendship. But if Gauguin wants sunflowers it's only absolutely fair that he gives you something that you like as much in exchange. Gauguin himself above all liked the sunflowers later, when he had seen them for a long time.
- Paul Gauguin, that curious artist, that alien whose mien and the look in whose eyes vaguely remind one of Rembrandt's 'Portrait of a Man' in the Galerie Lacaze — this friend of mine likes to make one feel that 'a good picture is equivalent to a good deed'; not that he says so, but it is difficult to be on intimate terms with him without being aware of a certain moral responsibility. A few days before we parted, when illness forced me to enter an asylum, I tried to paint 'his empty place'. It is a study of his armchair of dark, red-brown wood, the seat of greenish straw, and in the absent person's place a lighted candlestick and some modern novels.
- In a letter to Theo, from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, 9 or 10 February 1890 (1890), published in The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Vol. 3 (1958) New York Graphic Society, p. 256; see original letter: 
- 'Gauguin's chair', . Van Gogh painted this painting around 19 November, at which time he described it as a 'rather funny' study (see letter 721). That he painted it several days before Gauguin's departure as a symbol of his empty seat is an interpretation given here with hindsight.
- If only we try to live sincerely, it will go well with us, even though we are certain to experience real sorrow, and great disappointments, and also will probably commit great faults and do wrong things, but it certainly is true, that it is better to be high-spirited, even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent. It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is well done.
- The Letters of Vincent van Gogh to his Brother, 1872-1886 (1927) Constable & Co
- Variant: Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.
- As quoted in Wisdom for the Soul : Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing (2006) by Larry Chang, p. 483
- Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it.
- As quoted in The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Vol. 2 (1958) New York Graphic Society, p. 12
- The thing has already taken form in my mind before I start it. The first attempts are absolutely unbearable. I say this because I want you to know that if you see something worthwhile in what I am doing, it is not by accident but because of real direction and purpose.
- As quoted in The Path of Least Resistance : Principles for Creating What You Want to Create (1984) by Robert Fritz, p. 181
- The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.
- As quoted in Van Gogh : The Self-portraits (1969) by Fritz Erpel, p. 17
- Variant translations: The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.
- As quoted in Mary Engelbreit's Words To Live By (1999) by Mary Engelbreit
- I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.
- When I have a terrible need of — shall I say the word — religion. Then I go out and paint the stars.
- As quoted in An Examined Faith : Social Context and Religious Commitment (1991) by James Luther Adams and George K. Beach, p. 259
- The work is an absolute necessity for me. I can't put it off, I don't care for anything but the work; that is to say, the pleasure in something else ceases at once and I become melancholy when I can't go on with my work. Then I feel like a weaver who sees that his threads are tangled, and the pattern he had on the loom is gone to hell, and all his thought and exertion is lost.
- As quoted in Stranger on the Earth : A Psychological Biography of Vincent Van Gogh (1996) by Albert J. Lubin, p. 22
- Variant translation: For me, the work is an absolute necessity. I cannot put it off; I don't care for anything else; that is to say, the pleasure in something else ceases at once, and I become melancholy when I cannot go on with my work. I feel then as the weaver does when he sees that his threads have got tangled, the pattern he had on the loom has gone to the deuce, and his exertion and deliberation are lost.
- As quoted in Dear Theo: the Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh (1995) edited by Irving Stone and Jean Stone, p. 204
- I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.
- As quoted in Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity (1997) by Jan Phillips, p. 176
- I believe so.. .Don't accuse anybody else.
- La tristesse durera toujours
- The sadness will last forever.
- Attributed to Vincent in a letter from Theo van Gogh to Elisabeth van Gogh, 5 August 1890 
- The sadness will last forever.
from Dear Theo (1995)
- Dear Theo: the Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh (1995) edited by Irving Stone and Jean Stone ISBN 0452275040
- When we are working at a difficult task and strive after a good thing, we are fighting a righteous battle, the direct reward of which is that we are kept from much evil. As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed.
- p. 26
- I feel a certain calm. There is safety in the midst of danger. What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? It will be a hard pull for me; the tide rises high, almost to the lips and perhaps higher still, how can I know? But I shall fight my battle, and sell my life dearly, and try to win and get the best of it.
- p. 83
- Some good must come by clinging to the right. Conscience is a man's compass, and though the needle sometimes deviates, though one often perceives irregularities in directing one's course by it, still one must try to follow its direction.
- p. 181
- There are things which we feel to be good and true, though in the cold light of reason and calculation many things remain incomprehensible and dark. And though the society in which we live considers such actions thoughtless, or reckless, or I don't know what else, what can we say if once the hidden forces of sympathy and love have been roused in us? And though it may be that we cannot argue against the reasoning sentiment and to act from impulse, one would almost conclude that some people have cauterized certain sensitive nerves within them, especially those which, combined, are called conscience. Well, I pity those people; they travel through life without compass, in my opinion.
- p. 181
Quotes about Vincent van Gogh
- sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
1890 - 1910
- I knew van Gogh less intimately. I spoke to him for the first time in 1887 in a popular eatery near 'La Fourche', Avenue de Clichy, [Paris], (closed). A huge windowed room was decorated with his canvases. He exhibited at the 'Independants', [Paris] in 1888, 1889, 1890... ... Signac told me of his death this way: 'He [= Vincent] gave himself a bullet in the ribs; it passed through his body and lodged in his groin. He walked for two kilometers, losing all his blood, and went on to die in his inn'.
- Georges Seurat, in a 'Letter to Maurice Beaubourg', 28 August 1890; as quoted in the exhibition-text 'Georges Seurat, 1859 – 1891' (APPENDIX K 381), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992, ed. Robert Herbert, publishing Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.
- In my yellow room, sunflowers with purple eyes stand out against a yellow background; the ends of their stalks bathe in a yellow pot on a yellow table. In one corner of the painting, the painter's signature: Vincent. And the yellow sun, coming through the yellow curtains of my room, floods all this flowering with gold, and in the morning, when I wake up in my bed, I have the impression that it all smells very good.
Oh yes! he loved yellow, did good Vincent, the painter from Holland, gleams of sunlight warming his soul, which detested fog. A craving for warmth.
When the two of us were together in Arles, both of us insane, and constantly at war over beautiful colors, I adored red; where could I find a perfect vermilion? He, taking his yellowest brush, wrote on the suddenly purple wall:
I am of sound mind,
I am the Holy Ghost.
- Paul Gauguin, article published in Essais d'Art Libre, (January 1894)
- The words written by van Gogh on the wall were: "Je suis sain d'Esprit, Je suis Saint-Esprit." This play on words was given an equivalent in English in the Robert Altman movie "Vincent and Theo" with: "I am whole in spirit. I am the Holy Spirit."
- Sincèrement, vous faites une peinture de fou.
1910 - 1960
- ...It is not a question of trying to reproduce objective features, only of good practice for the fingers and for the perceptive faculty, and that too is very useful. You must have read how Van Gogh was always getting his brother to send him drawings to copy... ... to get 'du corps'. So one should be always drawing...
- Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, in his letter to Nele van de Velde, Frauenkirch, 1919/20; as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock, Richard Friedenthal, Thames and Hudson, London, 1963, pp. 224-225
- Paul Cézanne's painting is strictly painting, and its value is immense; but Van Gogh's painting has the Outsider's characteristic: it is a laboratory refuse of a man who treated his own life as an experiment in living; it faithfully records moods and developments of vision on the manner of a Bildungsroman.
- Colin Wilson in The Outsider, p. 103 (1956)
- What fascinates me about Van Gogh is that his sun dries up everything. Maybe he was melodramatic but my point really is... ...if you are a painter you have to face that self-consciousness. You get dirty and pathetic; very miserable. It makes me self-conscious to talk about it. There is something corrupt on art. Nothing do with any 'ism' but a thing in nature loses its innocence and becomes a grotesque thing... [in conversation with W.C. Seitz, 1959]
- Willem de Kooning, in conversation with W.C. Seitz, 1959, in Abstract Expressionist Painting in America', W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1983, p. 121.
'Les frères Van Gogh, origine et justification', c. 1955
- In: 'Les frères Van Gogh, origine et justification', c. 1955, Ossip Zadkine; as quoted in Zadkine and Van Gogh, ed. Garance Schabert and Ron Dirven (transl. Anne Porcelijn), Vincent van Goghhuis, Zundert & Scriptum Art, Schiedam 2008
- I repeatedly told myself that the life of Vincent van Gogh and his colossal oeuvre – are not an individual outburst but a special and rare occurrence based on the special bond between the two brothers [Vincent and Theo], only broken by Vincent’s suicide.
- ..the bond is then shown to be a sort of identity of thought, of reaction to the endless small changes, taking place in one brother and immediately passed on to the other, because feeding an idea was always a double barrel, and was eventually enforced after the echo had passed between the two.
- This exchange – mainly in the form of letters [ here all collected: http://vangoghletters.org/vg/letters.html ] between the brothers van Gogh]] ] – was not only about painting and art, but covered everything to do with one's existence and the philosophical or religious colouring, in a word: for the reader of the letters written by Vincent to his brother a total of human behaviour is revealed that of the dual being of van Gogh. This is how my first wish and then obsession was started, to build a monument for the two van Gogh brothers [Zadkine made several sculptures of Vincent, and of the two brothers Theo & Vincent Van Gogh, in the 1950's]
- Firstly for the design I decided that the two joined figures should be depicted upright [in Zadkine's first attempt the two brothers were sitting shoulder to shoulder]... ...two or three days later I was able to send him a photo of my new attempt, in which the two brothers are not only standing, but where the bond – the main idea is projected onto the statue in a hollow, in the heart of the composition the viewer can see a knot of hands, a symbol of the double inspiration.
- Van Gogh … In this world of petty calculations, he was too intense. He frightened people. They cast him out.
- Bram van Velde, in Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde, ed. Charles Juliet, First Dalkey Archive edition, 2009, London and Champaign, 31 October 1966;; 16 July 1970; p. 77
- About Van Gogh... ...a man who is on fire, a torch. His sincerity is absolute. His best painting is the grain field where he kills himself. There we find ourselves at the border of the art of painting. We cannot go further.
- Bram van Velde, as quoted in Je peins l'Impossibilité de peindre, by M. Nuridsany in Le Figaro (24 October 1989), p. 35; also quoted in Bram van Velde, A Tribute, Municipal Museum De Lakenhal Leiden, Municipal Museum Schiedam, Museum de Wieger (1994_, p. 40, as translated by Charlotte Burgmans
Vincent (song-text, 1971)
- Song tribute by Don McLean; also often referred to as "Starry Starry Night" - Full lyrics at Don McLean's official site
- Starry Starry Night, paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer's day with eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills, sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills, in colors on the snowy linen land.
- Now I understand what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they did not know how, perhaps they'll listen now.
- Weathered faces lined in pain are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.
- For they could not love you, but still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight, on that starry starry night
You took your life as lovers often do,
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.
- Starry, starry night, portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls with eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the stranger that you've met, the ragged man in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose, lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.
- Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they're not listening still...
Perhaps they never will...
1981 and later
- In the spring of 1845, William Parsons, the third Earl of Rosse, began observing with his great six-foot telescope... The Earl was excited by what he was the first human to see: spiral patterns of stars, seemingly swirling in great 'spiral convolutions' about the centre of the galaxy. ... No one could ever have seen the spiral pattern of stars in a galaxy unless they had looked through Rosse's telescope or seen his drawings. ... I believe that Van Gogh would have seen those drawings in the press following the publicity attracted by them, or in Flammarion's book ... and gained his astronomical inspiration from them.
- John D. Barrow, Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science (2008)
- Vincent: Hold my hand, Doctor. Try to see what I see. We're so lucky we're still alive to see this beautiful world. Look at the sky. It's not dark and black and without character. The black is in fact deep blue. And over there! Lighter blue. [the starscape slowly transforms into The Starry Night] And blowing through the blueness and the blackness, the winds swirling through the air. And there shining, burning, bursting through, the stars! Can you see how they roar their light? Everywhere we look, complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.
Doctor: I’ve seen many things, my friend, but you’re right: nothing quite as wonderful as the things you see.
- To me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all Certainly the most popular great painter of all time: The most beloved. His command of colour, the most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world...no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.
- The accepted understanding of what happened in Auvers among the people who knew him was that he was killed accidentally by a couple of boys and he decided to protect them by accepting the blame. … These two boys, one of whom was wearing a cowboy outfit and had a malfunctioning gun that he played cowboy with, were known to go drinking at that hour of day with Vincent. … So you have a couple of teenagers who have a malfunctioning gun, you have a boy who likes to play cowboy, you have three people probably all of whom had too much to drink. … It's really hard to imagine that if either of these two boys was the one holding the gun — which is probably more likely than not — it's very hard to imagine that they really intended to kill this painter.
The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh (2011)
- Interviews relating to Van Gogh: The Life (2011) by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, and evidence that Van Gogh had not committed suicide. "The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh" on 60 Minutes (16 October 2011)
- Steven Naifeh: What the evidence points to is that this incident took place not in the wheat fields, but in a farmyard on the Rue Boucher. That it involved these two boys. And that it was either an accident or a deliberate act. Was it playing cowboy in some way that went awry? Was it teasing with the gun with Vincent lunging out? It's hard to know what went on at that moment.
- Morley Safer: But the theory could explain Vincent's remark to the police before he died: "Don't accuse anyone else," he said. And it fits the rumors John Rewald heard long ago.
- Naifeh: That a couple of kids had shot Vincent van Gogh and he decided to basically protect them and accept this as the way to die. These kids had basically done him the favor of, of shooting him.
- Safer: So he was covering up his own murder?
- Naifeh: Covering up his own murder.
- Safer: However he died, Vincent may have welcomed death. He felt guilty over his dependence on his younger brother Theo, who was in failing health himself.
- Naifeh: He knew that he was a burden to Theo. So there's something wonderfully sweet and touching about the fact that Vincent would accept death partly to end his own misery. But even more so to take this terrible burden off of his beloved ill brother's shoulders.
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., United States — A virtual tour of the Van Gogh's Van Goghs exhibition.
- van Gogh's Letters — unabridged & annotated exhibit.
- Calendar of all letters
- The Vincent Van Gogh Gallery (commercial site showing all of Vincent van Gogh's works and letters)
- Vincent - Concert performance (RealPlayer) Slideshow (Windows Media Player)
- Van Gogh & Kids (a computer game for children)
- Multimedia study of van Gogh, McLean and Sexton
- Vincent van Gogh paintings and letters with dictionary
- information about the animation movie 'Loving Vincent, on Wikipedia