Vincent van Gogh

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Self-portrait of Vincent, he painted in Saint-Rémy, August 1889 - early quote of Van Gogh, 1874: 'Find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful'
portrait of Vincent van Gogh, painted by John Peter Russell in 1886; quote of Vincent in his letter to Theo, Sept. 1889: '..keep carefully my portrait by Russell that I am so fond of'

Vincent van Gogh (30 March 185329 July 1890) was a Dutch painter, generally considered one of the greatest painters in European art history.

Quotes of Vincent van Gogh[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quotes of Vincent van Gogh
Van Gogh, 1880: 'The Diggers' (after Millet), black chalk on paper; quote of Vincent, 1880: 'I felt my energy revive.. .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..
Van Gogh, 1881: ' Still life with Cabbage and Clogs', painting
Van Gogh, 1882, The Hague: 'Digger', lithography; - quote of Vincent, 1882: 'Now, such an enterprise as would be the drawing and printing [by lithography] of a series of, for instance, thirty pages of types of workmen, a sower, a digger, a woodcutter, a plowman, a wash-woman.. ..there are plenty of beautiful subjects'
Van Gogh, April 1882: 'Sorrow', by Vincent van Gogh - a drawing he made after Millet; - quote of Vincent, June 1883: 'The work is an absolute necessity for me. I can't put it off..'
Van Gogh, 1 July 1882: 'Bleaching Ground at Scheveningen' - near The Hague, watercolor-painting
Van Gogh, 1882: drawing of 'Sien Pregnant, Walking with Older Woman'; - later quote of Vincent, Oct. 1884: 'I believe without question, or have the certain knowledge, that she [ Sien, his love from The Hague] loves me. I believe without question, or have the certain knowledge, that I love her. It has been sincerely meant..'
Van Gogh, August 1882: 'Landscape with dune' (close to The Hague), oil on wood
Van Gogh, Oct. 1882: 'Today's Draw / Heden trekking', sketch in ink on paper; - quote from a letter [1] of Vincent, Febr. 1882: 'At the moment I quite often go to draw with Breitner.. ..we often draw types together in the soup kitchen or the waiting room &c..[in The Hague]' .
Van Gogh, The Hague, 1882: 'Back yards with two figures', drawing
Van Gogh, The Hague, 1883: 'The Dustman', drawing
Van Gogh, 1883: 'In the dunes' - around The Hague; oil-painting on paper mounted on panel; - quote of Vincent, from his letter [2] Sept. 1883: 'I received your [Theo's] letter just now when I came home from the dunes behind Loosduinen, soaking wet because I had spent 3 hours in the rain at a spot where everything was Ruisdael, Daubigny or Jules Dupré'
Van Gogh, The Hague, March 1883: 'Girl Kneeling by a Cradle', drawing
Van Gogh, The Hague, July 1883: 'Man Digging in the Orchard', lithography print
Van Gogh, The Hague, August 1883: 'Cows in the Meadow', oil-painting
Van Gogh, Drenthe, Sept. 1883: 'Farm in Hoogeveen / Farmhouse among trees', oil-painting on canvas, on panel; quote of Vincent to Theo, from Drenthe: 'As I feel a need to speak out frankly, I cannot hide from you that I am overcome by a feeling of great care, depression, a "je ne sais quoi" of discouragement and despair..'
Van Gogh, Drenthe 1883: 'Two women in the moor', painting
Van Gogh, Drenthe, Oct. 1883: 'sketch-page', - made on a canal-boat trip through Drenthe and enclosed in a letter, 3 October 1883 to Theo; - quote from this letter: '..I arrived after an endless trip through the heath on the barge.. .Flat planes or strips.. .Here and there thin cows of a delicate colour, often sheep - pigs.. .I drew, among others, a woman in the barge with crepe around her cap brooches because she was in mourning, and later a mother with a small child..'
Van Gogh, Nuenen, Febr. 1884: 'The old cemetery-tower in Nuenen with plowing farmers', oil-painting
Van Gogh, Nuenen 1883-1885: 'The sale of the crosses of the cemetery', watercolor; - quote of Vincent, 1883 tot Theo: 'And my aim in my life is to make picture and drawings, as many and as well as I can, then, at the end of my life, I hope to pass away, looking back with love and tender regret, and thinking: "Oh, pictures I might have made!"'
Van Gogh, Nuenen, 1884: 'Weaver with baby in a high chair' drawing
Van Gogh, Nuenen, Sept. 1884: 'Shepherd with a Flock of Sheep', oil-painting
Van Gogh, Nuenen, Oct. 1884: 'The church of Nuenen with churchgoers', oil-painting on canvas; - quote of Vincent, 2 Oct 1884, in a letter [3] to Theo: 'I've seen through present-day Christianity only too well. It mesmerized me, that icy coldness in my youth — but I've had my revenge since then. How? By worshiping the love that they — the theologians — call sin, by respecting a whore [ his love Sien, in The Hague], etc..'
Van Gogh, Nuenen, Oct. 1884: 'Avenue of poplars in Autumn', near Nuenen; - quote of Vincent, Oct. 1884: 'The last thing I made is a rather large study of an avenue of poplars with the yellow autumn leaves, where the sun makes glittering patches here and there on the fallen leaves on the ground, which are interspersed with the long shadows cast by the trunks. At the end of the road a peasant cottage, and the blue sky above it between the autumn leaves'
Van Gogh, Nuenen, Jan/Febr. 1885: 'Winter - The Vicarage Garden (in Nuenen) under Snow'
Van Gogh, Nuenen, 1885: 'Head of an old Peasant Woman with a dark hood'; - quote of Vincent, Oct. 1885: 'Rembrandt goes so deep into the mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. It is with justice that they call Rembrandt - 'magician' - that's no easy occupation'
Van Gogh, Nuenen, 1885: 'Head of a Brabant farmer's wife with a dark hood', oil-sketch on canvas on wood; - quote of Vincent, Summer 1885: 'When I call myself a peasant painter, that is a real fact, and it will become more and more clear to you in the future, I feel at home there.'
Van Gogh, Nuenen, April, 1885: 'study of The Potato Eaters'
Van Gogh, April-May, 1885: 'The Potato Eaters'; quote of Vincent, 30 April 1885 to Theo: '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'
Van Gogh, Nuenen, Aug. 1885: 'Peasant Woman Planting Potatoes', drawing
Van Gogh, Nuenen, Nov. 1885: 'The rectory garden in Nuenen with Pond and Figures', watercolor-painting
Van Gogh, Antwerp, Nov. 1885/Febr. 1886: 'Old houses with the tower of the cathedral'
Van Gogh, Antwerp, Dec. 1885: 'Quay in Antwerp with ships' oil on wood; quote of Vincent, Dec. 1885: '..How glad I was when this doctor took me for an ordinary workingman and said: "I suppose you are an iron worker." That is just what I have tried to change in myself.. ..now I look like a skipper or an iron worker.'
Van Gogh, Dec. 1885 / early 1886: 'Skull with a Burning Cigarette'; - quote of Vincent, Dec. 1881: 'There is safety in the midst of danger. What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?'
Van Gogh, Paris, Autumn, 1886: 'Le Moulin de la Galette 3.' - Montmartre, Paris; oil on canvas; - quote of Vincent from his letter, Autumn 1886: 'In Antwerp I did not even know what the impressionists were, now I have seen them and though not being one of the club, yet I have much admired certain impressionist pictures [of Degas, Monet.. ..the true drawing is modelling with colour. I did a dozen landscapes too, frankly green, frankly blue..'
Van Gogh, Paris, June/July 1886: 'View of Paris', oil-painting
Van Gogh, Paris, July 1886: 'The 14th July in Paris' oil-painting
Van Gogh, Paris, 1886: 'Vase with Red Poppies', oil-painting on canvas; - quote of Vincent, from his letter, Oct. 1886: '.I have made a series of colour studies in painting simply flowers, red poppies, blue corn flowers and myosotys. White and rose roses, yellow chrysantemums – seeking oppositions of blue with orange, red and green, yellow and violet, seeking THE BROKEN AND NEUTRAL TONES as to harmonise brutal extremes. Trying to render intense COLOUR and not a grey harmony'
Van Gogh, 1887, Paris: 'Montmartre - behind the mill Moulin de la Galette', oil-painting; quote of Vincent in his letter to Theo: 'I hope to make such progress that you will be able to show my stuff boldly [to art-buyers] without compromising yourself. And then I will take myself off somewhere down south, to get away from the sight of so many painters that disgust me..'
Van Gogh, Spring 1887, Paris: 'A pair of shoes'; quote by Paul Gauguin, Jan. 1894: '.In my yellow room [where Paul Gauguin lived for nine weeks, from late October 1888, Arles].. .Two enormous, worn, deformed shoes. Vincent's shoes. Those he took, one bright, new morning, then, to make his way on foot from Holland to Belgium. The young priest.. ..was on his way to the mines [Borinage, Belgium] to see those, he called his brothers..'
Van Gogh, March / April 1887, Paris: 'Portrait of Theo van Gogh'; quote of Vincent, Paris, Summer 1887: 'I would like above all things to be less of a burden to you.. .I hope to make such progress that you will be able to show my stuff boldly without compromising yourself. And then I will take myself off somewhere down south..'
Van Gogh, Spring 1887, Paris: 'Still Life with Absinthe'
Van Gogh, June 1887, Paris: 'Shelter on Montmartre / Shed at the Montmartre with sunflower', oil-painting
Van Gogh, Summer 1887, Paris: 'Wheat field with poppies and lark'
Van Gogh, Autumn 1887, Paris: 'Still life with apple basket' (dedicated to Lucien Pissaro); inscription by Vincent: 'to my friend Lucien Pissaro - Vincent'
Van Gogh, 1887-88, Paris: 'Portrait of Père Tanguy', oil-painting
Van Gogh, early 1888, Paris: 'Self portrait as a painter'; - quote of Vincent, July 1880: '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? '
Van Gogh, Arles, June 1888: 'sketch of a sower or mower'; quote in his letter to John Peter Russell: 'We have harvest time at present and I am always in the fields. And when I sit down to write I am so abstracted by recollections of what I have seen that I leave the letter..'
Van Gogh, Arles, June 1888: 'Sower at Sunset'; - quote by Richard Curtis, 2010: '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
Van Gogh, Arles, July 1888: 'The Painter on His Way to Work'; - quote of Vincent, 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.. ..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'
Van Gogh, Arles, August 1888: 'Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin', oil-painting; - quote of Vincent, Arles, 31 July 1888: 'Now I'm working with another model [Joseph Roulin], a postman in a blue uniform with gold trimmings, a big, bearded face, very Socratic. A raging republican, like père Tanguy. A more interesting man than many people..'
Van Gogh, Arles, July 1888: 'Flower-garden', oil-painting; - quote of Vincent, Arles, 31 July 1888: 'I have a study of a garden, almost a metre wide]. Poppies and other red flowers in green in the foreground, then a patch of bluebells.. .I know very well that not a single flower was drawn, that they're just little licks of colour, red, yellow, orange, green, blue, violet, but the impression of all those colours against one another is nonetheless there in the painting as it is in nature..'
Van Gogh, Arles, Sept. 1888: 'Night Cafe', oil-painting; - quote of Van Gogh: 'I've just finished a canvas of a café interior at night 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..'
Van Gogh, Arles, Sept. 1888: 'Starry night over the Rhône'; - quote from Richard Curtis, 2010: 'Everywhere we look, complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes'
Van Gogh, Oct. 1888 (Arles): 'The Bedroom', oil-painting
Van Gogh, Arles, November 1888 (Arles): 'Memory of the Garden at Etten' (Ladies of Arles); - quote of Van Gogh: 'I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream'
Van Gogh, Arles, 1888: 'Pollard Willows and Setting Sun'; - quote of Vincent Jan. 1883: 'What can we say if once the hidden forces of sympathy and love have been roused in us?'
Van Gogh, Arles, Jan. 1889: 'La Berceuse', oil-painting; - quote of Van Gogh '..which I've called 'la berceuse]',. .It's a woman dressed in green (bust olive green and the skirt pale Veronese green). Her hair is entirely orange and in plaits. The complexion worked up in chrome yellow, with a few broken tones, of course, in order to model.. .The wall is covered with wallpaper, obviously calculated by me in connection with the rest of the colours.. .Whether I've actually sung a lullaby with colour I leave to the critics..'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, June 1889: 'Olive Trees' - with the Alps in the Background; - quote of Vincent, July 1880: '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'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, June, 1889: 'Starry Night', drawing; - quote by Bram van Velde, 1966: 'Van Gogh.. .In this world of petty calculations, he was too intense. He frightened people. They cast him out'
Van Gogh, June 1889: 'Starry Night'; - quote of Don McLean, 1971: '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..'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, 1889: 'Starry Night', (detail); - quote of Don McLean, 1971: '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..'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, July, 1889: 'Landscape with wheat sheaves'; - quote of Van Gogh, 30 April 1874 (letter 22): 'If one truly loves nature one finds beauty everywhere..'
Van Gogh - with doubts, Saint-Rémy, 1889: 'Self-portrait, with mutilated ear'; - later quote of Vincent, 27 July 1890: 'Don't accuse anybody else' (his reply to the police, when he was dying)
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, Oct. 1889: 'Ward in the Hospital', oil-painting; - quote by Vincent from Saint-Remy, Oct. 1889: '..the 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'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, 1889: 'Pietà' (after Eugène Delacroix), - quote of Vincent, Sept. 1888 (letter 682): '..the more I feel that there's nothing more genuinely artistic than to love people'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, Sept. 1889: 'Self-portrait'; quote of Vincent: Oct. 1884: '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'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, Oct. 1889: 'The Sower', after Millet; quote of Vincent, July, 1880: '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'!'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, Oct, 1889: 'Cornfield with cypresses'; - quote of Bram van Velde, 1989: 'Van Gogh.. ..a man who is on fire, a torch. His sincerity is absolute'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, 1889-90: 'Noon – Rest from Work', after Millet; quote of Vincent, Oct. 1884: 'To some, woman is heresy and diabolical. To me she is just the opposite'
Van Gogh, February 1890: 'Almond blossom'; - quote of Vincent, 11 March 1883: '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'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, 1890: 'The good Samaritan' (after Eugène Delacroix); - quote of Vincent, Febr, 1890: 'Paul Gauguin, that curious artist.. ..this friend of mine likes to make one feel that a good picture is equivalent to a good deed'
Van Gogh, 1890: 'Saint-Rémy - Road with Cypress and Star'; - quote of Vincent, July, 1880: '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.. ..keep going, keep going come what may'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, May 1890: 'Landscape with Couple Walking and Crescent Moon'
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, April 1890: 'Flowering meadow with trees and dandelions', oil-painting; - quote of Vincent, 29 April, 1890: 'Dear mother and sister, this is the first time that I can bring myself to write after 2 months' indisposition [in the hospital of Saint-Remy].. .For a few days now I've been busy painting a field in the full sunshine with yellow dandelions.. '
Van Gogh, Saint-Rémy, May 1890: 'Sorrowing old man'; - quote of Vincent, Dec. 1882: 'Conscience is a man's compass'
Van Gogh, Auvers-sur-Oise, June 1890: 'The church in Auvers-sur-Oise, view from the Chevet', oil-painting - quote of Vincent, June 1890: 'I have a larger picture of the village church [in Auvers-sur-Oise] - an effect in which the building appears to be violet-hued against a sky of simple deep blue colour, pure cobalt.. .And once again it is nearly the same thing as the studies I did in Nuenen of the old tower and the cemetery, only it is probably that now the colour is more expressive, more sumptuous.
Van Gogh, Auvers-sur-Oise, June 1890: 'Portrait of Adeline Ravoux', oil-painting; - the twelve-year-old Adeline was Arthur-Gustave Ravoux's daughter; in his inn Van Gogh was lodging during his last months in Auvers-sur-Oise
Van Gogh, Auvers-sur-Oise, June 1890: 'Portrait of dr. Gachet', first version, oil-painting; - quote of Vincent, May 1890: 'I have seen Dr. Gachet,. ..he is a strange fellow. The impression he made on me was not unfavorable.. .I really think that I shall go on being friends with him and that I shall do his portrait. Then he said that I must work boldly on, and not think at all of what went wrong with me'
Van Gogh, Auvers, June, 1890: 'Undergrowth with walking Couple', oil-painting
Van Gogh, Auvers, June, 1890: 'Marguerite Gachet at the Piano' (daughter of Dr. Gachet)
Van Gogh, Auvers, June/July, 1890: 'On the banks of the Oise at Auvers', oil-painting
Van Gogh, Auvers, July, 1890: 'Wheat Field with Crows'; quote of Paul Gauguin, Jan. 1894 (looking back): 'When we were both in Arles.. ..he, with his yellowest brush traced on the suddenly violet wall (c. Oct. 1885): 'I am whole in spirit. I am the Holy Spirit'
Van Gogh, Auvers, July, 1890: 'Wheatfield at Auvers under Clouded Sky' - four days after completing this last painting Vincent shot himself in the 'Auvers' wheat fields', or was shot; he died 29 July, 1890.

Quotes, 1869 - 1876: art-dealership, Goupil and Co.[edit]

  • I am sure you will like it, it is such a fine business [art-dealer].. ..I am so glad that we shall both be in the same profession [art dealing] and in the same firm [Goupil and Co.]
    • Quote in his letter to brother Theo from The Hague, The Netherlands (13 December 1872); as quoted in Vincent van Gogh, edited by Alfred H. Barr; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935, p. 17 (letter 2)
    • Vincent's profession then was picture dealer at Goupil and Co., with branches a. o. in The Hague, London and Paris
  • 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 [4]
  • 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 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) [5]
  • 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) [6]
  • There was a sale here [in Paris] of drawings by Millet, I don't know whether I've already written to you about it. When I entered the room in Hôtel Drouot where they were exhibited, I felt something akin to: 'Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground' [Bible-text]. You know that Millet lived [in his youth] in Gréville. Well, I don't know whether it was Gréville or Granville where the man I once told you about died. At any rate, I looked at Millet's drawings of 'The cliffs at Gréville', with redoubled attention.
  • 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 & C0, 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) [7]

Quotes, 1876 - teacher / lay-preacher, England[edit]

  • If I should find something it will probably be a position between clergy man and missionary in the suburbs of London among the working people. Do not speak to anybody about it yet.
    • In his letter to brother Theo from Welwyn, England, 17 June 1876; as quoted in Vincent van Gogh, edited by Alfred H. Barr; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935, p. 17 (letter 69)
    • as school teacher and lay preacher near London
  • Theo, your brother has preached for the first time last Sunday in God's dwelling.. ..it is a delightful thought that in the future wherever I shall come I shall preach the gospel; to do that well, one must have the gospel in one's heart, may the Lord give it to me.
  • Text: Psalm 119:19. I am a stranger on the earth, hide not Thy command ments from me.
    Are we what we dreamt we should be? No, but still the sorrows of life.. .,so much more numerous than we expected, the tossing to and fro in the world, they have covered it over, but it is not dead, it sleepeth.
  • ..Our life is a pilgrim's progress. I once saw a very beautiful picture: it was a landscape at evening. In the distance on the right-hand side a row of hills appeared blue in the evening mist. Above those hills the splendour of the sunset, the grey clouds with their linings of silver and gold and purple. The landscape is a plain or heath covered with grass and its yellow leaves, for it was in autumn. Through the landscape a road leads to a high mountain far, far away, on the top of that mountain is a city wherein the setting sun casts a glory. On the road walks a pilgrim, staff in hand. He has been walking for a good long while already and he is very tired. And now he meets a woman, or figure in black, that makes one think of St. Paul's word: As being sorrowful yet always rejoicing. That Angel of God has been placed there to encourage the pilgrims and to answer their questions and the pilgrim asks her: Does the road go uphill then all the way? And the answer is: "Yes to the very end."

Quotes, 1877 - 1878: study for clergy-man, Amsterdam[edit]

  • The love between brothers is a strong support through life, that is an old truth, let us look for that support, may experience strengthen the bond between us, and let us be true and outspoken toward each other, let there he no secrets — as it is now.
  • 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.
    • Quote from Vincent's letter to Theo, from Amsterdam, 30 May 1877; Dear Theo: the Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh;, ed. Irving Stone and Jean Stone (1995), p. 26
  • 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 to Theo, from Amsterdam, 31 May 1877 letter 118
  • 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 to Theo, from Amsterdam, Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 June 1877 - letter 119
    • Vincent was walking with his uncle, clergyman in Amsterdam
  • When I am writing I instinctively make a little drawing now and then like the one I sent you lately, and for instance, this morning, 'Elijah in the Desert.
    • Quote in his letter to brother Theo, from Amsterdam 12 June, 1877; as quoted in Vincent van Gogh, edited by Alfred H. Barr; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935, p. 29 (letter 101)
    • while studying in Amsterdam at the theological school, to become clergyman
  • May God give me the wisdom which I need and grant me what I so fervently desire, that is, to finish my studies as quickly as possible and he ordained, so that I can perform the practical duties of a clergyman.
  • 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.
    • Quote of Vincent's letter to Theo, from Amsterdam, 3 April 1878; a cited in 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

Quotes, 1878 - 1880: lay-preacher in Borinage, Belgium[edit]

  • ..Now there is in the South of Belgium, in Hainault, in the neighborhood of Mons.. ..a district called the Borinage, that has a peculiar population of laborers who work in the numerous coal mines.. .I should very much like to go there as an evangelist.. ..St. Paul was three years in Arabia before he began to preach..
  • .You would also be mistaken if you [Theo] thought that I would do well to follow your advice literally, of becoming an engraver of bill-headings and visiting cards, or a bookkeeper or a carpenter's apprentice, - or else to devote myself to the baker's trade, - or many similar things.. ..that other people advise me.
  • 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.
    • Quote in his Letter (no. 155), June 1880; published in the online version of [8] "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.
  • ..the best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, something, whatever you like.. .But one must love with a lofty and serious intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence.. .That leads to God, that leads to unwavering faith.. .To give you an example: someone loves Rembrandt, but seriously, - that man will know that there is a God, he will surely believe it.. .To try to understand the real significance, of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God..
  • When I was.. ..in the surroundings of pictures and things of art.. .I then had a violent passion for them.. .And I do not repent it, for even now, far from that land, I am often homesick for the land of pictures. Now for more than five years already, I do not know exactly how long, I'm more or less without employment, wandering here and there.. .But you will ask what is your definite aim? That aim becomes more definite, will stand out slowly and surely, as the rough draft becomes a sketch and the sketch becomes a picture.. .. my only anxiety is: how can I be of use in the world, cannot I serve some purpose and be of any good, how can I learn more and study profoundly certain subjects?
  • 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.
    • In his letter to Theo, from Cuesmes, 24 September 1880 - original manuscript of letter no. 158 - at Van Gogh Museum, location Amsterdam - inv. no. b156 V/1962, [9]
    • Van Gogh's copies (drawings) he made after the work of Rousseau have been lost
  • 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 (Cuesmes, July 1880)[edit]

Quotes from Letter to Theo van Gogh, from Cuesmes Belgium, July 1880; as translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger
  • 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, 1880 - 1881: Van Gogh's start of drawing & painting[edit]

  • ..by going on drawing those types of working people, etc., I hope to arrive at the point of being able to do illustration work for papers and books.
    • In his letter to brother Theo, from Brussels, Belgium (January 1881, letter 140); as quoted in Vincent van Gogh, edited by Alfred H. Barr; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935, p. 19
    • being art student in Brussels
  • 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, from Etten, 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]
  • 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, from Etten, c. 23 December 1881, [10]

Quotes, 1881 - 1883: years in The Hague, Netherlands[edit]

  • I said to Mauve: Do you approve of my coming here for a month or so and troubling you for some advice now and then, after that time I will have over come the first 'petites miseres' of painting.. .Well, Mauve at once set me down before a still life of a pair of old wooden shoes and some other objects, and so I could set to work.
  • How will it be with my work a year hence? Well, Mauve [van Gogh's cousin and art-teacher, in The Hague] understands all this and he will give me as much technical advice as he can, - that which fills my head and my heart must be expressed in drawing or pictures.
  • 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.
    • Letter to Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Thursday, 29 December 1881. p. 83; as cited in Dear Theo: the Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh (1995), edited by Irving Stone and Jean Stone - ISBN 0452275040
  • I have [drawings of] about twelve figures of diggers and men who are working in a potato field, and I wonder if I could not make something of it, you have still a few, for instance, a man who fills a bag with potatoes. Well, I do not know for sure, but sooner or later I shall accom plish that, for I looked at it so attentively this summer, and here in the dunes I could make a good study of the earth and the sky, and then boldly put in the figures.
    • Quote in letter 169, from The Hague, January, 1882; as cited in Vincent van Gogh, Alfred H. Barr; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935, catalog-page: Dutch Period: - 4. Potato Diggers
  • Believe me, I work, I drudge, I grind all day long and I do so with pleasure, but I should get very much discouraged if I could not go on working as hard or even harder.. .I feel, Theo, that there is a power within me, and I do what I can to bring it out and free it. It is hard enough, all the worry and bother with my drawings, and if I had too many other cares and could not pay the models I should lose my head.
    • quote in his letter to brother Theo, from The Hague, The Netherlands in Jan. 1882; as quoted in Vincent van Gogh, Alfred H. Barr; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935, p. 20 (letter 171)
  • 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, from The Hague, Monday, 13 February 1882, [11], from the original letter; location and translation: Van Gogh museum, Amsterdam]]
  • To stroll on wharves, and in alleys and in streets and in the houses, waiting-rooms, even saloons, that is not a pleasant pastime unless for an artist. As such, one would rather be in the dirtiest place where there is something to draw, than at a tea party with charming ladies. Unless one wants to draw ladies, then a tea party is all right even for an artist.
  • This winter I met a pregnant woman [ Sien / Christine ] deserted by the man whose child she bore. A pregnant woman who in winter had to walk the streets, had to earn her bread, you understand how. I took that woman for a model, and have worked with her all the winter. I could not pay her the full wages of a model, but that did not prevent my paying her rent, and, thank God, I have been able thus far to protect her and her child from hunger and cold, by sharing my own bread with her.. .It seems to me that every man worth his salt would have done the same in a similar case. What I did was so simple and natural, that I thought I could keep it to.
  • 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 Gustave Courbet 'Hilly landscape', 1858/59], 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, [12]
    • 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 [pictures] are superb and there's a Daubigny.. ..that I couldn't get enough of. The same goes for a small Corot [probably Corot's 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, [13]
    • 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, [14]
  • ..I have painted a few studies of the figure.. .I send you [Theo] two sketches. The painting of the figure appeals to me very much, but it must ripen - I must learn to know the technique better - that which is sometimes called "la cuisine de l'art". In the beginning I shall have to do much scraping, and often to begin anew, but I feel that I learned from it and that gives me a new fresh view on the things.
    • Quote in a letter of Vincent to Theo, from The Hague (Netherlands), August 1882; as quoted in Vincent van Gogh, edited by Alfred H. Barr; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935, (letter 226), catalogus-page: Oil Paintings -Dutch Period: 'Scheveningen, Fisherwoman'
  • ..How I paint I do not know myself. I sit down with a white board before the spot that strikes me, I look at what is before me, I say to myself that white board must become something, I come back dissatisfied - I put it away, and when I have rested a little I go to look at it with a kind of fear. Then I am still dissatisfied, because I have still too closely in my mind that splendid nature..
  • 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, [15]
  • Now, such an enterprise as would be the drawing and printing [by lithography ] of a series of, for instance, thirty pages of types of workmen, a sower, a digger, a woodcutter, a plowman, a wash-woman, then also a child's cradle or a man from the almshouse - well, the whole immeasurable field lies open, there are plenty of beautiful subjects - I should think the following would be the best way: as it is useful and necessary that Dutch drawings are made, printed, and spread, destined for the houses of workmen, a few persons should unite in order to use their full strength for this end.
  • 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, [16]
  • 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.
    • Quote in a letter of Vincent to brother Theo, from The Hague, between c. 13 and c. 18 December 1882; as cited in Dear Theo: the Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh; ed. Irving Stone and Jean Stone, (1995) p. 181 - ISBN 0452275040
  • And my intention is to try to form a collection of many such things, which would not be quite unworthy of the title 'heads of the people.' By working hard, boy, I hope to succeed in making something good. It isn't there yet, but I aim at it, and struggle for it. I want something serious, - some thing fresh - something with soul in it! Forward - forward -
  • 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.
    • Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo, from The Hague, c. 11 January 1883; as cited in Dear Theo: the Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh; ed. Irving Stone and Jean Stone (1995), ISBN 0452275040
  • 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, [17], as translated by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, in The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1991)
  • Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it.
    • Quote in his letter tot Theo, from The Hague, Sunday, 18 March 1883; as cited in The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Vol. 2 (1958) New York Graphic Society, p. 12
  • When you [Theo] come you must see my woodcuts again. I've got some new ones since last time.
    It seemed to you perhaps as if the sun shone brighter and everything had acquired a new charm. At any rate, I believe this is always the effect of a serious love [with Sien,] and that's a delightful thing.. .I can find no words for how beautiful the old courtyards are here. And although Jozef Israëls does it perfectly, so to speak, I find it strange that so relatively few pay them any attention. Here in The Hague every day, so to speak, I see a world which a great many pass by and which is very different from what most are making. And wouldn't dare say this if I hadn't had the experience of figure painters actually passing it by as well, and remembered walking with them and, when I was struck by this or that figure we encountered, hearing repeatedly 'Oh, but those filthy folk' or 'that sort of people' — in short, expressions one wouldn't expect from a painter.
  • 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.
    • Quote in Vincent's letter to Theo van Gogh, from The Hague, 3 June 1883; as cited 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
  • 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, [18]
    • 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, which he knew from his Paris' years at art-gallery Goupil where he worked
  • Speaking of Rousseau, do you know Richard Wallace's [owner of a] 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' [
    • 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, [19]
    • the idea of 'a corner of nature seen through a temperament' accords with the naturalistic approach to art as formulated by Zola
  • Involuntarily and without any definite motive, I had a thought that often occurs to me. Not only did I begin drawing relatively late in life, but it may also be that I shall not live for so very many years to come.. .I think I may presume without rashness: that my body will keep a certain number of years "quand bien meme" - a certain number, say between six and ten years for instance.. .This is the period on which I reckon firmly.
  • Boughton together with Abbey are making for Harper in New York drawings called "Picturesque Holland".. ..now I say to myself if the Graphic and Harper send their draughtsmen to Holland they would perhaps not be unwilling to accept a draughtsman from Holland [Vincent himself], if he can furnish some good work for not too much money. I should prefer to be accepted on regular monthly wages rather than to sell a drawing now and then at a relatively high price.
  • Do you know what I long for sometimes? To make a trip to Brabant. I should love to draw the old churchyard at Nuenen, and the weavers. To make, for instance, during a month, studies of Brabant, and to come back [to The Hague] with a lot of them, for a large drawing of a peasant funeral for instance.
    • Quote of letter 295, from The Hague, 1883; as cited in Vincent van Gogh, Alfred H. Barr; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935, catalog-page: Dutch Period 2. - Weaver
  • My intention is to make in Drenthe so much progress in painting that when I come back I may be qualified for the 'Society of Draughtsmen' [a group of London illustrators]. This stands again in connection with the second plan of going to England [to become an illustrator].
  • ..The thought crossed my mind, how society today in its fall, at moments seen against the light of a renewal, stands out as a large, gloomy silhouette. Yes, for me, the drama of storm in nature, the drama of sorrow in life, is the most impressive.

Quotes, 1883 - stay in Drenthe, Netherlands[edit]

  • I tell you, brother, I am not good from a clergyman's point of view. I know full well that, frankly speaking, prostitutes are bad, but I feel something human in them which makes me feel not the least scruple to associate with them; I see nothing very wrong in them.. .And now, as in other periods of decline of civilization, the corruption of society has turned upside down all relations of good and evil, and one falls back logically on the old saying: "The first shall be last and the last shall be first".
  • As I feel a need to speak out frankly, I cannot hide from you that I am overcome by a feeling of great care, depression, a "je ne sais quoi" of discouragement and despair more than I can tell.
    I take it so much to heart that I do not get on better with people in general; it quite worries me because on it depends so much my success in carrying out my work.
  • There is a saying by Gustave Dore which I have always admired: "J'ai la patience d'un boeuf." [I have the patience of an ox]. I find in it a certain goodness, a certain resolute honesty, more, it has a deep meaning that saying, it is the word of a real artist. When one thinks of the men from whose heart such a saying sprang, all the arguments one too often hears of art dealers about "natural gifts", seem to become a terrible raven's croaking.
  • 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.
    • Quote in his letter from Drenthe, The Netherlands, Oct. 1883, 'Van Gogh's Letters', [20]
  • And my aim in my life is to make picture and drawings, as many and as well as I can, then, at the end of my life, I hope to pass away, looking back with love and tender regret, and thinking: "Oh, pictures I might have made!" Theo, I declare I prefer to think how arms, legs, head are attached to the trunk, rather than whether I myself am or am not more or less an artist.

Quotes, 1884 - 1885: farmer-painter in Nuenen, Netherlands[edit]

  • I am busy painting every day studies of the weavers here, which I think are technically better than the painted studies from Drenthe, which I sent you.
  • 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, [21]
  • Now I ask you whether you yourself have not often noticed that the policy of floating between the old and the new is not tenable? Just think this over. Sooner or later it ends with one's standing frankly either to the right or to the left.
    It is no ditch, and I repeat, then it was '48 [the 1848 Revolutions in Europe,] now it is '84 [1884]; then there was a barricade of paving stones - now it is not of stones, but a barricade as to the incompatibility of old and new.
  • And it's certain that unexpected new ideas are beginning to emerge. That paintings are once again beginning to be painted in very different tone from a few years ago.
    The last thing I made is a rather large study of an avenue of poplars with the yellow autumn leaves, where the sun makes glittering patches here and there on the fallen leaves on the ground, which are interspersed with the long shadows cast by the trunks. At the end of the road a peasant cottage, and the blue sky above it between the autumn leaves.
    I think that in a year's time — having spent that year once again painting a great deal and constantly — I'll change my manner of painting and my colour a great deal, and that I'm likely to become slightly more sombre rather than lighter.
  • I repeat, let us paint as much as we can and be productive, and be ourselves with all our faults and qualities; I say us, because the money from you [Theo], which I know costs you trouble enough to procure me, gives you the right, when there is some good in my work, to consider half of it your creation.
  • 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'.
  • If you saw the first painted color-studies that I made when I came here to Nuenen [1883] - and the present canvas [1885] - 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.
    • Quote in his letter to Theo, from Amsterdam, 30 April 1885, [22]
    • Vincent refers to his famous painting Eaters'
  • When I call myself a peasant painter, that is a real fact, and it will become more and more clear to you in the future, I feel at home there. By witnessing peasant life continually at all hours of the day I have become so absorbed in it that I hardly ever think of anything else.
  • I hope.. ..to paint some in a lighter gamut, more flesh and blood, but, at the same time, I am trying to get a still stronger soft soap and copper-like effect. In reality I daily see, in the gloomy huts, effects against the light or in the evening twilight.. ..which I compare to soft soap and brass color of a worn-out 10 centime piece.
  • 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..
    • In his letter to Anthon van Rappard, from Nuenen, The Netherlands, 8 and c. 15 August 1885 - original manuscript, letter 526, at Van Gogh Museum, location Amsterdam - inv. nos. b8390 V/2006, [23]
    • See for this anecdote, taken from Charles Blanc, Les artistes de mon temps, letter 496, n. 7.
  • The work in question, painting the peasants, is such laborious work that the extremely weak would never even embark on it. And I have at least embarked on it.. .And I've grasped some solid and useful things in drawing and in painting, more firmly than you think, my dear friend. But I keep on making what I can't do yet in order to learn to be able to do it.. .We have in common with each other that we seek our subjects in the heart of the people, and then we have in common a need — either as an objective or as a means — to take our studies from reality.
  • But tell me, black and white, may they be used or not, are they forbidden fruit? You . . . think that when the shadows are dark, ay, black, that it is all wrong then, don't you? I don't think so.. .Rembrandt and Hals, didn't they use black? And Velasquez???

Letter to Theo (Nuenen, Oct. 1884)[edit]

Quotes from Letter to Theo van Gogh, from Nuenen (October 1884), as translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger

  • 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 [ Sien in The Hague ]), 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, 1885 - 1886: short stay in Antwerp, Belgium[edit]

  • It is hard, terribly hard, to keep on working when one does not sell, and one literally has to pay for one's colors from what would not be too much for eating, drinking and lodgings, calculated ever so strictly. And then, besides, the models.. .All the same they are building State museums, and the like, for hundreds of thousands, but meanwhile, the artists can go to the dogs.
  • ..How glad I was when this doctor took me for an ordinary workingman and said: "I suppose you are an iron worker." That is just what I have tried to change in myself; when I was younger, I looked like one who has been intellectually overwrought, and now I look like a skipper or an iron worker.
  • ..I went to live in my studio on the first of May [?].. .I have not had a hot dinner more than perhaps six or seven times since. I have lived then and I do so here, not having money for dinner, because the work costs me too much and I have trusted too much on my being strong enough to hold out. Now I have made it worse by smoking a great deal, which I do the more because then one does not feel an empty stomach so much.. .My opinion is that one must not think that the people whose health is damaged, quite or partly, are no good for painting.. .It fell so unexpectedly on me, I had been feeling weak and feverish, but I went on notwithstanding, but I began to feel worried when more and more teeth broke off, and I began to look more and more ill.
  • This one thing remains: faith; one feels instinctively that many things are changing and that everything will change. We are living in the last quarter of a century which will end again in an enormous revolution.. ..we shall certainly not live to see the better times of pure air and the refreshing of the old society after those big storms. We are still in the closeness but the following generations will be able to breathe in freely.
  • As well as the greatest optimist I see the lark soaring in the spring air, but I also see a young girl of about twenty, who might have been in good health, a victim to consumption, and who will perhaps drown herself before she dies of an illness. If one is always in respectable company among rather well-to-do bourgeois one does not notice this so much perhaps, but if one has dined for years on 'la vache enragee', as I did, one cannot deny that great misery is a fact that weighs down the scale.

Quotes, 1886 - 1888: years in Paris[edit]

  • Don't be cross with me that I've come all of a sudden [to move from Antwerp to Paris]. I've thought about it so much and I think we'll save time this way. Will be at the Louvre from midday, or earlier if you like. A reply, please, to let me know when you could come to the Salle Carrée. As for expenses, I repeat, it comes to the same thing. I have some money left, that goes without saying, and I want to talk to you before spending anything.
    • Quote in his letter to Theo van Gogh, from Paris, on or about Sunday, 28 February 1886; from original text of letter 567 - vangoghletters online
    • Van Gogh went hotfoot from Antwerp to Paris with no prior warning; later he confessed he left Antwerp without paying his bills
  • In Antwerp I did not even know what the Impressionists were, now I have seen them and though not being one of the club, yet I have much admired certain Impressionist pictures – Degas, nude figure – Claude Monet, landscape. And now for what regards what I myself have been doing, I have lacked money for paying models, else I had entirely given myself to figure painting but I have made a series of colour studies in painting simply flowers, red poppies, blue corn flowers and myosotys. White and rose roses, yellow chrysantemums – seeking oppositions of blue with orange, red and green, yellow and violet, seeking THE BROKEN AND NEUTRAL TONES to harmonise brutal extremes. Trying to render intense COLOUR and not a grey harmony.
  • And at times already I feel old and broken.. .To succeed one must have ambition, and ambition seems to me absurd. What will come of it I don't know ; I would like above all things to be less of a burden to you.. .I hope to make such progress that you will be able to show my stuff boldly without compromising yourself. And then I will take myself off somewhere down south, to get away from the sight of so many painters that disgust me as men.
  • If, therefore, you've already considered that Signac and the others who are doing pointillism often make very beautiful things with it - Instead of running those things down, one [Bernhard] should respect them and speak of them sympathetically, especially when there's a falling out. Otherwise one becomes a narrow sectarian oneself, and the equivalent of those who think nothing of others and believe themselves to be the only righteous ones. This extends even to the academic painters, because take, for example, a painting by Fantin-Latour — and above all his entire oeuvre. Well then — there's someone who hasn't rebelled, and does that prevent him, that indefinable calm and righteousness that he has, from being one of the most independent characters in existence?
  • Like me, for instance, who can count so many years in my life when I completely lost all inclination to laugh, leaving aside whether or not this was my own fault, I for one need above all just to have a good laugh. I found that in Guy de Maupassant and there are others here, Rabelais among the old writers, Henri Rochefort among today's, where one can find that — Voltaire in 'Candide'. On the contrary, if one wants truth, life as it is, De Goncourt, for example, in 'Germinie Lacerteux', 'La fille Elisa', Zola in 'La joie de vivre' and 'L'assommoir' and so many other masterpieces paint life as we feel it ourselves and thus satisfy that need which we have, that people tell us the truth. The work of the French naturalists Zola, Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, De Goncourt, Richepin, Daudet, Huysmans is magnificent and one can scarcely be said to belong to one's time if one isn't familiar with them.

Quotes, 1888 - 1889: years in Arles[edit]

  • It seems to me almost impossible to work in Paris [he just left Paris] unless one has some place of retreat where one can revive oneself and get back one's tranquility and poise. Without that one would get hopelessly brutalized.
  • I brought home a no.15 canvas today, it's a drawbridge, with a little carriage going across it, outlined against a blue sky — the river blue as well, the banks orange with greenery, a group of washerwomen wearing blouses and multicoloured bonnets.. .But, my dear brother — you know, I feel I'm in Japan. I say no more than that, and again, I've seen nothing yet in its usual splendour. That's why (even while being worried that at the moment expenses are steep and the paintings of no value), that's why I don’t despair of success in this enterprise of going on a long journey in the south. Here I'm seeing new things, I'm learning..
  • I am not working for myself alone, I believe in the absolute necessity for a new art of color, of design, and - of the artistic life..
  • Of all the colors I ordered: the three chromes, the Prussian blue, the emerald, the crimson lakes, the malachite green, all the orange lead, hardly one of them is to be found on the Dutch palette, in Maris, in Mauve or Israels - [all contemporaries of Vincent, Dutch painters of the Hague School.]
  • I was certainly going the right way for a stroke when I left Paris. I paid for it nicely afterwards! When I stopped drinking, when I stopped smoking so much, when I began again to think instead of trying not to think - good Lord, the depression and the prostration of it! Work in these magnificent natural surroundings [of Arles ] has helped my morale.
  • ..You know that I think a society of impressionists would be a good thing of the same nature as the Society of the Twelve English Pre-Raphaelites, and I think that it could come into existence. Then I incline to think that the artists would guarantee mutually among themselves a livelihood, each consenting to give a considerable number of pictures to the Society, and that the gains as well as the losses should be taken in common.
  • 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.
  • About staying in the south, even if it's more expensive — Look, we love Japanese painting, we've experienced its influence — all the Impressionists have that in common — and we wouldn't go to Japan, in other words, to what is the equivalent of Japan, the south? So I believe that the future of the new art still lies in the south after all. But it's bad policy to live there alone when two or three could help each other to live on little.
    • In a letter to brother Theo, from Arles, c. 5 June 1888, in 'Van Gogh's Letters', letter 620, Van Goghmuseum
    • Vincent was busy, trying to convince a. o. Paul Gauguin to come to Arles, and to settle there
  • I'd like you [Theo] to spend some time here, you'd feel it — after some time your vision changes, you see with a more Japanese eye, you feel colour differently. I'm also convinced that it's precisely through a long stay here that I'll bring out my personality. The Japanese [like a. o. Hokusai, admired by Vincent] draws quickly, very quickly, like a flash of lightning, because his nerves are finer, his feeling simpler. I've been here [Arles] only a few months but — tell me, in Paris would I have drawn in an hour the drawing of the boats?.. .Now this [sketch] was done without measuring, letting the pen go. So I tell myself that gradually the expenses will be balanced by work.
    • In a letter to brother Theo, from Arles, c. 5 June 1888, in 'Van Gogh's Letters', letter 620, Van Goghmuseum
    • The Japanese artists with their colored woodblock-prints meant a great inspirations for several Paris' artists - they were extremely important for Vincent, these years
  • Here's what I wanted to say about the white and the black [tones]. Let's take 'The Sower'. The painting is divided into two; one half is yellow, the top; the bottom is violet. Well, the white trousers [Van Gogh darked them later!] rest the eye and distract it just when the excessive simultaneous contrast of yellow and violet would annoy it. That's what I wanted to say.
  • Often I think of that excellent painter Monticelli,. ..when I come back myself from the mental labor of balancing the six essential colors.. ..sheer work and calculation, with one's mind utterly on the stretch, like an actor on the stage in a difficult part, with a hundred things at once to think of in a single half-hour.
    Don't think that I would artificially keep up a feverish condition, but do understand that I am in the midst of a complicated calculation which results in quick succession in canvases quickly executed, but calculated long beforehand. So now, when anyone says that such and such is done too quickly, you can reply that they have looked at it too quickly.
  • All my work is in a way founded on Japanese art.. .Japanese art, in decadence in its own country, takes root again among the French impressionist artists.
  • After the crisis which I went through coming down here I can make no plans nor anything, I am decidedly better now, but hope, the desire to succeed is gone, and I work because I must, so as not to suffer too much mentally, so as to distract my mind.
  • I have a study of a garden, almost a metre wide. Poppies and other red flowers in green in the foreground, then a patch of bluebells.. .At the end, black cypresses against little low white houses with orange roofs .. ..I know very well that not a single flower was drawn, that they’re just little licks of colour, red, yellow, orange, green, blue, violet, but the impression of all those colours against one another is nonetheless there in the painting as it is in nature.. .You see that the motif is really summery.
  • 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.
  • When I have a terrible need of - shall I say the word - religion. Then I go out and paint the stars.
    • Quote in a letter to Theo van Gogh, from Arles, c. Saturday, 29 September 1888; as cited in An Examined Faith : Social Context and Religious Commitment (1991) by James Luther Adams and George K. Beach, p. 259
  • ..I am always between two currents of thought, first the material difficulties, turning round and round to make a living; and second, study of color. I am always in hope of making a discovery there, to express the love of two lovers by a marriage of two complementary colors, their mingling and their opposition, the mysterious vibrations of kindred tones. To express the thought of a brow by the radiance of a light tone against a sombre background. To express hope by some star, the eagerness of a soul by a sunset radiance. Certainly there is nothing in that of stereoscopic realism, but is it not some thing that actually exists?
  • The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.
    • Quote in Vincent's letter, from Arles, Tuesday, 18 September 1888; as cited 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.
  • It is color, not locally true from the point of view of the stereoscopic realist, but color to suggest any emotion of an ardent temperament. When Paul Mantz saw at the exhibition the violent and inspired sketch of Delacroix.. ..the 'Barque of Christ' - he turned away from it exclaiming: 'I did not know that one could be so terrible with a little blue and green'. Hokusai wrings the same cry from you [Theo], but he does it by his line, his drawing, when you say in your letter - 'the waves are claws and the ship is caught in them'. Well, if you make the color exact or the drawing exact, it won't give you sensations like that.
  • If we study Japanese art, you see a man who is undoubtedly wise, philosophic and intelligent who spends his time how? In studying the distance between the earth and the moon? No. In studying the policy of Bismarck? No. He studies a single blade of grass..
  • I should not ask anything better, but when it is a question of several painters living in community life, I stipulate before everything that there must be an abbot to keep order, and that would naturally be Gauguin. That is why I would like Gauguin to be here [in Arles ] first.. .If I can get back the money already spent which you [Theo] have lent me for several years, we will launch out, and try to found a studio for a renaissance and not for a decadence.
  • Here, under a stronger sun, I have found true what Pissarro said, and what Gauguin wrote to me as well, the simplicity, the lack of color, the gravity of great sunlight effects.
  • This art that we are all working in, we feel it has a long future before it, and one must have some settled base, like steady people, and not like decadents. Here my life will become more and more like a Japanese painter's, living close to nature like a petty tradesman.
  • 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 hope I have just had simply an artist's freak, and then a lot of fever after very considerable loss of blood, as an artery was severed, but my appetite came back at once. My digestion is all right, and so from day to day serenity returns to my brain.
    • Quote in his letter to brother Theo, from Arles, France, Jan. 1889; as quoted in Vincent van Gogh, edited by Alfred H. Barr; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935, (letter 569), p 24
    • Vincent wrote this letter about two weeks after his first attack, during which he had cut off his ear
  • At present I have a portrait of a woman [Madame Roulin].. .Which I've called 'la berceuse', . .It's a woman dressed in green (bust olive green and the skirt pale Veronese green). Her hair is entirely orange and in plaits. The complexion worked up in chrome yellow, with a few broken tones, of course, in order to model. The hands that hold the cradle cord ditto ditto. The background is vermilion at the bottom (simply representing a tiled floor or brick floor). The wall is covered with wallpaper, obviously calculated by me in connection with the rest of the colours. This wallpaper is blue-green with pink dahlias and dotted with orange and with ultramarine.. .Whether I've actually sung a lullaby with colour I leave to the critics..
  • When I came out of the hospital with kind old Roulin I thought that there had been nothing wrong with me, but afterwards I felt I had been ill. Well, well, there are moments when I am wrung by enthusiasm or madness or prophecy like a Greek oracle on a tripod.. .Everyone suffers here either from fever, or hallucination, or madness, we understand each other like members of the same family.
  • ..Here I am shut up for the livelong day under lock and key and with keepers in a cell.. ..I will not deny that I would rather have died than have caused and suffered such trouble.
  • letter after his third attack
  • Certainly after all you are right, damn well right - even making allowance for hope, the thing is to accept the probably disastrous reality. I am hoping to throw myself once again wholly in my work which has got behind hand.
  • ..At the end of the month I should like to go to the hospital at St. Remy or another institution of this kind. What comforts me a little, is that I am beginning to consider madness as a disease like any other and accept the thing as such, whereas during the crises themselves, I thought that everything I imagined was real.. .After all.. .I have perhaps still some almost normal years in front of me.
  • Now I as a painter shall never stand for anything of importance. I feel it utterly.. .I sometimes regret I did not simply keep to the Dutch palette [of Dutch impressionism ] with its grey tones, and have brushed away at landscapes of Montmartre [in 1886-87] with no ado.

Quotes, 1889 - 1890: stay in the asylum of Saint-Rémy[edit]

  • Formerly I felt repulsion for these creatures, and it was a harrowing thought for me to reflect that so many of our profession, Troyon, Marchal, Meryon, Jundt, M. Maris, Monticelli [all painter-artists], and heaps more had ended like this.
  • ..if he'll [ Gauguin ] accept it, you [Theo] shall give him a version of the '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.

... I am terribly distressed that the attacks have come hack. When I was already beginning to hope that it would not return.. ..This new attack, my hoy, came on me in the fields and when I was in the midst of painting, on a windy day. I will send you the canvas. I finished it in spite of it.

  • My dear Brother, - I am working like one actually possessed, more than ever I am in a dumb fury of work.. .Perhaps something will happen to me like what Eug. Delacroix spoke of, "I discovered painting when I had no longer teeth or breath." What I dream of in my best moments is not so much of striking color effects as once more the half tones.
  • What a queer thing touch is, the stroke of the brush. In the open air, exposed to wind, to sun, to the curiosity of the people, you work as you can, you feel your canvas anyhow.. .But when after a time you take up again this study and arrange your brush strokes in the direction of the objects - certainly it is more harmonious and pleasant to look at, and you add whatever you have of serenity and cheerfulness.
  • Ill as well, and I have not been brave. Then face to face with the suffering of these attacks I feel very frightened too.. ..All the same I know well that healing comes - if one is brave - from within through profound resignation to suffering and death, through the surrender of your own will and of your self-love. But that is no use to me, I love to paint, to see people and things and everything that makes our life - artificial - if you like.
  • Now I'm working on [a painting of the 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..
  • 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.
    • Quote 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: [30]
    • 'Gauguin's chair', Van Gogh painted this picture around 19 November 1889, 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 of Vincent given here with hindsight.
  • Dear mother and sister - This is the first time that I can bring myself to write after 2 months' indisposition. Until today I could bring myself neither to read your letters nor to write.. .For a few days now I've been busy painting a field in the full sunshine with yellow dandelions ['Flowering meadow with trees and dandelions']. And while my illness was at its worst, I still painted, among other things a reminiscence of Brabant, cottages with mossy roofs and beech hedges on an autumn evening with a stormy sky, the sun setting red in reddish clouds. And a turnip field with women lifting turnips in the snow.
  • My surroundings here [in the asylum St. Remy ] begin to weigh on me more than I can express - my word, I have had patience for more than a year - I need air, I feel overwhelmed with boredom and depression.

Quotes, 1890 - Van Gogh's last months in Auvers[edit]

  • I have seen Dr. Gachet, who made the impression on me of being rather eccentric, but his experience as a doctor must keep him balanced while fighting the nervous trouble from which he certainly seems to me to be suffering at least as seriously as I... .Nevertheless, he [dr. Gachet] is a strange fellow. The impression he made on me was not unfavorable. When he spoke of Belgium and the days of the old painters, his grief-hardened face became smiling again, and I really think that I shall go on being friends with him and that I shall do his portrait.
    Then he said that I must work boldly on, and not think at all of what went wrong with me.
  • It was a great happiness to me to see Theo again, and to make the acquaintance of Jo and the little one. Theo's cough was worse than it was when I left him two years ago.. .I have a larger picture of the village church [in Auvers-sur-Oise ] - an effect in which the building appears to be violet-hued against a sky of simple deep blue colour, pure cobalt; the stained-glass windows appear as ultramarine blotches, the roof is violet and partly orange. In the foreground some green plants in bloom, and sand with the pink flow of sunshine in it. And once again it is nearly the same thing as the studies I did in Nuenen of the old tower and the cemetery, only it is probably that now the colour is more expressive, more sumptuous.
  • For myself I can only say at the moment that I think we all need rest - I feel done for. So much for me: I feel that this is the lot which I accept and which will not alter.. ..And the prospect grows darker, I see no happy future at all.
  • Well, the truth is, we can only make our pictures speak. But yet, my dear brother, there is this that I have always told you, and I repeat it once more, with all earnestness.. ..that I shall always consider that you are something other than a simple [art-]dealer in Corot, that through my mediation you have a part in the actual production of some canvases, which even in the deluge will retain their place.
    Well, my own work, I am risking my life for it and my reason has half-foundered in it - that is all right - but you are not among the dealers in men so far as I know, and you can still choose your side, I think, acting with humanity, but what's the use?
  • La tristesse durera toujours
  • The sadness will last forever.
    • Attributed to Vincent, as quoted by Theo van gogh in his letter from Paris, to Elisabeth van Gogh, 5 August 1890 [31]
    • Some of the last words Vincent said to Theo, while dying

Quotes, undated[edit]

  • 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
  • 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

Quotes about Vincent van Gogh[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quotes about Vincent van Gogh

1888 - 1890[edit]

  • I am sorry to say that I think he is lost. Not only is his mind affected, but he is very weak and down-hearted. He recognised me but did not show any pleasure at seeing me and did not inquire about any member of my family.. .When I left him I told him that I would come back to see him; he replied that we would meet again in heaven, and from his manner I realized he was praying.
    • Quote of Joseph Roulin, in his letter from Arles, Wednesday-evening 26 December 1888, to Theo van Gogh; as cited in Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story, by Bernadette Murphy; Taschenbuch, 2016, p. 162
    • Theo van Gogh and Paul Gauguin had just left Arles on 26 Dec. - travelling to Paris; Roulin had promised to keep and eye and to report Theo; he visited Vincent in the hospital of Arles, where Vincent was hospitalized; he was injured because of cutting off his ear
  • That head of his [Vincent] has been occupied with contemporary society's insoluble problems for so long, and he is still battling on with his good-heartedness and boundless energy. His efforts have not been in vain, but he will probably not live to see them come to fruition, for by the time people understand what he is saying in his paintings it will be too late. He is one of the most advanced painters and it is difficult to understand him, even for me who knows him so intimately. His ideas cover so much ground, examining what is humane and how one should look at the world, that one must first free oneself from anything remotely linked to convention to understand what he was trying to say, but I am sure he will be understood later on. It is just hard to say when.
  • I, the undersigned, doctor of Medicine, Director of the Saint-Remy mental home, certify that the man, named Vincent van Gogh,.. ..at present domiciled in Arles.. ..suffered an attack of acute mania with visual and auditorial hallucinations that led him to mutilate himself by cutting off his ear. Today he appears to have regained his reasons but he does not feel he has the strength or the courage to live independently..
    • Quote from patient note - 9 May 1889, by Dr. Théophile Perron; as cited in Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story, by Bernadette Murphy; Taschenbuch, 2016, p. 229
  • When I got up this morning, Wednesday, my landlady handed me your letter, which satisfied me to learn that you had left Arles, to go to St-Rémy of your own accord. Continue your paintings, you are in a beautiful part of the world, the countryside is very beautiful, the soil is very well worked, you will find a great change in the farming down there, you will not find gardens that look like cemeteries, as in Arles. Continue to take good care of yourself, follow properly the good advice which will be given to you by the good Doctor who is attached to the establishment. I have great confidence that your health will be completely restored, with the good will that you have you will succeed in doing very fine paintings, you live in the garden of the Bouches du Rhône, you will not lack for models made by nature, continue and be of good heart.
  • I'm going to begin by telling you a great piece of news.. around February probably, we're hoping to have a baby, a pretty little boy – whom we'll call Vincent if you'll consent to be his godfather.. ..to tell the truth, when I found out I wasn't at all pleased, on the contrary I was very unhappy.. ..neither Theo nor I are in very good health, I'm very afraid that we may make a weak child,. ..[but] the doctor reassured me greatly on that score, and then good food and good care can do a great deal.. .Do you remember the portrait of the Roulin baby you sent Theo? Everyone admires it greatly, and many times now people have asked 'but why have you put this portrait in this out-of-the-way corner?' It's because – from my place at table I can just see the child's big blue eyes, its pretty little hands and round cheeks, and I like to imagine that ours will be as strong, as healthy and as beautiful as that one – and because his uncle will consent to do his portrait one day!
  • Nevertheless, in the case of Vincent van Gogh, in my opinion, despite the sometimes misleading strangeness of his works, it is difficult for an unprejudiced and knowledgeable viewer to deny or question the naive truthfulness of his art, the ingeniousness of his vision.. .Indeed, independent of this indefinable aroma of good faith and of the truly seen that all his paintings exude, the choice of subjects, the constant harmony between the most excessive colour notes, the conscientious study of character, the continual search for the essential sign of each thing, a thousand significant details undeniably assert his profound and almost childlike sincerity, his great love for nature and for truth - his own personal truth.
    • Quote by G. Albert Aurier, in his article 'Les Isolés: Vincent van Gogh', 'Mercure de France', January, 1890
  • How would we explain, for example, 'The Sower' that august and disturbing sower, that rustic with his brutally brilliant forehead (bearing at times a distant resemblance to the artist himself), whose silhouette, gesture, and labour have always obsessed Vincent van Gogh, and whom he painted and repainted so often, sometimes beneath skies rubescent at sunset, sometimes amid the golden dust of blazing noons - how could we explain 'The Sower' without considering that idée fixe, that haunts his brain about the necessary advent of a man, a messiah, sower of truth, who would regenerate the decrepitude of our art and perhaps our imbecile and industrialist society?
    • Quote by G. Albert Aurier, in his article 'Les Isolés: Vincent van Gogh', 'Mercure de France', January, 1890
  • I am very happy to be able to tell you that I met Dr. Gachet, that physician [which] Camille Pissarro mentioned to me. He gives the impression of being a man of understanding. Physically he is a little like you. As soon as you come here we are going to see him; he comes to Paris several times a week for consultations. When I told him how your crisis came about, he said to me that he didn’t believe it had anything to do with madness, and that if it was what he thought he could guarantee your recovery, but that it was necessary for him to see you and to speak with you in order to be able to make a more definite statement.
  • In the last letter which he [Vincent] wrote me and which dates from some four days before his death, it says, "I try to do as well as certain painters whom I have greatly loved and admired." People should realize that he was a great artist, something which often coincides with being a great human being. In the course of time this will surely be acknowledged, and many will regret his early death. He himself wanted to die, when I sat at his bedside and said that we would try to get him better and that we hoped that he would then be spared this kind of despair, he said, "La tristesse durera toujours" [The sadness will last forever]. I understood what he wanted to say with those words.
    • Quote of Theo van Gogh, in his letter to his sister Elisabeth van Gogh, from Paris, 5 August 1890
    • Theo tells about Vincent's last hours
  • 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'.
    • Quote of 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.
  • I received a letter from the brother-in-law of Theo van Gogh. He writes that Theo is calmer and that it will be possible to send him to Holland. The Vingt [art-exhibition in Belgium] are to include van Gogh's works in their exhibition as are the 'Independents' [in Paris] who will have one room for [w:Albert Dubois-Pillet|Dubois-Pillet]], and one for Vincent.
    • Quote of Camille Pissarro, in a letter, Eragny, 14 November, 1890, in a letter to his son Lucien; from Camille Pissarro - Letters to His Son Lucien ed. John Rewald, with assistance of Lucien Pissarro; from the unpublished French letters; transl. Lionel Abel; Pantheon Books Inc. New York, second edition, 1943, p. 139
    • After the death of Vincent, Theo van Gogh fell seriously ill and apparently even became insane. Brought to Holland, he died in January 1891

1891 - 1910[edit]

  • Certainly, I am not insensitive to the researches on light by M. Georges Seurat.. .I am attracted to M. Denis's small compositions, of so soft a tone, enveloped in such tender mysticism. I recognize, in M. Armand Guillaumin's limited and unimaginative Realism a fine touch.. .And despite the blacks with which he unduly soils his figures, M. de Toulouse-Lautrec shows a real power, spiritual and tragic.. .M. Lucien Pissarro's engravings have verve, sobriety, and distinction.. .But none of these uncontestable artists.. ..captivate me as much as Vincent van Gogh. In his case I sense that I am in the presence of someone higher, more masterful, someone who disturbs me, moves me, and compels recognition.
    It is perhaps not yet the time to tell the story of Vincent van Gogh as it ought to be told. His death is too recent, and it was too tragic. The memories I would evoke would revive the grief, which still brings tears.
  • 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.
    • Quote by 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."
  • .In my yellow room, a small still life; this one violet. – Two enormous, worn, deformed shoes. Vincent's shoes. Those he took, one bright, new morning, then, to make his way on foot from Holland to Belgium. The young priest.. ..was on his way to the mines [in the Borinage, Belgium] to see those, he called his brothers.. ..Contrary to his master's teaching, wise Dutchmen, Vincent believed in a Jesus who loved the poor.. ..Undoubtly, undoubtly, Vincent was already mad.
    • Quote from Paul Gauguin, Natures Mortes, in Essais d'art libre, IV, Jan. 1894; as quoted in The Glory of van Gogh, - an Anthropology of admiration, by Nathalie Heinrich; Princeton University Press, 1997, p. 167
  • Sincèrement, vous faites une peinture de fou.
    • Honestly, you [Vincent] paint like a madman.
      • Attributed to Paul Cézanne, as cited in 'Mercure de France', 16 December 1908, p. 607 [33]
  • ..he [= Vincent] often stayed talking for a while after the lesson [Greek and Latin, in Amsterdam, 1877-78], and naturally we often discussed his former profession, the art dealing business [of Goupil & Cie.] He had kept quite a number of the prints which he had collected in those days [1869-1875], little lithographs after paintings, etc. He brought them to show me repeatedly, but they were always completely spoiled; the white borders were literally covered with quotations from Thomas a Kempis and the Bible, more or less connected with the subject, which he had scrawled all over them.. ..in no way could I guess those days.. ..that in the depths of his soul lay dormant the future visionary of colour.

1911 - 1925[edit]

  • Vincent.. ..painted Montmartre [c. 1887], its little scraggy gardens; the 'Moulin de la Galette', its open-air roadhouses; his excursions took him as far afield as Asnières. He became a guest at the 'Ile de la Grande-Jatte', which Seurat had already made famous with his schematic studies.
    Vincent would start out with a large canvas mounted on his back, then divide it up in as many sections as demanded by the motifs he found. In the evening he brought it home filled, and it was like a little portable museum, wherein were culled all the emotions of the day. There were bits of the Seine filled with boats, houses with the blue 'balancoires'; smart bustling restaurants with multicolored blinds, with oleander; corners of abandoned parks or of properties up for sale. A vernal poetry emanated from these fragments seized by the tip of his brush as if stolen from the fleeting hours. I savored their charm all the more because at that time I lived in those places, because they were the objects of my solitary walks, and because they were rendered with the soul that I felt in them.
  • One evening [Feb. 1888] Vincent said to me, "I'm leaving tomorrow; let's arrange the atelier in such a way that my brother Theo will feel that I'm still here." He nailed Japanese prints on the walls and put some canvases on easels, leaving others in piles. He rolled up some things for me that I untied; they were of Chinese paintings, one of his finds, rescued from the hands of a junk-shop owner who used them to wrap the merchandise he sold. After this he announced that he was leaving for the Midi, for Arles, and that he hoped I would join him. "For," he said, "the Midi is now where the atelier of the future must be established." I accompanied him as far down as the avenue de Clichy.. .I clasped his hands; and it was over forever. I will never see him again, I will never be so close to him again, except when we are joined by death.
  • The last time I saw Vincent.. ..was in Arles in the spring of 1889. He was already at the hospital of this city. Several days earlier, he had cut off the lobe of his ear (and not his entire ear) under circumstances of which you know. But the day of my visit he had his wits about him, and the intern permitted me to go out with him. He had the famous bandage on, and the fur cap. He took me to his lodgings at the Place Lamartine, where I saw the marvelous paintings, his masterpieces: Les Alyscamps; The Night Café; La Berceuse; The Drawbridge; the Saintes-Maries; The Starry Night; etc.. Imagine the splendor of those whitewashed walls from which these colors radiated in all their freshness!
    The whole day he spoke to me about painting, literature, socialism. That night he was a little tired. There was a frightful mistral blowing which might have unnerved him..
  • ..he [Vincent van Gogh] is closer to me than [Ferdinand] Hodler, for he sees colors as I see them. On reading [Van Gogh's letters] I have again and again said, Good Lord, that is just how you would make a poem.. .The difference is that painting is very difficult, whereas writing poetry is terribly easy provided one has eyes to see it.
    • Quote of Georg Heym (before 1912), in a letter to his friend and writer John Wolfsohn; as quoted and translated by Patrick Bridgewater, in Poet of Expressionist Berlin: The Life and Work of Georg Heym, (London: Libris, 1991), p. 170
  • One day in the drawing class of the Academy of Antwerp [End of 1885 / beginning of 1886], the students were given, as if by chance, a cast of the Venus de Milo to copy. Van Gogh, struck by one of the essential characteristics of the model, strongly accentuated the width of her hips.. .The beautiful Greek goddess had become a robust Flemish matron. When the honest [art-teacher] M. Sieber saw this he tore Van Gogh's sheet of paper with the furious strokes of his crayon, correcting his drawing while reminding him of the immutable canons of art. ..[Van Gogh] flew into a violent rage and shouted at the horrified professor: "You clearly don't know what a young woman is like, God damn it! A woman must have hips, buttocks, a pelvis in which she can carry a baby!" This was the last lesson that Van Gogh took - or gave - at the Academy of Antwerp.
  • ..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...
    • Quote of 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
  • He [Vincent] often complained that he was the only painter in town [ Arles ] and therefore could not talk to anyone about his art. For lack of such a colleague, he would talk to me about complementary colors. But I really could not understand why red should not be red, and green not green!. .When I saw that he outlined my head entirely in green (he had only two main colors, red and green), that he painted my hair and my mustache - I really did not have red hair - in a blazing red on a biting green background, I was simply horrified. What shouldn’t I do with this present?

1926 - 1960[edit]

  • It was after his return that Camille Pissarro was requested by Theo van Gogh to take in his brother Vincent who was anxious to leave the asylum of Saint-Remy near Arles where he had been confined since May 1889. Pissarro, who had known Vincent van Gogh from his first appearance in Paris in 1886, and who had often advised the Dutch painter during the period when the latter was abandoning his dark style for the impressionist technique, was ready to put him up at Eragny. But Madame Pissarro was afraid of the effect on her children of an unbalanced man. So Camille Pissarro suggested his friend Dr. Gachet at Auvers on the Oise, who was willing to care for Vincent van Gogh.
    • Quote by John Rewald, in Camille Pissarro - Letters to His Son Lucien ed. John Rewald, with assistance of Lucien Pissarro; from the unpublished French letters; transl. Lionel Abel; Pantheon Books Inc. New York, second edition, 1943, p. 137
  • 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.
  • 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]
    • Quote of 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[edit]

Quotes from '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 Gogh-huis, 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.

p. 66

  • ..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.

p. 66

  • This exchange – mainly in the form of letters [ here all collected ] 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]

pp. 67-69

  • 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.

pp. 67-69

1961 - 1980[edit]

  • Van Gogh.. .In this world of petty calculations, he was too intense. He frightened people. They cast him out.
    • Quote of 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.
    • Quote of 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)[edit]

Quotes from: 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[edit]

  • 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.
  • Van Gogh, whose work was exhibited in Dresden in 1905, just as the group Die Brücke was founded, was a major influence in his patchy brushstroke and bold color choices. Fritz Bleyl responded that it [the Van Gogh exhibition] was 'a big, impressive surprise.' The group became so influenced by van Gogh by 1907, that Nolde suggested changing the group's name to 'Van Goghiana'. Heckel's art teacher de:Fritz Schumacher in 1905 blamed their uncharacteristic approach to art on: 'the influence of a van Gogh exhibit, which could be seen at this time in Dresden. '

The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh (2011)[edit]

Quotes from: 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.


Misattributed[edit]

  • I would rather die of passion than of boredom
    • Not by van Gogh, but from Emile Zola's novel The Ladies' Paradise (1883).

External links[edit]

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