Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Brussels, January 1881.
Now without in any way daring to claim to rise as high as them, nevertheless, by continuing to draw these types of workmen &c., I’m confident of succeeding in becoming more or less capable of working in magazine or book illustration. First and foremost, when I’ll be able to pay more for models, and female models too, I’ll make further progress; I feel it and I know it. And I’ll probably also succeed in being able to do portraits. But that depends on working hard; not a day without a line, as Gavarni used to say.
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Brussels, January 1881.
"I would be very happy if you could somehow see in me something other than some sort of idler.
Because there are idlers and idlers, who form a contrast.
There’s the one who’s an idler through laziness and weakness of character, through the baseness of his nature; you may, if you think fit, take me for such a one. Then there’s the other idler, the idler truly despite himself, who is gnawed inwardly by a great desire for action, who does nothing because he finds it impossible to do anything since he’s imprisoned in something, so to speak, because he doesn’t have what he would need to be productive, because the inevitability of circumstances is reducing him to this point. Such a person doesn’t always know himself what he could do, but he feels by instinct, I’m good for something, even so! I feel I have a raison d’être! I know that I could be a quite different man! For what then could I be of use, for what could I serve! There’s something within me, so what is it! That’s an entirely different idler; you may, if you think fit, take me for such a one.
In the springtime a bird in a cage knows very well that there’s something he’d be good for; he feels very clearly that there’s something to be done but he can’t do it; what it is he can’t clearly remember, and he has vague ideas and says to himself, ‘the others are building their nests and making their little ones and raising the brood’, and he bangs his head against the bars of his cage. And then the cage stays there and the bird is mad with suffering".
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Cuesmes, 22-24 June 1880.
"It is good to love as much as one can, for therein lies true strength, and he who loves much does much and is capable of much..."
«He who lives uprightly and experiences true difficulty and disappointment and is nonetheless undefeated by it is worth more than someone who prospers and knows nothing but relative good fortune”.
“If we but try to live uprightly, then we shall be all right, even though we shall inevitably experience true sorrow and genuine disappointments, and also probably make real mistakes and do wrong things, but it’s certainly true that it is better to be fervent in spirit, even if one accordingly makes more mistakes, than narrow-minded and overly cautious. It is good to love as much as one can, for therein lies true strength, and he who loves much does much and is capable of much, and that which is done with love is well done. If one is moved by some book or other, for instance, just to mention something, ‘The swallow, the lark, the nightingale’, The longing for autumn, ‘From here I see a lady’, ‘Never this unique little village’ by, it’s because it’s written from the heart in simplicity and with poverty of spirit.
If one were to say but few words, though ones with meaning, one would do better than to say many that were only empty sounds, and just as easy to utter as they were of little use”.
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Amsterdam, 3 April 1878
“Truly life is a fight, and one must defend oneself and resist and make plans and calculations with a cheerful and alert mind in order to make it through and get ahead. It becomes no easier the further one gets in life, and it has been rightly said:
Does the road go uphill then all the way?
‘Yes to the very end’
And will the journey take all day long?
‘From morn till night, my friend.’
But by fighting the difficulties in which one finds oneself, an inner strength develops from within our heart, which improves in life’s fight (one matures in the storm), if we always endeavour to keep that heart out of which are the issues of life, good and simple and rich toward God, to restore that and make it thus more and more, and to bear in mind the words that we must have a good conscience before God and before people”.
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Amsterdam, 30 October 1877
“Had rather a lot of work today, a great many trifling matters – but they’re my duty – if one had no sense of duty, who would be able to collect his thoughts at all, but a sense of duty sanctifies things and joins them together, and turns many small things into one large one”.
Vincent van Gogh. From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Dordrecht, 26 Feb. 1877
Recently I read letters of Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo van Gogh. In these letters, anyone can find many interesting and useful thoughts. For example, you can observe how Van Gogh decided to became an artist, and how he was moving towards that goal. It was not easy for him to carry out his chosen path. He had to face and overcome obstacles and resistance from the inside and the outside. However, he was able to stay committed to his calling, even in very difficult circumstances.
I think each artist will be able to find something special and close to him or her in these letters. Some of Van Gogh's thoughts, which I want to share, are close to me. Sometimes his remarks reflect something that I have experienced. It seams that, any creative person, at some point faces similar challenges and feelings that Vincent Van Gogh had.
Colorado Springs, July, 2012
In Vincent van Gogh’s perspective on Christ there is something out of ordinary and different from tons of thoughts and views on Christ that exist in philosophy, literature, and theology. Van Gogh was not a regular person. That’s why his point of view on Christ was unlike others. Perhaps he saw some similarities between his life and the life of Christ. For example, a lot of people viewed Jesus Christ as a crazy person during his life; Van Gogh as well experienced the same attitude from others. Jesus was often not understood by people, even those who was close to him, Van Gogh faced similar attitude during his lifetime. Christ built relationships with marginal people, and we can see a comparable behavior in Van Gogh.
We also could see contradictory parallels in the death of Christ and death of Van Gogh. Christ gave his life as a sacrifice; van Gogh took his life from himself. Undeniably, there is big difference between self-sacrifice and suicide. (I believe that life that is given to anyone is sacred. It doesn’t matter under what condition it should be continued. Nobody has the right to stop it, but I don’t see a reason to judge what Van Gough did. I don’t have the right and I don’t want to “send” him to the hell.) People started to honor and consider Christ to be a Savior after his death and resurrection. Van Gogh became popular and got acknowledgment as an artist after his death as well. A lot of people still don’t recognize and don’t understand what Christ has done. Many people have the same attitude towards Van Gogh artworks.
Van Gogh, as an artist, viewed Christ as the greatest Artist. He was right because Christ, as an unprecedented Artist, created and still creates “everything new” and everlasting. Look what he said about it:
“Christ alone, of all the philosophers, magicians, etc., has affirmed eternal life as the most important certainty, the infinity of time, the futility of death, the necessity and purpose of serenity and devotion. He lived serenely, as an artist greater than all other artists, scorning marble and clay and paint, working in the living flesh. In other words, this peerless artist, scarcely conceivable with the blunt instrument of our modern, nervous and obtuse brains, made neither statues nor paintings nor books. He maintained in no uncertain terms that he made…living men, immortals. That’s serious, you know, especially because it’s the truth".
From the letter to Emile Bernard. Arles, June 1888
Moscow, April, 2012
By Veniamin Slobodenko who tries to be an artist.