Van Gogh, the eldest of six children of a Protestant pastor, was born and reared in a small village in the Brabant region of the southern Netherlands. He was a quiet, self-contained youth, spending his free time wandering the countryside to observe nature. At 16 he was apprenticed to The Hague branch of the art dealers Goupil and Co.
Van Gogh disliked art dealing. Moreover, his approach to life darkened when his love was rejected by a London girl in His burning desire for human affection thwarted, he became increasingly solitary. He worked as a language teacher and lay preacher in England and, in , worked for a bookseller in Dordrecht , Netherlands. Impelled by a longing to serve humanity, he envisaged entering the ministry and took up theology; however, he abandoned this project in for short-term training as an evangelist in Brussels.
A conflict with authority ensued when he disputed the orthodox doctrinal approach. Failing to get an appointment after three months, he left to do missionary work among the impoverished population of the Borinage , a coal-mining region in southwestern Belgium. There, in the winter of —80, he experienced the first great spiritual crisis of his life.
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Living among the poor, he gave away all his worldly goods in an impassioned moment; he was thereupon dismissed by church authorities for a too-literal interpretation of Christian teaching. Penniless and feeling that his faith was destroyed, he sank into despair and withdrew from everyone.
They turned me out like a dog, saying that I was causing a scandal. Van Gogh decided that his mission from then on would be to bring consolation to humanity through art. Vincent van Gogh Dutch painter. I would have accepted anything. I had only 10 fr. Anyhow, I saw Courrieres, and the outside of M.
But what shall I say of the interior? I was not able to catch a glimpse, for I lacked the courage to enter and introduce myself. He spent much money on Bibles and New Testaments, which he gave away when he went out to draw. He left Cuesmes for Brussels quite suddenly in October, , continuing to work there intensively on his figure drawing and making the acquaintance of Anton Van Rappard, a student at the Brussels Academy. In April, , he moved to Etten in Brabant where his parents were then living.
That spring he showed his work to his cousin-in-law, the artist Anton Mauve, who greatly encouraged him. In August his year-old cousin, Kee Vos, and her son came to stay with his parents. She was recently widowed; another suffering, sensitive woman. Vincent was strongly attracted to her…. I want to tell you that this summer a deep love has grown in my heart for Kee; but when I told her this, she answered me that to her, past and future remained one, so she could never return my feelings.
The older people will change in this affair, not when Kee changes her mind, but only when I have become somebody who earns at least guilders a year. Again forgive me the harsh outlines in which I draw things. You will perhaps hear it said of me that I try to force the situation, and similar expressions, but anybody will understand that forcing is absurd in love.
Vincent had followed and Kee had refused to see him. I found a woman, not young, not beautiful, nothing remarkable, if you like, but perhaps you are somewhat curious. She reminded me of some curious figure by Chardin or Frere, or perhaps Jan Steen. Well, what the French call une ouvriere. She had many cares, one could see that, and life had been hard for her;. That woman was very good to me, very good, very kind — in what way I shall not tell my brother Theo, because I suspect my brother Theo of having had some such experience. So much the better for him.
Did we spend much money together? And I wish I could have spared more, for she was worth it. He moved to The Hague on Christmas Day, , after quarreling with his father.
I work as hard as I can and do not spare myself, so I deserve my bread, and they ought not to reproach me with not having been able to sell anything up to now. If I succeed in making them by and by, it would still be rapid progress, considering the short time I have been working. These are things that make life worth living after all. In my opinion the enclosed is the best figure I have drawn yet,. April 10, ]. I had asked him to come and see my work and then talk things over. I shall not ask him to explain it, nor shall I excuse myself.
And still — and still — and still —! I wish Mauve were sorry for it.
Blessed Twilight: The Story of Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent is hiding something that cannot stand the light. I could not pay her the full wages of a model, but that did not prevent my paying her rent, and, thank God, so far I have been able to protect her and her child from hunger and cold by sharing my own bread with her. When I met this woman, she attracted my attention because she looked ill.
I made her take baths and as much nourishing food as I could afford, and she has become much stronger. Others also faulted him for his licentious association with Sien. He contracted a venereal disease, apparently gonorrhea, but recovered from it quickly. Or rather, because I tried to be faithful to nature as I saw it, without philosophizing about it, involuntarily in both cases something of that great struggle is shown.
One must work long and hard to grasp the essence. What I want and aim at is confoundedly difficult, and yet I do not think I aim too high. In those there is at least something straight from my own heart. A nonentity, or an eccentric and disagreeable man — somebody who has no position in society and never will have, in short, the lowest of the low. Very well, even if this were true, then I should want my work to show what is in the heart of such an eccentric, of such a nobody.
It is true that I am often in the greatest misery, but still there is a calm pure harmony and music inside me. As to the money value of my work, I do not pretend to anything less than that it would greatly astonish me if in time my work did not become just as salable as that of others. Sooner or later feeling and love for nature meet a response from people who are interested in art.
In my opinion working for the market is not exactly the right way;. Of course it is a different thing to try to find people who like your work, and who will love it — of course this is permitted. If only those means of earning money be real and lasting, which I personally can only see in the future if there is some real good in my work, not if I aim exclusively at salability — one has to suffer for that later — but if I study nature carefully. This ground was light and dark reddish-brown, made more so by the shadows of trees casting more or less dark streaks over it, sometimes half blotted out.
The problem was — and I found it very difficult — to get the depth of color, the enormous force and solidity of that ground — and while painting it I perceived for the very first time how much light there still was in that dusk — to keep that light and at the same time the glow and depth of that rich color. A few figures of wood gatherers are wandering around like dark masses of mysterious shadows.
The white cap of a woman bending to reach a dry branch stands out suddenly against the deep red-brown of the ground. A skirt catches the light — a shadow is cast — a dark silhouette of a man appears above the underbrush. A white bonnet, a cap, a shoulder, the bust of a woman molds itself againt the sky.
Those figures are large and full of poetry — in the twilight of that deep shadowy tone they appear as enormous terracottas being modeled in a studio. I used for the ground one and one half tubes of white — yet that ground is very dark — more red, yellow, brown ocher, black, sienna, bister, and the result is reddish-brown, but one that varies from bister to deep wine-red, and even a pale blond ruddiness.
Then there is still the moss on the ground, and a border of fresh grass, which catches light and sparkles brightly, and this is very difficult to get. There you have at last a sketch which I maintain has some significance, and which expresses something, no matter what may be said about it.
But as this effect does not last, I had to paint quickly. The figures were put in at once with a few strong strokes of a firm brush. I began painting them with a brush, but because the surface was already so heavily covered, a brush stroke was lost in it — then I squeezed the roots and trunks in from the tube, and modeled it a little with the brush. Yes — now they stand there rising from the ground, strongly rooted in it.
A row of pollard willows sometimes resembles a procession of almshouse men. Young corn has something inexpressibly pure and tender about it, which awakens the same emotion as the expression of a sleeping baby, for instance. It seems that some people have no consciousness of self. But for all that, those who have it may sometimes be in distress, they are not unhappy, nor is the distress anything exceptional. When I tell you I choose my duty, you will understand everything.
After years it will be the same as it was the first day. When Van Rappard went to Drenthe, a sparsely populated region in the north of Holland, Vincent decided, in September, , to go too:. I would remain permanently in that country of heath and moorland, where more and more painters are settling down, so that perhaps, after a time, a kind of colony of painters might spring up.
Life is so much cheaper there that I think I should economize at least or guilders a year, especially on rent. And the heaviest expense, the one for models, would be different over there: either I should have more and better models for the same money, or just as many for less money. She is unhappy about it, as I am, but she is not disheartened and keeps busy. I had just bought a piece of material to make study linen of, and have now given it to her to make underwear for the kids, and some of my things can be altered for them too, so that she will not leave me empty-handed.
We have gloomy rainy days here, and when I come to the corner of the garret where I have settled down, it is curiously melancholy there; through one single glass pane the light falls on an empty color box, on a bundle of worn-out brushes, in short, it is so curiously melancholy that fortunately it also has a comical aspect, enough not to make one weep over it, but to take it gaily.
For all that, it is very disproportionate to my plans, very disproportionate to the seriousness of my work — so here is an end of the gaiety. September 26, ]. You will say there are plants that grow in the city — that may be, but you are corn, and your place is in the cornfield. In the beginning we should have to live through anxious moments, we should have to prepare ourselves for them,. We shall be so busy working that we shall be absolutely unable to think of anything else but our work. They were now located in Nuenen, another small parish in Brabant.
I think you understand, Theo, that on my long rambles I have thought things over often and at length: I do not want to be mixed up in a second series of quarrels such as I had with Father No. And Father No. II would be you. One is enough — the expression is unvarnished and the center of my ideas; draw your own conclusions. Let our work be so savant that it seems naive and does not stink of our sapience.
By Impressionism was at its height but Vincent in Nuenen was in no position to see it. That icy coldness hypnotized even me in my youth, but I have taken revenge since — how? To me it is just the reverse. The canvas stares at you like an idiot, and it hypnotizes some painters, so that they themselves become idiots. His father died on March 26, …. Therefore I am not at all anxious for everyone to like it or to admire it at once.
And it might prove to be a real peasant picture. I know it is. But he who prefers to see peasants in their Sunday-best may do as he likes. I personally am convinced I get better results by painting them in their roughness than by giving them a conventional charm. Tell him that I adore the figures by Michelangelo though the legs are undoubtedly too long, the hips and backsides too large. Tell him that my great longing is to learn to make those very incorrectnesses, those deviations, remodelings, changes in reality, so that they may become, yes, lies if you like — but truer than the literal truth.
Vincent visited the newly completed Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that October. How Delacroix would have understood that picture. What a noble sentiment, infinitely deep. Well, one loses that general harmony of tones in nature by painfully exact imitation; one keeps it by recreating a parallel color scale which may not be exactly, or even far from exactly, like the model. Vincent was falsely accused of fathering the child of Sien De Groot, the daughter the wonderful figure, second from the left of the Potato Eaters family.
The local priest forbade his parishoners to model for Vincent. For this reason, and perhaps even more because of his desire to be with other artists in order to learn and advance, Vincent decided to leave Nuenen. I shall take care of that, if I can keep alive for some little time.
He would never return. I am quite carried away by his way of drawing the lines in a face with streaks of pure red, or of modeling the fingers of the hands by the same kind of streaks. I know he is not as intimate as Hals and Rembrandt, but in themselves those heads are so alive. He enrolled in the Antwerp Academy, both to get more formal training and to have access to live models without having to pay for them all by himself.
There were only a few weeks left until the end of the course. I remember quite well that weather-beaten, nervous, restless man who crashed like a bombshell into the Antwerp academy, upsetting the director, the drawing master and the pupils. One morning Van Gogh came into the class, in which there were about sixty pupils, more than a dozen of whom were German or English; he was dressed in a kind of blue blouse, of the type ususally worn by the Flemish cattle dealers, and he wore a fur cap on his head.
In place of a regular palette he used a board torn from a packing case that had contained sugar and yeast. On that day the pupils had to paint two wrestlers, who were posed on the platform, stripped to the waist. My boy, go to the drawing class quickly. Sieber sic , who was also frightened by the novel phenomenon, but who had a less irascible temperament than his director. He made sketches of everything that was to be found in the hall: of the students, of their clothes, of the furniture, while forgetting the plaster cast the professor had given him to copy.
Vincent stayed in the class for only six weeks. His idea was to stay with Theo only briefly, to get out on his own as soon as possible. In each case the latter are freer, more colorful. Van Gogh wearing the blue overalls of a zinc-worker, would have little dots of color painted on his shirt sleeves. Sticking quite close to me, he would be yelling, gesticulating and brandishing a large, size thirty, freshly painted canvas; in this fashion he would manage to polychrome both himself and the passers-by.
No one wants to come and see me any more because it always ends in quarrels, and besides he is so untidy that the room looks far from attractive. I wish he would go and live by himself. He sometimes mentions it, but if I were to tell him to go away, it would just give him a reason to stay; and it seems I do him no good.
I ask only one thing of him, to do me no harm; yet by his staying he does so, for I can hardly bear it. It is as if he were two persons: one marvelously gifted, tender and refined, the other egoistic and hard-hearted. They present themselves in turns, so that one hears him talk first in one way, then in the other, and always with arguments on both sides.
It is a pity he is his own enemy, for he makes life hard not only for others but also for himself. Trying to render intense colour and not a grey harmony. It may be my fault however, anyhow I left there too as I left Antwerp and since I worked alone, and fancy that since I feel my own self more.
The great dealers sell Millet, Delacroix, Corot, Daubigny, Dupre, a few other masters at exorbitant prices.
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They do little or nothing for young artists. The second class dealers contrariwise sell those at very low prices. If I asked more I would do nothing, I fancy. However I have faith in colour. Even with regards the price the public will pay for it in the long run.
But for the present things are awfully hard. I dare say as certain anyone who has a solid position elsewhere let him stay where he is. But for adventurers as myself, I think they lose nothing in risking more. Especially as in my case I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate, and feeling nowhere so much a stranger as in my family and country,. He drank abisinthe, visited prostitutes, stayed out all night with Toulouse-Lautrec. He had been hoping to find in Paris a community of artists helping, reinforcing each other. What he found instead was artists bickering and competing.
When Theo went back to visit their family that summer, Vincent wrote him from Paris:. I feel I am losing the desire for marriage and children, and now and then it saddens me that I should be feeling like that at thirty-five, just when it should be the opposite. And sometimes I have a grudge against this rotten painting.
One must have ambition in order to succeed, and ambition seems to me absurd. Relations between Vincent and Theo improved considerably during the second year. When Vincent moved to Arles in February Theo missed him:. Vincent left for the South last Sunday. He is going first to Arles to orient himself and then probably to Marseilles. Years of worry and adversity have not made him any stronger and he felt a definite need to be in a more temperate climate.
I believe it will certainly do his health good and will also benefit his work. When he came here two years ago I did not think we would become so attached to each other, but the flat feels decidedly empty now that I am on my own again. If I find someone to live with I shall do so, but it is not easy to replace a person like Vincent. His knowledge and clear perception of the world are incredible. I am therefore convinced that if he has a few more years to live, he will make a name for himself. Through him, I came into contact with many painters among whom he is greatly respected.
He is one of the champions of new ideas — or rather, as there is nothing new under the sun, of the regeneration of old ideas which have been corrupted by routine and have lost their colour. Furthermore, he has such a great heart that he is always trying to do something for others. So much the worse for those who do not know him or want to understand him. Thus, more people began to see it. Fifty or more military men in red and civilians in black, their faces a magnificent yellow or orange what hues there are in the faces here , the women in sky blue, in vermilion, as unqualified and garish as possible.
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The whole in a yellow light. A good deal less lugubrious than the same kind of offices in Paris. April 20, ]. Being all alone, I am suffering a little under this isolation. June 5, ]. Somehow going to Arles, being in Arles, something clicked. Vincent caught fire, pouring out one remarkable painting and drawing after another: self-portraits portrait at top, for example , sunflowers, drawings of gardens, Patience Escalier see below , the Roulins, Eugene Boch, cafes, his chair, his room see further below — all incredibly alive and beautiful:. And if these emotions are sometimes so strong that one works without knowing one works, when sometimes the strokes come with a sequence and a coherence like words in a speech or in a letter, then one must remember that it has not always been so, and that in time to come there will again be hard days, empty of inspiration.
So one must strike while the iron is hot. He never did move to Marseilles. Remy his home for the entire time he was in the South. Theo was giving Vincent francs per month, one-quarter of his income before commissions. In July, , their Uncle Cent died, leaving Theo an inheritance.
Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot. And I said it because I felt the absolute necessity of behaving accordingly, of working, perhaps not more, but with a deeper understanding. I do not think that my peasant would do any harm to the de Lautrec in your possession if they were hung side by side, and I am even bold enough to hope the de Lautrec would appear even more distinguished by the mutual contrast, and that on the other hand my picture would gain by the odd juxtaposition, because that sun-steeped, sunburned quality, tanned and air-swept, would show up still more effectively beside all that face powder and elegance.
But there, one must not lose heart because Utopia is not coming true. It is only that what I learned in Paris is leaving me, and I am returning to the ideas I had in the country before I knew the impressionists. Because instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I have before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily, in order to express myself forcibly. Instead, I imagine the man I have to paint, terrible in the furnace of the height of harvesttime, as surrounded by the whole Midi. Hence the orange colors flashing like lightening, vivid as red-hot iron, and hence the luminous tones of old gold in the shadows.
Oh, my dear brother, sometimes I know so well what I want. I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, ill as I am, do without something which is greater than I, which is my life—the power to create. I am always in hope of making a discovery there, to express the love of two lovers by a wedding of complementary colors, their mingling and their opposition,. This week I have done absolutely nothing but paint and sleep and have my meals.
That means sittings of twelve hours, of six hours and so on, and then a sleep of twelve hours at a stretch. The ashen-gray color that is the result of mixing malachite green with an orange hue, on pale malachite ground, all in harmony with the reddish-brown clothes. But as I also exaggerate my personality, I have in the first place aimed at the character of a simple bonze worshiping the Eternal Buddha. It has cost me a lot of trouble, yet I shall have to do it all over again if I want to succeed in expressing what I mean.
It will even be necessary for me to recover somewhat more from the stultifying influence of our so-called state of civilization in order to have a better model for a better picture. In a word, looking at the picture ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination. The broad lines of the furniture again must express inviolable rest. The shadows and the cast shadows are suppressed; it is painted in free flat tints like the Japanese prints. It is going to be a contrast to, for instance, the Tarascon diligence and the night cafe.
Vincent decorated the house with paintings of sunflowers, making it as pleasant as he possibly could. Gauguin came in October, They shared the studio, ate together, went on trips together…. As you learned from my wire, Gauguin has arrived in good health. He even seems to me better than I am.