Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Letter from Vincent

Excerpt from a Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
The Hague, c. 2 or 3 November 1882

Up to Millet and Jules Breton, however, there was always in my opinion progress, but to surpass these two - don't even mention it.  Read th entire letter here

unabridged and annotated 

Women Miners
November, 1882

Jean-François Millet


Jean Breton


  1. What a wonderful letter - particularly for a painter to read. The remarks about the model and inspiration were very useful to hear.

    So "twenties" of him to be so concerned about the place of different painters and styles in rank, and himself along with that. It says at the bottom of the letter that he was 29 when he wrote it.

    And I wonder what paper that was that he was taling about - which could be used to create prints... A photographic process I wonder?

    Thank you for posting the Breton and Millet, as well as the Van Gogh that seems to have been inspired directly by them.

  2. I like Renee Cox photos. She is on facebook...Did you know?

  3. He's correct in his view that there were already artists whose like will never be seen again. The world has sped up incredibly in the past century and the constant necessity of keeping up with all our duties has made time for processing our visions and thoughts very difficult to find. The one thing we recognize in pre-20th century art is that sense of timelessness and grace. Yes, it's most definitely true that life was often physically hard but it was also richer when we lived closer to the rhythms of nature.

  4. Van Gogh writes - "Their genius may be equalled in former, present or later times, but to surpass it is not possible. In that high range there is an equality of genius, but higher than the top of the mountain one cannot climb."

    An interesting idea. Like nothing moves faster than the speed of light. Where does genius stop? Where does it start? What does it even mean? A word that many of us bandy about far too easily.

  5. Look at these women! Life was so hard - and I'm sure still is in so many parts of the world. I cannot even imagine survival under these conditions. My body aches just looking at the paintings.

  6. Steve and SB,
    since you both touch on this even if in different ways: the concept of "genius". So often, the true geniuses get away from or we don't notice them until much later. A creative genius is probably wont to suffer. Like Van Gogh himself. And for some reason I don't understand, I thought about Kurt Cobain and asked myself '"Why Kurt Cobain??' So, could it be and example of the "bandying around" that Singing Bear is referring to? I'll have to think further about this but I think genius is relative to the interpreter's perception of it.

  7. Flor: I love the cards you made and the little prints. Thank you! Renee Cox is formidable to me. Don't get me wrong, I love her work but I'm kinda scared to go to her facebook page! I'm sometimes afraid of people! :-D

    Susan: As one who suffers a bit as a result of trying to keep up with a fast paced world, I agree wholeheartedly. By virtue of their hard work and religion, pre-20th century people may have been more serious but they were probably less neurotic as a result of their environment. I'm saving up to buy one of your beautiful little painted bags! Can't wait.

    Bobbie: I love images that depict hard physical work. I'm not sure why. Either because I'm am reliving a past life from another century or if it's because my grandparents were farmers and winemakers.

  8. thank you about posting this letter, it is so touching to understand what he felt. and he was predicting years in advance about modern art, he was really a genius.


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