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Vincent van Gogh’s life and work are so intertwined that it is hardly possible to see his pictures without reading in them the story of his life, a life which has been described so many times that it is by now the stuff of legend. Van Gogh is the incarnation of the suffering, the misunderstood martyr of modern art, the emblem of the artist as an outsider.“When one lives with others and is bound by feelings of affection, then one realises that one has a reason for living, that one may not be utterly worthless and expendable, but is perhaps good for something, since we need one another and are journeying together as compagnons de voyage. But our proper sense of self-esteem is also highly dependent upon our relationship with others.A prisoner who is condemned to solitude, who is prevented from working, etc., will in the long run, especially if the run is too long, suffer from the effects as surely as one who has gone hungry too long.Like everyone else, I need friendly or affectionate relationships or intimate companionship, and am not made of stone or iron like a pump or a lamppost…”



Publié par
Date de parution 04 juillet 2023
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781785256899
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 22 Mo

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Victoria Charles

Vincent van Gogh
by Vincent van Gogh

Volume 1
Text: Victoria Charles
Translator of letters: Robert Harrison
© Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA
© Parkstone Press International, New York, USA
© Webexhibits.org / IDEA.org
© Image Bar www.image-bar.com
ISBN: 978-1-78525-689-9
All rights reserved.
No part of this may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of the copyright holder, throughout the world. Unless otherwise specified, copyright on the works reproduced lies with the respective photographers. Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case, we would appreciate notification.
“As through a looking glass, by dark reason…”
Holland, England and Belgium: 1853-1886 “Feeling nowhere so much myself a stranger as in my family and country…”
Paris: 1886-1888 “The spreading of ideas”
List of Illustrations
“As through a looking glass, by dark reason…”
He sat on that chair. His pipe lies on a reed seat next to an open tobacco pouch. He slept in that bed, lived in that house. It was there that he cut off a piece of his ear. We see him with a bandaged head, the pipe in the corner of his mouth, looking at us. Vincent van Gogh’s life and work are so intertwined that it is hardly possible to see his pictures without reading in them the story of his life, a life which has been described so many times that it is by now the stuff of legend. Van Gogh is the incarnation of the suffering, the misunderstood martyr of modern art, the emblem of the artist as an outsider.
In 1996 Jan Hulsker, the famous van Gogh scholar, published a corrected catalogue of the complete works in which he questioned the authenticity of 45 paintings and drawings. What concerned Hulsker were not only the forgeries, but also canvases that were falsely attributed to van Gogh. In a similar vein, the British art historian Martin Bailey claimed to have recognized more than one hundred false ‘van Gogh’s,’ among them the Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which exists in two versions. A Japanese industrialist purchased one of these in 1990 for 82.5 million dollars – the highest price ever paid for a painting. The new owner then shocked the public by announcing that after his death he wanted to be burned with the picture. Out of respect for the feelings of European art lovers, he later changed his mind and decided to build a museum to house his collection. However, if someone should prove that the Portrait of Dr. Gachet is a fake, public interest in the painting would disappear.
It became apparent early on that the events of van Gogh’s life would play a major role in the reception of his works. The first article about the painter was published in January 1890 in the Mercure de France . The author of the article, Albert Aurier, was in contact with a friend of van Gogh named Emile Bernard, from whom he learned the details of van Gogh’s illness. At the time, van Gogh was living in a mental hospital in Saint-Rémy, near Arles. The year before, he cut off a piece of his right ear. Without explicitly revealing these facts from the artist’s life, Aurier nevertheless introduced his knowledge of the apparent insanity of the painter into his discussion of the paintings themselves. Thus, he used terms like “obsessive passion” [1] and “persistent preoccupation.” [2] Van Gogh seemed to him a “terrible and demented genius, often sublime, sometimes grotesque, always at the brink of the pathological.” [3] Aurier regarded the painter as a “Messiah... who would regenerate the decrepitude of our art and perhaps of our imbecile and industrialist society.” [4]
With his characterization of the artist as a mad genius, this critic laid the foundation for the van Gogh myth, which began to emerge shortly after the death of the painter. After all, Aurier did not believe that van Gogh would ever be understood by the general public: “But whatever happens, even if it became fashionable to buy his canvases – which is unlikely – at the prices of M. Meissonier’s little infamies, I don’t think that much sincerity could ever enter into that belated admiration of the general public.” [5] A few days after van Gogh’s funeral in Auvers-sur-Oise, Dr. Gachet, who looked after the painter at the end of his life, wrote to van Gogh’s brother Theo:
“This sovereign contempt for life, doubtless a result of his impetuous love of art, is extraordinary... If Vincent were still alive, it would take years and years until the human art triumphed. His death however, is, so to speak, the glorious result of the fight between two opposed principles: light and darkness, life and death.” [6]
Van Gogh neither despised life nor was he its master. In his letters, nearly seven hundred of which have been published, he often wrote about his desire for love and safety:
“I should like to be with a woman for a change, I cannot live without love, without a woman. I would not value life at all, if there were not something infinite, something deep, something real.” [7]
On several occasions he stressed that it would be “more worthwhile to make children than pictures.” [8] Vincent van Gogh’s rather bourgeois dreams of hearth and home never materialized. His first love, Ursula Loyer, married someone else. His cousin Kee, already a mother and widow, refused him partly for material reasons: van Gogh was unable to care for her and her child. He tried to build up a family life with a prostitute named Sien. He finally left her because his brother Theo, on whom he depended financially, wanted him to end the relationship. Van Gogh’s relationship with the twenty-one-year-old Marguerite Gachet is only known through a friend of Marguerite, who maintained that they had fallen in love, but the usually freethinking Dr. Gachet barred van Gogh from then on. Van Gogh not only sought the love of women, but also that of his family and friends, although he never achieved it in the measure he would have wished. Several days before his suicide, he summed up his lifelong failure to find a satisfying intimacy in the following enigmatic remark: “As through a looking glass, by a dark reason – so it has remained.” [9] The parson’s son had taken his analogy from The Excellencies of Love in the first epistle to the Corinthians: “For now we see through a glass, darkly: but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” This longing for a place in the community and the struggle for renown are two themes that can be traced throughout van Gogh’s life.

1. Self-Portrait dedicated to Paul Gauguin , Arles, September 1888. Oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm. Fogg Art Museum, Havard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

2. Fisherman’s Wife at Scheveningen , Etten, December 1881. Watercolour, 23.5 x 9.5 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

3. Peasant Woman Digging , Nuenen, July 1885. Oil on canvas, 42 x 32 cm. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, Birmingham.

4. Peasant Working , The Hague, August 1882. Oil on paper on wood, 30 x 29 cm. Private Collection.

5. Peasant Burning Weeds , Drenthe, October 1883. Oil on wood, 30.5 x 39.5 cm. Private Collection.
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh The Hague, 13 December 1872
Dear Theo,
What good news I’ve just read in Father’s letter. I wish you luck with all my heart. I’m sure you will like it there; it’s such a fine firm. It will be quite a change for you.
I am so glad that both of us are now to be in the same profession and in the same firm. We must be sure to write to each other regularly.
I hope that I’ll see you before you leave; we still have a lot to talk about. I believe that Brussels is a very pleasant city, but it’s bound to feel strange for you in the beginning. Write to me soon in any case. Well, goodbye for now, this is just a brief note dashed off in haste, but I had to tell you how delighted I am at the news. Best wishes, and believe me, always,
Your loving brother,
I don’t envy you having to walk to Oisterwijk every day in this awful weather. Regards from the Roos family.
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh The Hague, January 1873
My dear Theo,
I heard from home that you arrived safe and sound at Brussels and that your first impression was good.
I know so well how strange you must feel in the beginning, but don’t lose courage, you’ll get on all right.
You must soon write me how you are getting along and how you like your boardinghouse. I hope it will be satisfactory. Father wrote me that you are on good terms with Mr. Schmidt; that is right - I think he is a good fellow from whom you can learn a great deal.
What happy days we spent together at Christmas! I think of them so often. You will also remember them a long time, as they were the last days you spent at home. Don’t forget to tell me what pictures you see and which you like best.
I am very busy just now at the beginning of the year.
My New Year began well; they have granted me an increase of ten guilders (I therefore earn fifty guilders per month), and they have given me a bonus of fifty guilders as a present. Isn’t that splendid? I hope to be able to shift for myself now.
I am very happy that you work in the same firm. It is such a splendid house; the more one works there, the more ambition it gives you.
The beginning is perhaps more difficult than anything else, but keep heart, it will turn out all right.
Will you ask Schmidt what the price of the Album Corot, lithographs by Émile Vernier is? Somebody asked for it at the store, and I know they have it in Brussels. Next time I write, I’ll send you my picture, which I had taken last Sunday. Have you already been to the Palace Ducal? Don’t fail to go there when you have a chance.
Well, boy, keep your courage up. All the friends send you their compliments and good wishes. Give my regards to Schmidt and Eduard and write to me

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