Van Gogh’s Still Life with Books {source}

It is with the reading of books the same as with looking at pictures; one must, without doubt, without hesitations, with assurance, admire what is beautiful.

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh’s Still Life with Open Bible {source}

Let me stop there, but my God, how beautiful Shakespeare is! Who else is as mysterious as he? His language and style can indeed be compared to an artist’s brush, quivering with fever and emotion. But one must learn to read, just as one must learn to see and learn to live.

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh’s Still Life with Three Books {source}

I have been re-reading Dicken’s Christmas Books these days. There are things on them so profound that one must read them over and over; there are tremendously close connections with Carlyle.

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

But you see, there are many things which one must believe and love. There is something of Rembrandt in Shakespeare, and of Correggio in Michelet, and of Delacroix in Victor Hugo, and then there is something of Rembrandt in the Gospel, or something of the Gospel in Rembrandt, as you like it – it comes to the same, if only one understands the thing in the right way, without misinterpreting it and assuming the equivalence of the comparisons, which do not pretend to lessen the merits of the original personalities.

If now you can forgive a man for making a thorough study of pictures, admit also that the love of books is as sacred as the love of Rembrandt, and I even think the two complete each other.

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Reading the letters that Vincent wrote to his brother Theo, one gets to see a clearer picture of the man behind the art, the mind behind the driving force that moved the hand to produce such strokes of genius.

In his own words, Van Gogh was an artist who wanted to “…. paint what I feel, and feel what I paint.” No one could truly see his paintings without knowing his story.

“As my work is,” he declared, “so am I.”

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.

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

10 thoughts on “Friday Feature : Van Gogh, the Reader (2)

  1. I have been meaning to read these letters ever since the book was published but for one reason and another haven’t got round to it. Thanks for the push.


    1. I have also started reading his biography, Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith, and just learned an interesting fact. It seemed that Vincent and his other siblings were all brought up by their mother in a rather insular home environment, closely knitted to one another. So when the time came for them to finally part and go their separate ways as adults, all of them suffered intense homesickness and had to resort to writing vigorously to each other in order to cope with the separation, sort of.


  2. Michelle, these quotes are beautiful. I have never read his letters and now would love to after your wonderful post. I especially liked what he said about Dickens and Shakespeare…how true is sentiments are!


    1. Thanks, Sunday! I never realised that he wrote so passionately and beautifully, too. Now, with the link that Peter has so kindly shared with us here, we can really begin to slowly learn and understand more about this tragic painter.


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