Vincent Van Gogh quotes

Vincent Van Gogh photo
234   213

Vincent Van Gogh

Birthdate: 30. March 1853
Date of death: 29. July 1890

Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art. In just over a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. He was not commercially successful, and his suicide at 37 came after years of mental illness and poverty.

Born into an upper-middle-class family, Van Gogh drew as a child and was serious, quiet, and thoughtful. As a young man he worked as an art dealer, often travelling, but became depressed after he was transferred to London. He turned to religion and spent time as a Protestant missionary in southern Belgium. He drifted in ill health and solitude before taking up painting in 1881, having moved back home with his parents. His younger brother Theo supported him financially, and the two kept up a long correspondence by letter. His early works, mostly still lifes and depictions of peasant labourers, contain few signs of the vivid colour that distinguished his later work. In 1886, he moved to Paris, where he met members of the avant-garde, including Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin, who were reacting against the Impressionist sensibility. As his work developed he created a new approach to still lifes and local landscapes. His paintings grew brighter in colour as he developed a style that became fully realised during his stay in Arles in the south of France in 1888. During this period he broadened his subject matter to include series of olive trees, wheat fields and sunflowers.

Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health, did not eat properly and drank heavily. His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation with a razor when, in a rage, he severed part of his own left ear. He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period at Saint-Rémy. After he discharged himself and moved to the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, he came under the care of the homeopathic doctor Paul Gachet. His depression continued and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a Lefaucheux revolver. He died from his injuries two days later.

Van Gogh was unsuccessful during his lifetime, and was considered a madman and a failure. He became famous after his suicide, and exists in the public imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius, the artist "where discourses on madness and creativity converge". His reputation began to grow in the early 20th century as elements of his painting style came to be incorporated by the Fauves and German Expressionists. He attained widespread critical, commercial and popular success over the ensuing decades, and is remembered as an important but tragic painter, whose troubled personality typifies the romantic ideal of the tortured artist. Today, Van Gogh's works are among the world's most expensive paintings to have ever sold, and his legacy is honoured by a museum in his name, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which holds the world's largest collection of his paintings and drawings. Wikipedia

Works

„It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

Quote of Vincent's letter to Theo, from Amsterdam, 3 April 1878; a cited in The Letters of Vincent van Gogh to his Brother, 1872-1886 (1927) Constable & Co
Variant: Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.
As quoted in Wisdom for the Soul : Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing (2006) by Larry Chang, p. 483
1870s
Context: If only we try to live sincerely, it will go well with us, even though we are certain to experience real sorrow, and great disappointments, and also will probably commit great faults and do wrong things, but it certainly is true, that it is better to be high-spirited, even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent. It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is well done.

„The sadness will last forever.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

Attributed to Vincent, as quoted by Theo van gogh in his letter from Paris, to Elisabeth van Gogh, 5 August 1890 http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/21/etc-Theo-Lies.htm
Some of the last words Vincent said to Theo, while dying
1890s

„There is peace even in the storm“

—  Vincent Van Gogh, book The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Source: The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

„I feel a certain calm. There is safety in the midst of danger. What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

Letter to Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Thursday, 29 December 1881. p. 83; as cited in Dear Theo: the Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh (1995), edited by Irving Stone and Jean Stone -
1880s, 1881
Context: I feel a certain calm. There is safety in the midst of danger. What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? It will be a hard pull for me; the tide rises high, almost to the lips and perhaps higher still, how can I know? But I shall fight my battle, and sell my life dearly, and try to win and get the best of it.

„To some, woman is heresy and diabolical. To me she is just the opposite.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

1880s, 1884, Letter to Theo (Nuenen, Oct. 1884)
Context: Oh, I am no friend of present-day Christianity, though its Founder was sublime - I have seen through present-day Christianity only too well. That icy coldness hypnotized even me, in my youth - but I have taken my revenge since then. How? By worshipping the love which they, the theologians, call sin, by respecting a whore [ Sien in The Hague ]), etc., and not too many would-be respectable, pious ladies. To some, woman is heresy and diabolical. To me she is just the opposite.

„Such a one does not always know what he can do, but he nevertheless instinctively feels, I am good for something! My existence is not without reason!“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

1880s, 1880, Letter to Theo (Cuesmes, July 1880)
Context: There is a great difference between one idler and another idler. There is someone who is an idler out of laziness and lack of character, owing to the baseness of his nature. If you like, you may take me for one of those. Then there is the other kind of idler, the idler despite himself, who is inwardly consumed by a great longing for action who does nothing because his hands are tied, because he is, so to speak, imprisoned somewhere, because he lacks what he needs to be productive, because disastrous circumstances have brought him forcibly to this end. Such a one does not always know what he can do, but he nevertheless instinctively feels, I am good for something! My existence is not without reason! I know that I could be a quite a different person! How can I be of use, how can I be of service? There is something inside me, but what can it be? He is quite another idler. If you like you may take me for one of those.

„People are often unable to do anything, imprisoned as they are in I don't know what kind of terrible, terrible, oh such terrible cage.
I do know that there is a release, the belated release.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

1880s, 1880, Letter to Theo (Cuesmes, July 1880)
Context: People are often unable to do anything, imprisoned as they are in I don't know what kind of terrible, terrible, oh such terrible cage.
I do know that there is a release, the belated release. A justly or unjustly ruined reputation, poverty, disastrous circumstances, misfortune, they all turn you into a prisoner. You cannot always tell what keeps you confined, what immures you, what seems to bury you, and yet you can feel those elusive bars, railings, walls. Is all this illusion, imagination? I don't think so. And then one asks: My God! will it be for long, will it be for ever, will it be for eternity?

„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.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

In his letter to Theo, from The Hague, 21 July 1882, http://www.vggallery.com/letters/245_V-T_218.pdf
1880s, 1882
Context: 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.
That is my ambition, based less on resentment than on love in spite of everything, based more on a feeling of serenity than on passion.
Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.

„Love always brings difficulties, that is true, but the good side of it is that it gives energy.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

In his letter to Theo, from Nuenen, c. 9 March 1884, http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/14/359.htm
1880s, 1884
Context: Love always brings difficulties, that is true, but the good side of it is that it gives energy.... I have not yet had enough experience with women. What we were taught about them in our youth is quite wrong, that is sure, it was quite contrary to nature, and one must try to learn from experience. It would be very pleasant if everybody were good, and the world were good, etc. - yes - but it seems to me that we see more and more that we are not good, no more than the world in general, of which we are an atom - and the world no more good than we are. One may try one's best, or act carelessly, the result is always different from what one really wanted. But whether the result be better or worse, fortunate or unfortunate, it is better to do something than to do nothing. If only one is wary of becoming a prim, self-righteous prig - as Uncle Vincent calls it - one may be even as good as one likes.

„What is true is that I have at times earned my own crust of bread, and at other times a friend has given it to me out of the goodness of his heart. I have lived whatever way I could, for better or for worse, taking things just as they came.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

1880s, 1880, Letter to Theo (Cuesmes, July 1880)
Context: What is true is that I have at times earned my own crust of bread, and at other times a friend has given it to me out of the goodness of his heart. I have lived whatever way I could, for better or for worse, taking things just as they came. It is true that I have forfeited the trust of various people, it is true that my financial affairs are in a sorry state, it is true that the future looks rather bleak, it is true that I might have done better, it is true that I have wasted time when it comes to earning a living, it is true that my studies are in a fairly lamentable and appalling state, and that my needs are greater, infinitely greater than my resources. But does that mean going downhill and doing nothing?

„That God of the clergymen, He is for me as dead as a doornail. But am I an atheist for all that?“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

In his letter to Theo, from Etten, c. 21 December 1881, Letter #164 http://webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/10/164.htm, as translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, as published in The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1991) edited by Robert Harrison] <!-- also quoted in Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh (1995) Edited by Irving Stone -->
1880s, 1881
Context: That God of the clergymen, He is for me as dead as a doornail. But am I an atheist for all that? The clergymen consider me as such — be it so; but I love, and how could I feel love if I did not live, and if others did not live, and then, if we live, there is something mysterious in that. Now call that God, or human nature or whatever you like, but there is something which I cannot define systematically, though it is very much alive and very real, and see, that is God, or as good as God. To believe in God for me is to feel that there is a God, not a dead one, or a stuffed one, but a living one, who with irresistible force urges us toward aimer encore; that is my opinion.

„It constantly remains a source of disappointment to me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be. The difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be overcome at once.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

In his letter to Theo, The Hague, 11 March 1883, http://www.webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/12/274.htm?qp=art.material,as translated by Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, in The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1991)
1880s, 1883
Context: It constantly remains a source of disappointment to me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be. The difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be overcome at once. To make progress is a kind of miner’s work; it doesn’t advance as quickly as one would like, and as others also expect, but as one stands before such a task, the basic necessities are patience and faithfulness. In fact, I do not think much about the difficulties, because if one thought of them too much one would get stunned or disturbed.
A weaver who has to direct and to interweave a great many little threads has no time to philosophize about it, but rather he is so absorbed in his work that he doesn’t think but acts, and he feels how things must go more than he can explain it. Even though neither you nor I, in talking together, would come to any definite plans, etc., perhaps we might mutually strengthen that feeling that something is ripening within us. And that is what I should like.

„I tell you, if one wants to be active, one must not be afraid of going wrong, one must not be afraid of making mistakes now and then. Many people think that they will become good just by doing no harm - but that's a lie, and you yourself used to call it that. That way lies stagnation, mediocrity.“

—  Vincent Van Gogh

1880s, 1884, Letter to Theo (Nuenen, Oct. 1884)
Context: I tell you, if one wants to be active, one must not be afraid of going wrong, one must not be afraid of making mistakes now and then. Many people think that they will become good just by doing no harm - but that's a lie, and you yourself used to call it that. That way lies stagnation, mediocrity.
Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don't know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, You can't do a thing. The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerises some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of 'you can't' once and for all.
Life itself, too, is forever turning an infinitely vacant, dispiriting blank side towards man on which nothing appears, any more than it does on a blank canvas. But no matter how vacant and vain, how dead life may appear to be, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, who knows something, will not be put off so easily. He wades in and does something and stays with it, in short, he violates, "defiles" - they say. Let them talk, those cold theologians.

Similar authors

Paul Gauguin photo
Paul Gauguin41
French Post-Impressionist artist
Claude Monet photo
Claude Monet87
French impressionist painter
Paul Cézanne photo
Paul Cézanne62
French painter
Claude Debussy photo
Claude Debussy34
French composer
Mikhail Lermontov photo
Mikhail Lermontov33
Russian writer, poet and painter
Oscar Wilde photo
Oscar Wilde812
Irish writer and poet
Otto von Bismarck photo
Otto von Bismarck35
German statesman, Chancellor of Germany
Emily Dickinson photo
Emily Dickinson187
American poet
Arthur Schopenhauer photo
Arthur Schopenhauer261
German philosopher
John Ruskin photo
John Ruskin132
English writer and art critic
Today anniversaries
Dolly Parton photo
Dolly Parton36
American singer-songwriter and actress 1946
Edgar Allan Poe photo
Edgar Allan Poe124
American author, poet, editor and literary critic 1809 - 1849
Rajneesh photo
Rajneesh76
Godman and leader of the Rajneesh movement 1931 - 1990
Dogen photo
Dogen34
Japanese Zen buddhist teacher 1200 - 1253
Another 68 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Paul Gauguin photo
Paul Gauguin41
French Post-Impressionist artist
Claude Monet photo
Claude Monet87
French impressionist painter
Paul Cézanne photo
Paul Cézanne62
French painter
Claude Debussy photo
Claude Debussy34
French composer
Mikhail Lermontov photo
Mikhail Lermontov33
Russian writer, poet and painter