Daily Dose Pick: Letters from Van Gogh

Read through hundreds of Vincent van Gogh’s revealing letters online, now translated into English with a drawings appendix.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam commissioned the ambitious Vincent van Gogh: The Letters project, an extensive and richly annotated archive searchable by chronology, place, and correspondent. Interactive tabs on the letter-viewing screen allow scrolling between the original text, facsimile images of the letters, and English translations.

The most in-depth function is filed under Concordance, lists, bibliography on the top right of the screen. Here, hyperlinks lead to historical persons and digital images of the artworks specifically referenced by van Gogh — all the cultural scraps that influenced the artist’s beautiful and tortured inner world.

Learn how to navigate the archive, visit the physical exhibition, cross-reference maps of van Gogh’s travels, and splurge on the six-volume hardback collection.

A Reuters video report by Basmah Fahim posits that van Gogh was a rational man, rather than a mad genius.

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In this missive to his younger brother, art dealer Theo van Gogh, dated July 23, 1890, the artist writes, “Thanks for your kind letter and for the 50-franc note it contained. I’d really like to write to you about many things, but I sense the pointlessness of it.” Six days later, the artist committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest.

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A densely worded letter mentioning Pissarro and Seurat to artist fellow Paul Gauguin, sent from Arles on Wednesday, October 3, 1888. “In any event, when I left Paris very, very upset, quite ill and almost an alcoholic through overdoing it, while my strength was abandoning me — then I withdrew into myself, and without daring to hope yet.”

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Paul Gauguin to Vincent van Gogh from Pont-Aven, on or about Wednesday, September 26, 1888: “In your letter you seem angry at our laziness about the portrait, and that pains me; friends don’t get angry with each other (at a distance, words cannot be interpreted at their true value).”

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To Emile Bernard, from Arles, on or about Thursday, June 7, 1888: “More and more it seems to me that the paintings that ought to be made, the paintings that are necessary, indispensable for painting today to be fully itself and to rise to a level equivalent to the serene peaks achieved by the Greek sculptors, the German musicians, the French writers of novels, exceed the power of an isolated individual, and will therefore probably be created by groups of men combining to carry out a shared idea.”