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Thread: Reading Van Gogh

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Reading Van Gogh

    Among my current readings, Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo move my heart most. To be a true artist, you have to be a sincere and true man first.

    "In short, I want to progress so far that people will say of my work, He feels deeply, he feels tenderly--notwithstanding my so-called roughness, perhaps even because of it.
    It seems pretentious to talk like this way now, but this is the reason why I want to push on with all my strength.
    What am I in most people's eyes? A nonentity, or an eccentric and disagreeable man--somebody who has no position in society and never will have, in short, the lowest of the low. Very well, even if this were true, then I should want my work to show what is in the heart of such an eccentric, of such a nobody.
    This is my ambition, which is, in spite of everything, founded less on anger than on love, more on serenity than on passion. It is true that I am often in the greatest misery, but still there is calm pure harmony and music inside me. I see drawings and pictures in the poorest huts, in the dirtiest corner. And my mind is drawn toward these things by an irresistible force.
    More and more other things lose their interest, and the more I get rid of them, the quicker my eyes grasps the picturesque things. Art demands persistent work, work in spite of everything, and continuous observation. By persistent, I mean not only continuous work, but also giving up your opinion at the bidding of such and such a person."

    "Of the drawings which I shall show you now, I think only this: I hope they will prove to you that my work does not remain stationary, but progresses in a reasonable direction. As to the money value of my work, I do not pretend to anything less than that it would greatly astonish me if in time my work did not become just as salable as that of others. Of course I cannot tell whether that will happen now or later, but I think the surest way, which cannot fail, is to work from nature faithfully and energetically. Sooner or later feeling and love for nature meet a response from people who are interested in art. It is the painter's duty to be entirely absorbed by nature and to use all his intelligence to express sentiment in his work so that it becomes intelligible to other people. In my opinion working for the market is not exactly the right way; on the contrary, it means fooling art lovers. The true painters have not done this; the sympathy they eventually received was the result of their sincerity. That's all I know about it, and I don't think I need to know more. Of course it is a different thing to try to find people who like your work, and who will love it--of course this is permitted. But it must not become speculation; it would perhaps turn out wrong and would certainly cause one to lose time that ought to be spent on the work itself."

    This Van Gogh, who would spend the little money his brother sent him every month on his painting materials first and sometimes had nothing left for food for days, painted ferverishly for the next eight years and died penniless and relatively unknown.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: Reading Van Gogh

    [QUOTE=Hugo Zhang]To be a true artist, you have to be a sincere and true man first.


    I totally disagree. Many of the greatest artists* were real jerks, (think of Picasso to start with). In fact, Vincent was a terrible PITA, not all of which could be blamed on his "artist's temprement" or his bi-polar disease.

    *artists include more of the arts than just painting. Paul Strand and Steichen come to mind first for photography.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  3. #3
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    North Carolina

    Re: Reading Van Gogh

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugo Zhang
    This Van Gogh, who would spend the little money his brother sent him every month on his painting materials first and sometimes had nothing left for food for days, painted ferverishly for the next eight years and died penniless and relatively unknown.
    Of course, it probably didn't help that he sometimes drank his turpentine...
    If a contact print at arm's length is too small to see, you need a bigger camera. :D

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Reading Van Gogh


    Why do you find Vincent a terrible PITA? Have you read his letters? I was much moved by his paintings a few years ago when I first saw the originals. I never really like Picasso though, even I admire his talent.

    A jerk could be a true man as long as he has the courage to be true to himself.


  5. #5
    Saulius's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 1998

    Re: Reading Van Gogh

    Hugo, if you haven't seen it yet you will certainly appreciate "Vincent - the Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh". Do a google search and you can find somehwere to buy a copy. I've never read his letters but this film certainly brought them to life for me. It is one of the few movies I watch over and over. In fact I haven't seen it in a while so I think I'll have to remedy that. I personally enjoy his paintings, but not until I was fortunate enough to see a great body of his work at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, it just blew me away.

    The best film about Vincent Van Gogh is not one of the many biopics of the painter, but this stirring, ardent documentary. Forgoing a conventional biography's and-then-he-cut-his-ear-off approach, the gifted Dutch-Australian director Paul Cox opts for pure evocation: he trails his camera through the places where Van Gogh walked, as though trying to dream his way into the artist's mindset. Meanwhile, the beautiful voice of John Hurt reads from Vincent's amazingly searching letters to his brother, Theo. (Hurt's voice probably deserved an Oscar for this vocal-cord performance alone.) Van Gogh's journey as struggling artist and tormented man of soul is thus made strangely direct--it will not only send you to see Vincent's paintings but to locate a copy of his collected letters as well. Many film directors have grappled with this subject: Vincente Minnelli with Lust for Life, Robert Altman with Vincent & Theo, Maurice Pialat with Van Gogh. But the perpetually underappreciated Cox (Innocence) has trumped them with simplicity and sheer intensity of feeling. --Robert Horton
    The most profound exploration of an artist's soul ever to be put on film (Village Voice), VINCENT: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF VINCENT VAN GOGH is a captivating study of a brilliant artist. One of the Top 10 documentaries the year it was released, Paul Cox's portrait of Vincent Van Gogh is a journey through the life of a tortured genius who became one of the greatest artists of all time. The story is told through letters written to his brother Theo from 1872 until 1890, eloquently read by actor John Hurt.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Reading Van Gogh


    Thank you for the tip and I have just ordered the DVD from Amazon. I am reading his letters of 2,000 pages right now and can't tell you how much impressed I am by Van Gogh first as a man and how much I have learned.

    "Forget oneself; achieve great things, reach nobility and go beyond the vulgarity in which the existence of most individuals stagnates."
    "If one continues loving sincerely what is truly worthy of love and does not waste one's love on insignificant things and meaningless things and colorless things, gradually one will get more light and become stronger"
    "If one perfects oneself in a single thing and understands it fully, one achieves in addition understanding and knowledge of many other things."


  7. #7
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    brooklyn, nyc

    Re: Reading Van Gogh

    You wanna make Van Goghs
    Raise 'em up like sheep
    Make 'em out of Eskimos
    And women if you please
    Make 'em nice and normal
    Make 'em nice and neat
    You see him with his shotgun there?
    Bloodied in the wheat?
    Oh what do you know about
    Living in Turbulent Indigo?

    Brash fields, crude crows
    In a scary sky ...
    In a golden frame
    Roped off
    Tourists guided by ...
    Tourists talking about the madhouse
    Talking about the ear
    The madman hangs in fancy homes
    They wouldn't let him near!
    He'd piss in their fireplace!
    He'd drag them through Turbulent Indigo

    I'm a burning hearth, he said
    People see the smoke
    But no one comes to warm themselves
    Sloughing off a coat
    And all my little landscapes
    All my yellow afternoons
    Stack up around this vacancy
    Like dirty cups and spoons
    No mercy Sweet Jesus!
    No mercy from Turbulent Indigo.

    --Joni Mitchell

  8. #8

    Re: Reading Van Gogh

    Bill &al: what is a PITA, please?

    Hugo: What do you mean, "A jerk could be a true man as long as he has the courage to be true to himself."? A jerk is a jerk.

    Saulius: Thanks for the tip about the movie. I shall follow it up, as much because it is a Paul Cox movie as because it is about V. Van Gogh.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Sydney, Australia

    Re: Reading Van Gogh

    I've mostly avoided 90's Joni Mitchell, particularly after the 80's Joni Mitchell. (The 70's Joni would have been an impossible precedent to follow.) But those lyrics are a great reminder of just how incisive she is.
    Last edited by Leigh Perry; 30-Jul-2006 at 04:02.
    Leigh Perry

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: Reading Van Gogh

    Kendrick -- PITA is "Pain In The Arss."
    Hugo -- Vincent Van Gogh is my favorite painter.
    Saulius -- I'll check my local library for the Vincent DVD. Also, "Sunflowers," David Douglas Duncan's homage to Van Gogh, is a must-read for photographers.
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

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