Self-portrait with Straw Hat, 1887, Vincent van Gogh
Hello everyone. Today I want to get away from sharing just myself and back to my very favorite artist, Vincent van Gogh, to share with you some excerpts from one of his letters that is in my GIANT book of his letters! I am going to write some quotes here from the letter, and then say a few words of my own. This self-portrait of him in his straw hat is my very favorite self-portrait painting that he ever did. Thanks for reading!
Letter #249/The Hague, on or about Friday, 21 July 1882/To Theo van Gogh (D)
“Today I made an agreement with myself, which was to regard my illness, or rather what’s left of it, as non-existent. Enough time has been lost, the work must be carried on.”
“So, well, or not well, I’m going to draw again regularly from morning till evening. I don’t want anyone else to be able to say, ‘Oh, those are only old drawings.'”
“My hands have become rather whiter than I care for, but what can I do about it? I’ll also go outdoors again. It matters less to me that it may strike me down than that I’m kept longer from my work. Art is jealous; she won’t allow illness to be placed above her, so I’ll let her have her way.”
“People like me aren’t allowed to be ill. You must really understand how I regard art. One must work long and hard to arrive at the truthful. What I want and set as my goal is damned difficult, and yet I don’t believe I’m aiming too high. I want to make drawings that move some people…contain something straight from my own feelings.”
“In short, I want to reach the point where people say of my work, ‘that man feels deeply and that man feels sublty.’ Despite my so-called coarseness – you understand – perhaps, precisely because of it. It seems pretentious to talk like this now, but that’s why I want to push on.”
“What am I in the eyes of most people? A nonentity or an oddity or a disagreeable person – someone who has and will have no position in society, in short a little lower than the lowest.”
“Very well – assuming that everything is indeed like that, when through my work I’d like to show what there is in the heart of such an oddity, such a nobody.”
I am amazed that some people wrote such long letters back then! However, it was there only way to communicate long-distance so they really had no other choice like we do today. Personally, I love handwritten letters and cards that I get in the mail.
These excerpts from Vincent’s letter to Theo are over 300 words, but there are at lease 300 MORE words to this letter! Amazing, huh?
As you can see in this letter, Vincent was trying to carry on his work and put his mental illness behind him. Even though he was allowed to do some art in the asylum he was admitted to, he didn’t feel free. When he got out, he went to work immediately. I think he conveys that he was trying to make up for lost time.
What I admire about Vincent most is his determination to leave his mark on the world, but it still saddens me that he never felt accepted or praised for his work by other artists and felt like such an outcast in society. He wanted to express “deep sorrow” in his work, no doubt from the pain he was feeling about where he was in life but also the enormous compassion in his heart for others who were also considered to be “lower than the lowest.”
I have been where he was at many times in my life and even since I began learning to draw and paint over ten years ago. I can identify with many of his thoughts and feelings. I wish I could have known Vincent van Gogh as a friend; I think we would have been kindred spirits. Kindred spirits are not always easy to find in life. I am glad I have the good fortune to have several in my life.
If you made it through this post, thanks for taking the time to read. What do you think about Vincent?
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂
P. S. (Hopefully tomorrow I will have a picture of the portrait of Mary I’m doing!)
Posted on January 17, 2017, in Art Talk and tagged Van Gogh, Vincent, Vincent van Gogh at 13 years old, Vincent van Gogh on Board, Vincent van Gogh Quote: Letter #220, Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portraits, Vincent's Self-Reflections, Vincent's Thoughts on Colour. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.