A book with a wealth of additional information

This is made possible by the recent publication of his correspondence in a book with a wealth of additional information. In addition, the 819 letters of the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh can be found on a scientific website with even more information. "There are many, especially among our friends, who believe that words are worthless. On the contrary, I think it is as interesting and difficult to say something well in writing as it is to paint it". So wrote Van Gogh to Emile Bernard in his letter of 19 April 1898.

From now on, everyone can do their own research on Vincent van Gogh, or simply read his letters.

The new book and website contain letters written between 1872 and 1890, the year of the painter's death. Alongside these are another 83 letters addressed to Van Gogh. The researchers add that hundreds of letters, now considered lost, are still missing. Leo Jansen, curator of the Van Gogh Museum and one of the compilers of 'Vincent van Gogh - The Letters', points out that the painter "had literary talent, he wrote well, with ease and imagination. He was also very precise. If we look at the way he set out and developed his thoughts, and how he tried to place his work on a higher plane, I think we can say that he was a rational and methodical person".

Results

The previous publication of Van Gogh's letters dates from 1990, in a Dutch version. But there was clearly a need for a serious edition in English, with additional information and the images that the painter often added to his letters. With this book, the Van Gogh Museum has fulfilled these requirements. The project took 15 years and involved collaboration between the Van Gogh Museum and the Huygens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences.

The longer version can be found at www.vangoghletters. The book has been published in Dutch, French and English. The letters are listed in chronological order and information about each addressee can be found. All the works Van Gogh wrote about, both his own and those of other artists, are also listed. The website also provides a detailed photo of each letter, allowing the sketches that the painter included in them to be seen.

Thinking in writing

"Writing is, in fact, a lousy way of communicating," Vincent admits to his brother Theo. But he wrote a lot anyway, especially to his brother, often in French. He almost always wrote about art, about what occupied his days and about his thoughts as an artist. "Besides communicating about fundamental matters, letters were for him a way of thinking in writing," Leo Jansen points out.

"This is clear, for example, in the case of the painting 'The Potato Eaters'. For Van Gogh it was a test of his abilities: he wanted to show that he could make a composition from previous trials and sketches. He prepared systematically for this, and the letters show the whole process. Most of Vincent van Gogh's letters are the property of the Van Gogh Museum.The exhibition will be on show in Amsterdam. Part of this collection can be seen in the museum's galleries until 3 January 2010.

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