April 5, 2011

Dear Theo - letters of Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh age eighteenImage via WikipediaI finished reading Irvine Stone's Lust for Life within one day like finishing a page turner, but I finished reading Dear Theo - letters of Van Gogh after a long time reading - each time I turned the page, I heard myself saying: slow down, take time, and digest every word slowly, as if the sooner I finished reading, the quicker the joy of being with him would vanish.

Van Gogh struck the world with his paintings, he also touched my heart with his words. If we take language as a vehicle of thoughts, Van Gogh deserved to be remembered as a great thinker. Through his words, I saw a man with deep contemplation, a soul that had a close connection with nature by every visible detail: trees, mountains, sky, even every inch of crop field.

If Van Gogh instilled his passion in all his art works, he recorded his thoughts in his words. We see frenzy colors in his paintings, but we will meet a lucid mind in his writings. He was not crazy, like many his contemporaries believed, he was just a special being with some simple needs which the world failed to satisfy. In other words, the world was/is sick, not Van Gogh. Yet he offered to the world a tremendous amount of treasure. The world gave him grief, but he returned with the brilliance of Sunshine.

It has been over 25 years when I read this book. Dear Theo was one of my precious collection, and it shaped my view on art and life: an artist has to be true to him/herself before to be "great". By my opinion, Van Gogh may not be the most "skillful" (from traditional view) artist in history, but he was the most talented, and the first one who depicted himself without any "decoration" - such as techniques or concepts. He was completely “naked” in his works.
And I believe, the world would be different if we were all “naked” like he was.


  1. What a wonderful tribute to Van Gogh and his writing. Like many, I thought he was a crazy, though brilliantly so, artist. I knew nothing of his words. You've inspired me to read his book. Thanks you!

  2. Thanks JaneneMurphy! It is indeed of a wonderful book!

  3. thanks ana! your compliment is especially encouraging!

  4. Yunyi-I have a wonderful film at home made by Paul Cox, an Australian director, combining Van Gogh's words with his paintings as well as the landscapes where he painted. Van Gogh is one of my favorite writers, he never spoke a word that didn't come directly from his spirit and heart. A truly sane individual and a truly exemplary life, despite his personal problems. Every word I write I think of Van Gogh, and try to be worthy of his example.

  5. thanks np. you view on him is both genuine and insightful!

  6. Excellent review,Yun. You read my thoughts!
    He was not crazy, and I love how you put all your thoughts together here on his writing and art.