June 13, 2013

Quotes From "Van Gogh: The Life"

"He (Vincent) carried his chair, a portfolio of paper, and a plank of wood. He worked so intensely --- holding the big carpenter's pencil in his fist like a knife --- that he needed the heavy plank to prevent tearing the paper. He planted himself in front of trees and shrubs, outside framers' cottages and barns, overlooking mills and meadows, along roadsides and churchyards. He sketched animals as they fed, and implements --- plows, harrows, wheelbarrows --- where they lay." (page 230)

Marsh With Water Lillies, 1881, pencil and ink 
(In his sketch, see left) "Vincent looked out across the same swamp vista and cast his eyes downward. Pushing the horizon almost to the top of his much larger sheet, he relegated the town to insignificance and fixed his gaze on the teeming water at his feet: a tangled world of reeds, flowers, lily pads, and leaves, each with its own slant or arc, its own shape and shade, its own cross-hatched reflection on the still surface of the sunlit bog. With a manic vehemence not taught in any exercise book, he filed the bottom of the sheet with clusters of dots, random dark sports, floating circles, and meandering lines in an effort to render the bottomless fecundity that he knew so well from the banks of the Grote Beek. He added a bird, a visitor from his childhood, swooping low over the water in search of the life squirming unmistakably beneath the pencil marks." (page 234-235)


  1. Yes indeed Yun Yi.
    What a tortured master...some lovey descriptive prose there.
    Cheers, ic

  2. “a tortured master" -- well said, ic!

  3. I still don't understand how someone can draw/paint in this way. Maybe it's because I find it so hard myself. There's an art to getting it right visually Yun Yi, as it's much harder than some people think.

    And because I like things perfect, I can just imagine how much more difficult it must be for a perfectionist to paint and accept their own work.

  4. @RPD, he indeed had a very special vision. I found his own technique incredible. I appreciate his style more and more.

  5. Wonderful quotes, Yun Yi, and I am so glad you’re enjoying that Van Gogh book too. From these quotes, you really get a feel for Van Gogh’s technique and intensity when he painted. I love “Marsh with Water Lilies,” how he “relegated the town to insignificance,” and focused on the reeds, flowers, lily pads and leaves. The bird was an interesting addition; I am betting it’s a crow, he’s often painted crows.

  6. thanks madilyn. i enjoy the books. so much detailed stories about him i did not know before. you are right, that looks like crow. i think he painted a wheat field with lots of crows before he died.