In remembrance of Vincent van Gogh, who passed away at age 37 on July 29, 1890, I wanted to share some profound words from the great Dutch painter, written in letter form to his brother Theo. Through these words, we feel the heart and spirit of an artist who would not be denied his destiny to create master works of oil on canvas.
This letter is dated July 21, 1882, and it appears in the collection The Letters of Vincent van Gogh.
“What I want to express, in both figure and landscape, isn’t anything sentimental or melancholy, but deep anguish. In short, I want to get to the point where people say of my work: that man feels deeply, that man feels keenly.
“… What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and never will have, in short the lowest of the low.
“All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.
“… Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.
“… Art demands dogged work, work in spite of everything and continuous observation.
“… I am not without hope, brother, that in a few years’ time, or perhaps even now, little by little you will be seeing things I have done that will give you some satisfaction after all your sacrifices.”
Gogh, Vincent van, and Ronald. Leeuw. The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh. London: Allen Lane, Penguin Press, 1996. Print.