Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Van Gogh a-go-go


I’m not usually inclined to comment here on every book I read, but I just wrapped up this collection of the letters of Van Gogh (free download!) and came away mighty impressed. You might have the impression that Vincent was something of a raging loon, scarcely coherent, able to express himself only through his goopy brushstrokes, but these letters, mainly to his brother Theo, will show you different. Turns out the dude was remarkably erudite and sensitive. Thoughtful to a tee. And he was, as you might expect, positively logorrheic when it came to writing about painting. He was especially tuned into the complexities of color, which makes sense. When he was painting in nature, as he often did, he seems to have seen the world as a cacophony of color.

I’ve read elsewhere recently that he might not have cut his own ear off after all. He was a bit bipolar, from what I understand, and he might have gotten into a manic thing with his good buddy Gauguin, who was swift with a sword, believe it or not. Rumor is, he fended off Vincent with a flick of it and inflicted the infamous wound.

Then again, later, Van Gogh appears to have shot himself, so.

Anyway, a revealing read.

8 comments on “Van Gogh a-go-go

  1. Book Guy Reviews
    March 27, 2015

    This sounds awesome. Love reading different artists and author’s letters. Thanks for sharing! If you’re ever interested in some other sweet book reviews and literary musings, be sure to follow! Thanks!

  2. Gretchen Getsinger
    March 27, 2015

    I’m an artist and love van Gogh. I have an abridged volume of his letters but many years ago I read the entirety of his letters, all 3 volumes, which was an eye-opening experience — that he was so verbally articulate, sensitive and human — not at all the crazy guy I was expecting. Reading his letters was like taking a course in Color theory, as well. I think Vincent was suffering from syphilis as he often frequented brothels from an early age and was also hospitalized and given sulphur treatments for syphylis, I think when he lived in Brussels.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 27, 2015

      He is fascinating. You get the feeling that he perceived the world differently and essentially painted it the way he saw it. Maybe that sulfur treatment accounts for his yellows!

      Telling, too, that in one letter he said he had consumed 23 cups of coffee. Must have been totally jazzed.

      • Gretchen Getsinger
        March 27, 2015

        He went through long stretches when Theo hadn’t sent him any money. Maybe coffee was all he could afford!

  3. 1WriteWay
    March 27, 2015

    Wow, between your post and Gretchen’s comments, I think I should read those letters!

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 27, 2015

      More engaging than you’d expect, though it does slow down a little when he talks about ordering canvas and other mundane things. Still, just a little glimpse of his life is interesting.

  4. sknicholls
    March 27, 2015

    Van Gogh was one of those incomprehensible geniuses. I just saw this a couple of days ago. Fascinating. Have you seen this? The whole version is on TED. http://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-unexpected-math-behind-van-gogh-s-starry-night-natalya-st-clair

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This entry was posted on March 27, 2015 by in Writing and tagged , , .
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