The Personal Letters of Vincent van Gogh

I have in my hands a book that’s heavy with history and insights, and while it’s my job to tell you about it, I feel small in comparison to the subject of the book. He’s more than a person. He’s an icon. So I bring you today’s blog post with a humble bow to Vincent van Gogh, in honor of Ever Yours: The Essential Letters. It’s a collection of his correspondence that gives all of us a better understanding of his life, his challenges, his journey and his destiny.

Irises by Vincent van Gogh, van Gogh letters

Irises (1889; oil on canvas, 29.25×37.125) by Vincent van Gogh [Dutch, 1853-1890]. Image courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Pin” this painting on Pinterest for inspiration.

Perhaps for the first time, I see van Gogh as a living, breathing person, instead of a historical figure. For in the pages of Ever Yours are pictures of some of his actual letters. His handwriting and spontaneous sketches breathe with life.

Ever Yours: The Essential Letters of Vincent van Gogh, letters to Theo

Save $10 on Vincent van Gogh, Ever Yours: The Essential Letters with the code VANGOGH at through January 31, 2017. Photo by Cherie Haas

He writes to his brother:

My dear Theo,
Herewith a scratch of the selling of soup that I did in the public soup kitchen. It takes place in a large hall where the light enters from above through a door on the right.
I re-created this scene in the studio. I put a white screen in the background and on it I drew the hatch in proportions and dimensions it has in reality, with the furthest window covered and the lower part of the middle window covered. So that the light falls from P. Just as in the place itself.
As you see, when I have the figures pose there, I get them exactly as they were in the actual soup kitchen.
Above you see the positioning in the studio. I’ve framed the area to be drawn…
Ever yours,
Vincent (On or about Saturday, March 3, 1883)

Ever Yours is edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker. Imagine almost 800 pages of van Gogh’s letters, in your hands. It’s extraordinary.

Tell me, what would you say to van Gogh? Please share what your message to him would be in the comments section on this blog post.

Ever yours,

Cherie Haas, online editor
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13 thoughts on “The Personal Letters of Vincent van Gogh

  1. Ron McElligott

    February 6, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Dear Vkemp,
    Famous artists are always an inspiration. I retired 5 years ago. Took my lifetime interest in art and began watercolor studies, etc. Received encouragement from a good critic and gained much confidence after being advised to join a Guild a couple years ago. If you haven’t already, It was the best advice I received to getting seriously creative.

  2. Cherie Haas, Online Editor Post author

    These are all so beautiful – I can’t thank you each enough for taking the time to share such personal and moving messages, some of which nearly brought tears to my eyes.

    We’ve chosen a winner at random (it was simply too difficult to choose by favorites, because we loved them so), and so please help me congratulate SUZBRNA.

    Yours in art,

  3. nursewriter

    I’m kinda like you, Vinnie – not an adventurer by choice, but by fate. Like you, I’ve had this blazing hearth in my soul with nobody coming by to sit by it. Friends and family maybe see the wisp of smoke rising from my chimney and keep on going. Ah, but you taught me courage. That’s why I meet you in the paintings. You remind me, day after day, that if I hear a voice saying I cannot paint, then by all means, silence that voice and paint! So I do. Because you said that, in spite of everything, I’ll rise again and take up my pencil and brush even after forsaking them in utter discouragement. Every sunflower speaks of you. Every work of your art is an echo in my soul. You walked this earth 30 years, wanting to leave a souvenir. You did, Vinnie. You certainly did.

  4. kittysquared

    Dear Vincent,
    Absinthe? Really? Not a smooth spirit at all. Quite difficult, actually. Perhaps your love of The Green Fairy is that she hits hard and fast? You have heard that the thujone in absinthe causes one to see things in yellow? That would explain all those sunflowers, eh? Anyway, your tab is overdue, my friend.
    Best Regards,
    Night Cafe bar keep

  5. vkemp

    Dear Vincent,
    My name is Vincent as well. Being Catholic, my mother probably named me after St. Vincent. My mother did have a love for the arts, so I like to think perhaps she had you in mind. I’ll never know but maybe she knew that somehow you & I would be inextricably connected in some distant manner. It’s probably just a dream from my perspective, but there are few I would rather be named after. As a teenager, my friends called me Goph of Vincent Van Gopher fame.
    I had a passion for art when I was in high school in the 60s, but my wonderful father discouraged me from studying art in college because it was such a huge challenge to make a good living in the Arts. Per my dad’s recommendation, I chose another path in life, and I am now close to retirement. I try to spend 15 minutes a day teaching myself art, in the hopes that I might be able to pursue that long lost passion when I retire in a few years. This dream is not to continue an income stream, but to live and experience a pittance of the passion that you must have had for the visual arts.
    I became more familiar with your life and work when I viewed the 1956 biographical movie about you titled “Lust for Life” written by Irving Stone in 1934, starring Kirk Douglas as you and Anthony Quinn as your friend & rival Paul Gauguin. The two of you are considered giants in the art world today. You should know those portraying you in the book and movie were all masters of their fields as well. I saw the movie in the late 60s while trying to kill some time. I left the theater thinking, “what an amazing movie about an amazing icon”. I’ll explain what a movie is in another message, but for now let’s just say it’s another visual art form that portrays action.
    You achieved so much in so little time. The realization that you received no recognition or compensation for your genius, during your life time, is sad to those of us still living. The fact that you persevered with your vision in spite of it all, is truly amazing.
    You have a means of expressing color and imagery that is breathtaking. It is no wonder that your works are now sold at prices that are beyond comprehension.
    You inspire me as you have millions of others since your passing. Many of us see starry nights, flowers, and tavern imagery as only you could visualize and communicate through your masterpieces.
    Rest well, my friend. Those of us in the arts, or those of us merely dreaming about participating in the arts, like me, will always look up to you and your amazing life’s work. You’ve left an indelible mark on all of us!
    Best Regards, Vincent

  6. artontheranch

    I love your Irises painting – I am so inspired by you, I have taught that painting to so many children and shared your history….what I would not give to ask to be but a mouse in your room and watch you create…to take back just a small essence of your creativity.

    My passion is sharing art in all forms with young minds and setting their creative souls free to be seen in their work. Thank you for that.

  7. PARM

    Dear Vincent,
    Thank you for all that you have given us, both in your life and in your art. When I see your paintings in person I am moved to tears. I want you to know that in your artwork, you’ve left us with all of yourself… the beauty, the pain, the raw honesty. I’m sorry that your life was so hard, and hope that now your dear soul has peace.
    My love and gratitude.

  8. suzbrna

    It is a beautiful life of color, shape, and flower, lived so meagerly, with out even the slightest monetary gain, I am inspired that you continued to work as long as you did. Unfortunately, it is still such a world for living artists. Famous artist van Gogh, you were merely a servant of the Muse whose life’s work was lost until, posthumously, your work was resurrected and recognized as beautiful and when the work became unaffordable. We thank you and your family for preserving your work that we may forever enjoy. Love Suz

    I sent a photo of my triptych painting of 3 great artists Vincent, Poe, and Mozart. It is called Servants of the Muse. I would love for you to see them. Send an email address. Otherwise, I just emailed the photos to :

  9. slyfoxer

    My Dear Vincent,
    I don’t think I ever really understood you until I saw your paintings in person at an Exhibit in Chicago. When I saw your canvases I understood the life you had lived and portrayed in your paintings. It was all there in the paint, in the strokes, in the energy. Why couldn’t you have stayed with us longer? You truly were a Master with a gift to share and even though you are not with us….really you are….you shall never leave us as long as your paintings survive. Did you realize that we would come to love you so?? Perhaps you did because someone who creates such a painting as “Starry Nights” could never have thought otherwise. How did you see the world as no other has……that’s your secret we know. Perhaps your trials and your pain led you in that direction and perhaps without them you might not have been able to make our world so beautiful. We love you dearest Vincent.

  10. alxakemi

    I would most definitely have to ask him what inspired him.. many artists look up to Van Gogh as inspiration, and it’s almost like finding the root of a plant to see what inspires our influences..

  11. JPR

    Dear Vincent,
    It’s a shame that we as mere mortals have such angst in our lives, in order to paint with such passion and energy as you.
    That is how I see your life. Life, in all it’s drama and agony, provides the very impetus for us artists to move towards the colors and content of our creative expression. We can’t say it very well with words, or we might write books; and though we love music, we might not have the patience to learn an instrument very well… but Paint…ahhhh…now there is something we relish getting our hands into! And your life is expressed in paint in such a beautiful way, I am inspired to express my own existence more and more each day. I wish that you might have had a better life for your own sake; less worry and stress, fewer troubles and fewer heartaches. But your passion has successfully help millions of viewers of your work, and for that I hope you can see from heaven, and be at peace. Blessings to you Dear Brother.