Letters by Van Gogh written in different years will be read by the People’s Artist of Russia Evgeny Mironov. His letters to his brother Theo is a unique document occupying hundreds of pages. It is a dialog held not only with his brother, but with his own self. This is an anguished cry of a big artist on the verge of death.
Evgeny Mironov: “This is a story of an artist who wanted to live and work despite the circumstances. Not thinking himself a great painter, he yet strove to leave something behind that would somehow justify his unbearably difficult life.”
What can be more intimate than personal correspondence? What can be more truthful than letters to the one you love, the one whom you think your sole support? Who can tell about Van Gogh better than Van Gogh himself? Letters must be read by those whom they are meant for. The case of Van Gogh is a rare case of exception, when observing the rule impoverishes the world; this is why this rule needs to be ignored. Van Gogh’s letters to Theo are not just a story of insanity; they depict an entire autobiography with its small rises and painful falls of a human life. They contain anguish, patience, love, complaints, and hopes for the better days in the future. The descriptions of the artist’s work give the spectators a chance to glimpse beyond the canvas into the depths of Van Gogh’s art, into his infinite spherical worlds, where yellow, olive, carnation, sea-blue, and sky-blue ripen in bright combinations. The spectacular play of color in the paintings is in tune with the poignancy in the play of words of the leitmotif, “The sadness will last forever…”
These letters are not only the best testimony of the artist of his life, and not only the proof of the necessity to follow one’s path to the end, but also an account of an amazing spiritual strength of a human. The story of Van Gogh in letters is a vivid example of the way strong person acts when he knows what he wants to achieve. This is a person who has a dream. He does not give up and fall, but keeps on going, humbly accepting all storms and tempests. Letter by letter, we observe the path of a person killed by the most dreadful illness of loneliness. “I would not say that we, artists, are mentally sane; I will definitely not say it of myself – I am full of insanity to the backbone.” He is tormented by the lack of understanding, by rejection, criticism, the inability to share his hopes and dreams. How could one be able to keep faith in the once chosen way with all these doubts and shortcomings? The answer is in the letters, “the result must be an action, not an abstract idea.” Van Gogh was extremely work-minded. He dedicated himself to painting and saw his purpose in it, as it gave him energy for living till his last day. “I am always between two currents of thought, first the material difficulties, turning round and round to make a living; and second, study of color. I am always in hope of making a discovery there, to express the love of two lovers by a marriage of two complementary colors, their mingling and their opposition, the mysterious vibrations of kindred tones. To express the thought of a brow by the radiance of a light tone against a somber background. To express hope by some star, the eagerness of a soul by a sunset radiance. Certainly there is nothing in that of stereoscopic realism, but is it not some thing that actually exists?”
Many people thought him eccentric, some even thought him a nobody. The only person who had faith in him was his brother Theo. Vincent often wrote to his brother, “We painted these pictures.” And he knew that these were much more but pretty words – this was the truth. Theo supported his brother all his life and believed that he would be able to provide for his own living. The painter, however, was able to sell only one painting during his lifetime. Vincent van Gogh died early, at the age of thirty-seven in 1890. Till his last day he believed that his paintings would never gain recognition.
“The truth is, we cannot speak other thank by our paintings. But still, my dear brother, there is this that I have always told you, and I repeat it once more with all the earnestness that can be imparted by an effort of mind diligently fixed on trying to so as well as one can – I tell you again that I shall always consider that you are something other than a simple dealer in Corots, that through my meditation you have your part in the actual production of the same canvases, which even in the cataclysm retain their calm.
For this is what we have got to, and this is all or at least the chief thing that I can have to tell you at a moment of comparative crisis/ At a moment when things are very strained between dealers in paintings by dead artists, and living artists.
Well, my work to me, I risk my life on it, and my reason has half foundered.”
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo found on his body on the day of his death, July 29, 1890