Thursday, June 16, 2011

Off Again, with a Note on Van Gogh

We're off to Paris and Barcelona with a couple of teenagers.  The auguries are favorable, but not everyone has a good time in Paris.   Here is Vincent van Gogh writing from Paris in the summer of 1887 to Theo, his brother and principal source of support, both emotional and financial.

Dear old boy

Thank you for your letter and what it contained. It depresses me to think that even when it's a success, painting never pays back what it costs.

I was touched by what you wrote about home--”They are fairly well but still it is sad to see them.” A dozen years ago one would have sworn that at any rate the family would always prosper and get on. It would give great pleasure to mother if your marriage come off, and for the sake of your health and your work you ought not to remain single.

As for me—I feel I am losing the desire for marrige and children, and now and then it saddens me that I should be feeling like that at thirty-five just when it should be the opposite. And sometimes I have a grudge against this rotten painting. It was Richepin who said somewhere:

“The love of art means the loss of real love.”

I think that is terribly true, but on the other hand real love makes you disgusted with art.

And at times I feel already old and broken, and yet still enough of a lover not to be a real enthusiast for painting. To succeed one must have ambition, and ambition seems to me absurd. What will come of it I don't know; I would like above all things to be less of a burden to you—and that is not impossible in the future—for I hope to make such progress that you will be able to show my stuff boldly without compromising yourself.

And then I will take myself somewhere down south, to get away from the sight of so many painters tht disgust me as men.
Vincent did leave Paris, for Arles in the south, at the beginning of 1888. In the summer of 1890, he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Most of what we remember of van Gogh was done during those two and a half years in the south of France. Theo outlived him by just six months; he died of syphillis at the beginning of 1891.  

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