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The Letters

What better way to learn the innermost thoughts and feelings about Van Gogh than in his own words? His letters to his brother, Theo, make for extremely poignant, and often incredibly heartbreaking reading. Often, you can hear the man in the words (just, as I mention elsewhere, you can see the man in the paintings)--lonely, unhappy, poverty-stricken, sick, completely despairing. And yet, here, too, do we find the man who writes:

In my opinion, I am often rich as Croesus--not in money, but (though it doesn't happen every day) rich--because I have found in my work something which I can devote myself to heart and soul, and which inspires me and gives a meaning to life.

Of course my moods change, but the average is serenity. I have a firm faith in art, a firm confidence in its being a powerful stream which carries a man to a harbor, though he himself must do his bit too; at all events, I think it such a great blessing when a man has found his work that I cannot count myself among the unfortunate. I mean, I may be in certain relatively great difficulties, and there may be gloomy days in my life, but I shouldn't like to be counted among the unfortunate, nor would it be correct if I were.

(from Letter 274 to Theo from the Hague, 11 March 1883)

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