In this week’s letter we take a look at another type of artist, a famous Impressionist painter. Vincent Van Gogh was born in 1853 in a small village named Groot-Zundert in Holland. He became an art dealer, just like his two uncles, and worked in London and Paris. Soon he grew tired of his work and became a schoolmaster in the English countryside but this did not satisfy him either. After studying theology in Amsterdam, Van Gogh worked in the Belgian coal mines as an evangelist and it was there that he began to sketch. The joy he found in sketching among the miners finally sparked his desire to create. After intense studying and meeting with other painters as he attended school at The Hague, Van Gogh’s art dealing brother, Theodore, introduced Vincent to Impressionism. It was this introduction that brought Van Gogh to create some of his most well-known works such as The Starry Night, The Red Vineyard, and The Potato Eaters. What follows is a letter that Van Gogh wrote to his brother explaining the joy that painting brings him. He is clearly giddy with excitement.
You must not take it amiss if I write to you again so soon. I do so only in order to tell you how extraordinarily happy painting makes me feel.
Last Sunday I began something which I had had in mind for many a day: It is the view of a flat green meadow, dotted with haycocks. A cinder path running alongside of a ditch crosses it diagonally. And on the horizon, in the middle of the picture, there stands the sun. The whole thing is a blend of colour and tone—a vibration of the whole scale of colours in the air. First of all there is a mauve tinted mist through which the sun peers, half concealed by a dark violet bank of clouds with a thin brilliant red lining. The sun contains some vermilion, and above it there is a strip of yellow which shades into green and, higher up, into a bluish tint that becomes the most delicate azure. Here and there I have put in a light purple or gray cloud gilded with the sun’s livery. The ground is a strong carpet-like texture of green, gray and brown, full of light and shade and life. The water in the ditch sparkles on the clay soil. It is in the style of one of Emile Breton’s paintings. I have also painted a large stretch of dunes. I put the colour on thick and treated it broadly. I feel quite certain that, on looking at these two pictures, no one will ever believe that they are the first studies I have ever painted. Truth to tell, I am surprised myself. I thought my first things would be worthless; but even at the risk of singing my own praises, I must say that they really are not at all bad. And that is what surprises me so much.”