Robin Camille Davis
  1. Home /
  2. Blog /
  3. Van Gogh's letters

Van Gogh's letters

November 20, 2009
Tags: art, history, internet, museum

If you haven't already, you've got to see The Letters of Vincent van Gogh. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has scanned in all 902 letters to/from VvG they have, complete with transcriptions, translations, and footnotes. Some of the letters contain sketches. You can sort his letters by recipient, place, and period. You can view the correspondence between him and his brother, Theo, as well as with Paul Gauguin. I must admit, I adore Van Gogh's handwriting. Who needs to cross their t's or f's? Why bother with accent marks in French? VvG: "Whatevs!"

Having been to Arles moi-même, I was interested in his writing from 1888–1889, when he was there. And having been to the bullfighting arena, I was especially interested in what he had to say about it. Two gems:

From the letter to Arnold Koning. Arles, 29 or 30 May 1888.
At present there are bullfights almost every Sunday. Last Sunday a bull jumped over the barrier and he jumped up against the terraces where the spectators were sitting, but the arenas here are so high that it can do no harm. Meanwhile, in a village near here a bull jumped out of the enclosure, made its way through the spectators and injured several of them, then ran through the village. At the end of the village, which is built on a rock, there’s an enormously high, steep cliff. In its rage the bull just kept running and — plunged to its death below.

From the letter to Theo van Gogh. Arles, Monday, 9 April 1888.
Yesterday I saw a bullfight where five men were working the ox with banderillas and rosettes. A toreador crushed one of his balls jumping over the barrier. He was a blond man with grey eyes and a lot of sang-froid, they said he’d feel it for a long time. He was dressed in sky-blue and gold, just like the little horseman in our Monticelli with the 3 figures in a wood. The bullring looks so beautiful when there’s sunshine and a crowd.

Kadooz to you, Van Gogh Museum. What a fantastic resource to offer for free to the world! If this shows up in your Google Alerts, Van Gogh Museum, you deserve a P.O.B. (pat on back).