What Van Gogh Said

An online version of all 902 letters to and from Vincent Van Gogh, including sketches, annotations, transcriptions and translations is available at Vincent Van Gogh: The Letters.  The website contains

vangogh sketchall the known letters from and to Vincent van Gogh based on a close examination of the manuscripts and supplemented with explanatory notes. The text is presented in the original language and spelling, as well as in an English translation …  we have tried to add all the information to the letters that present and future generations might need in order to understand what Van Gogh and his correspondents mean and to what they are referring. This mainly concerns the identification of individuals, of works of art by Van Gogh and other artists, of books and magazines. Wherever possible we identify the origin of allusions to (explicit or otherwise) or quotations from novels and poems, the Bible, publications of art criticism or art history, and other reading matter like newspapers and periodicals. Contemporary circumstances and events relating to biographies, cultural history and art history are also explained. These were either known or self-evident to the correspondents, but outsiders lacked the background to understand them – and that certainly applies to readers more than a century later. All this information is contained in the annotations to the letters. In addition, the lengthy study of the manuscripts and the literally countless investigations conducted in the most varied fields for the annotations, yielded more general insights. These are presented in this introduction. They also relate to the subjects discussed in the letters, to the historical context in which they were written, and the circles in which Van Gogh moved. As such they supplement the annotations, but adopt a wider perspective. However, it is not just a question of the referentiality of the letters. One can also detect patterns and tendencies in Van Gogh’s way of writing and in his treatment of the manuscripts and texts as letters. Attention is drawn here to the most important of these.  [Van Gogh as a letter writer]


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