Quotations by Van Gogh, Vincent


Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but getting it onto paper is something that unfortunately doesn’t go as readily as looking.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch painter
Letter to Theo Van Gogh (18 Mar 1883)
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but to bring it on paper is, alas, not so easy as to look at it."
  • "Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it."
Added on 16-Jan-13 | Last updated 4-Feb-13
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If something in you yourself says “you aren’t a painter” — IT’S THEN THAT YOU SHOULD PAINT, old chap, and that voice will be silenced too, but precisely because of that.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch painter
Letter to Theo van Gogh (28 Oct 1883)
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."
Added on 12-Mar-12 | Last updated 4-Feb-13
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If we but try to live uprightly, then we shall be all right, even though we shall inevitably experience true sorrow and genuine disappointments, and also probably make real mistakes and do wrong things, but it’s certainly true that it is better to be fervent in spirit,30 even if one accordingly makes more mistakes, than narrow-minded and overly cautious. It is good to love as much as one can, for therein lies true strength, and he who loves much does much and is capable of much, and that which is done with love is well done.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch painter
Letter to Theo Van Gogh (3 Apr 1878)
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "If only we try to live sincerely, it will go well with us, even though we are certain to experience real sorrow, and great disappointments, and also will probably commit great faults and do wrong things, but it certainly is true, that it is better to be high-spirited, even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent. It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love, is well done." [tr. Constable (1927)]
  • "Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."
Added on 9-Jan-13 | Last updated 4-Feb-13
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The work is an absolute necessity for me. I can’t put it off, I don’t care for anything but the work; that is to say, the pleasure in something else ceases at once and I become melancholy when I can’t go on with my work. Then I feel like a weaver who sees that his threads are tangled, and the pattern he had on the loom is gone to hell, and all his thought and exertion is lost.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch painter
Letter to Theo Van Gogh (3 Jun 1883)
    (Source)

Quoted in A. Lubin, Stranger on the Earth : A Psychological Biography of Vincent Van Gogh (1996).

Alt. trans.: "For me, the work is an absolute necessity. I cannot put it off; I don't care for anything else; that is to say, the pleasure in something else ceases at once, and I become melancholy when I cannot go on with my work. I feel then as the weaver does when he sees that his threads have got tangled, the pattern he had on the loom has gone to the deuce, and his exertion and deliberation are lost." [Quoted in I. & J. Stone, ed., Dear Theo: the Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh (1995)]

Alt. trans.: "For me work is an absolute necessity, indeed I can’t really drag it out, 2v:7 I take no more pleasure in anything than in work, that’s to say, pleasure in other things stops immediately and I become melancholy if I can’t get on with the work. Then I feel like a weaver when he sees his threads getting tangled and the pattern that he had on the loom going to the devil and his thought and effort coming to nothing."
Added on 23-Jan-13 | Last updated 4-Feb-13
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You see, for me that God of the clergy is as dead as a doornail. But does that make me an atheist? Clergymen consider me one — que soit — but you see, I love, and how could I feel love if I were not alive myself or if others were not alive, and if we are alive there is something wondrous about it. Now call that God or human nature or whatever you like, but there is a certain something I cannot define systematically, although it is very much alive and real, and you see, for me that something is God or as good as God. You see, when in due course my time comes, one way or other, to die, well, what will keep me going even then? Won’t it be the thought of love (moral or immoral love, what do I know about it?)

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch painter
Letter to Theo Van Gogh (c. 21-23 Dec 1881) [tr. van Gogh-Bonger]
    (Source)

Alt trans.:

  • "That God of the clergymen, He is for me as dead as a doornail. But am I an atheist for all that? The clergymen consider me as such -- be it so; but I love, and how could I feel love if I did not live, and if others did not live, and then, if we live, there is something mysterious in that. Now call that God, or human nature or whatever you like, but there is something which I cannot define systematically, though it is very much alive and very real, and see, that is God, or as good as God. To believe in God for me is to feel that there is a God, not a dead one, or a stuffed one, but a living one, who with irresistible force urges us toward aimer encore [more love]; that is my opinion."
  • "Look, I find the clergymen’s God as dead as a doornail. But does that make me an atheist? The clergymen think me one – be that as it may – but look, I love, and how could I feel love if I myself weren't alive and others weren't alive? And if we live, there's something wondrous about it. Call it God or human nature or what you will, but there’s a certain something that I can't define in a system, even though it's very much alive and real, and you see, for me it’s God or just as good as God. Look, if I must die in due course in one way or another, fine, what would there be to keep me alive? Wouldn't it be the thought of love (moral or immoral love, what do I know about it?)." (Source)
Added on 2-Jan-13 | Last updated 4-Feb-13
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Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives, and we obey them without realizing it.

Van Gogh - emotions - wist_info

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) Dutch painter
Letter to Theo Van Gogh (Jul 1889)
    (Source)
Added on 10-Nov-15 | Last updated 13-Nov-15
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