Van Gogh’s letters have a new translation that’s got everyone raving, including the Telegraph’s Richard Dorment. But the most interesting thing about the letters is the new site that makes the letters easily accessible in their original language and English along with any artwork associated with the missive.
Van Gogh’s letters take us to a place where even the most detailed biography can’t go. Read in sequence they tell us what he was thinking, who he was seeing, what he was reading, and how he was feeling day by day, week by week. We come as close here as anyone can to looking inside the mind of another person.
The reason he was so good at writing was that he was so bad at human relationships. Intense and argumentative, people kept their distance. The result was that, as he says over and over in these pages, he was a profoundly lonely man. In a letter of July 1887, he tells Theo that the lack of love in his life is due to his dedication to art. Letters were his only means of making contact with others. To write to someone is safer – you can marshal your thoughts and control your temper. Letter writing was Van Gogh’s way of conducting the relationships he couldn’t sustain face to face.