On National Public Radio Host Frank Browning talks about the new edition of Van Gogh’s letters with Julian Bell, a painter and historian:
Mr. BELL: Here is someone with this extraordinary surplus of spirituality energy. He kind of doesn’t know how to handle it, still less, does anyone around him know how to handle it? Until this burst of exaltation who runs through his (unintelligible) in 1888, when his painting breaks through to extraordinary levels.
BROWNING: Thick color impregnated his canvasses, intense yellows, greens and blues made stars pierce the heavens and sunflowers leap from their vases. But Van Gogh’s dream of creating an artist community in Arles collapsed after his famous fight with his friend Paul Gauguin that led to the slicing of his ear and his self-commitment in a mental asylum.
Mr. BELL: His mind, this extraordinary seething quality, as he describes it, has just tumbled over, spilt and he can no longer contain what he is in one vessel as it were. And it horrifies him. But the quality that stays uppermost throughout his letters is an extraordinary lucidity of mind and extraordinary gift for clear and trenchant expression.
BROWNING: Vincent Van Gogh’s last letter to his brother Theo was in his pocket when he shot himself in Northern France, July 27th, 1890. He died two days later. Nine hundred and two letters to and from Van Gogh, along with notes, sketches and paintings, are freely available on the Web at vangoghletters.org or in a six-volume set published by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.