Vincent Van Gogh said:
“Look for light and freedom and do not ponder too deeply over the evil in life.
It is good to love many things, for therein lies true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done; if one is struck by some book or other, it is because it is written from the heart in simplicity and meekness of mind. It is better to say few words that have real significance than to say many that are but idle sounds, and are just as useless as they are easy to utter.
The sooner one tries to master a certain profession and a certain handicraft and adopt a fairly independent way of thinking and acting, and the more one keeps to strict rules, the firmer the character one will acquire, and for all that one need not become narrow-minded.
But I always think the best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, something, whatever you like, and you will be on the right way to knowing more about it, that is what I say to myself. But one must love with a lofty and serious intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence, and one must always try to know deeper, better and more. That leads to God, that leads to unwavering faith.
Now take Mauve for instance. When he reads something that is deep, he does not say at once: that man means this or that. For poetry is so deep and intangible that one cannot define everything systematically. But Mauve has a fine sentiment, and, you see, I think that sentiment worth so much more than definitions and criticism. And when I read, and really I do not read so much, only a few authors,--a few men that I discovered by accident--I do this because they look at things in a broader, milder and more affectionate way than I do, and because they know life better, so that I can learn from them; but all that rubbish about good and evil, mortality and immorality, I care so very little for it. For indeed it is impossible always to know what is good and what is bad, what is moral and what is immoral.
What is more real than reality itself, and where is more life than in life itself? And we who try our best to live, why do we not live more?
Though there are moments when I feel overwhelmed by care, still I am calm, and my calmness is founded on my serious method of work, and on earnest reflection. Though I have moments of passion aggravated by my temperament, yet I am calm, as he who has been acquainted with me so long knows quite well. Even now he said to me : ‘you have too much patience.’
I have had very little contact with other painters lately. I have not been the worse for it. It is not the language of painters but the language of nature to which one ought to listen... The feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures, at least it is more fertile and more vital.
Many people care more for the exterior than for the inward life of a family, thinking they act well in doing so. Society is full of that: people who strive to make a show instead of leading a true existence. I repeat: those people are not bad, but they are foolish.
When I think how he rose to such a height by working from the very beginning from nature, without imitating others, and how he is none the less in harmony with the very clever people, even in technique, though from the very first he had his own style, I find him again a proof that by truly following nature one’s work improves every year.
If you work diligently from nature without saying to yourself beforehand--’I want to do this or that,’ if you work as if you were making a pair of shoes, without artistic preoccupations, you will not always do well, but the days you least anticipate it you find a subject which holds its own with the work of those who have gone before us. You learn to know a country which is fundamentally quite different from its appearance at first sight.
There--once back here I set to work again--though the brush almost slipped from my fingers, and knowing exactly what I wanted, I have since painted three big canvases already. They are vast stretches of corn under troubled skies, and I did not need to go out of my way to try to express sadness and the extreme of loneliness. I hope you will see them soon--for I hope to bring them to you in Paris as soon as possible, since I almost think that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, the health and fortifying power that I see in the country.
Well, my own work, I am risking my life for it and my reason has half-foundered owing to it--that’s all right--but you are not among the dealers in men so far as I know, and you can choose your side, I think, acting with true humanity, but what’s the use?”
Latent Thoughts #23
Painting: The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh