Writing by Artists

The Van Gogh letters Online

Most days I think of the internet as a remarkable thing, I got my first computer in 1989 and my first internet connection in about 1993, but today it just got better. Today I discovered a rather exceptional spot on the world wide web The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh  a remarkable resource, free to anyone who is interested. It has been online since 2009 but I hadn’t found it, so in case anyone else hasn’t either, I thought I’d share it.

The Van Gogh letters are a complete record, as far as they can be, of all the surviving correspondence written and received by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), the letters he wrote himself – 819 and those he received – 83. They are wonderful to read and a real joy to see in their original form.

Van Gogh’s letters are something quite special, a whole chronology of his life presented, as he wrote and intended them. The real treat is that his letters were regularly embellished with small drawings or enclosed sketches which he called a ‘scratch’ or a ‘croquis’, often as a means to explain to his brother, Theo, his progress in visual terms, or as an exchange of ideas with fellow artists.

The Van Gogh Museum , Amsterdam, holds the world’s largest collection of the paintings and drawings of Vincent Van Gogh, as well as of the bulk of his correspondence. Van Gogh’s letters have been published many times over the years and interest in the contents of his letters can be traced back as early as 1892 when quotes were published from them. The Van Gogh Museum, together with the Huygens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, started work on the Van Gogh Letters Project in 1994 with the ambition of creating a complete compilation; in its original language with a full and accurate translation into English, illustrations and annotations as well as images of the paintings referred to in the letters, it took 15 years to produce this scholarly online edition.

The Online edition (2009) provides a complete online resource free of charge. There is also a six volume book(s) published with over 4,300 illustrations. ISBN 9780500238653. Edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten, Nienke Bakker of the Van Gogh Museum in association with the Huygens Institute.