30 July 2020, The Tablet

Excessively electric


Excessively electric

Detail from van Gogh’s ‘Self Portrait as a Painter’, 1887-88
Photo: PA, Fiona Hanson

 

Vincent van Gogh: A Life in Letters
Edited by NIENKE BAKKER, LEO JANSEN and HANS LUIJTEN
(THAMES & HUDSON, 448 PP, £30)
Tablet bookshop price £27 • Tel 020 7799 4064

What is drawing? How does one get there? The urgency, the drivenness of these two juxtaposed questions from a letter by van Gogh, seem to summarise perfectly the spirit of this ­tortured man. His short life feels pressure-cooked from first to last. By the time you reach the end of this new selection from his letters, edited and annotated by the scholars who brought to birth the brilliant, multi-­volume, collected edition of 2009 (which, incidentally, is entirely free to read online), it seems almost inevitable that he would need to take his own life. Everything bore down on him, always, to such an ­intolerable extent.

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