Letters of Van Gogh reveal the rational artist

Mon Oct 5, 2009 1:18pm EDT
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By Catherine Hornby

AMSTERDAM (Reuters Life!) - Hundreds of Vincent van Gogh's letters have been combined with the art he discussed in his correspondence in a new publication that paints the clearest picture yet of the thoughts behind the Dutch artist's work.

A product of 15 years of research, the six volume edition displays 900 letters from and to Van Gogh, including sketches of paintings he was working on as well as illustrations of more than 2,000 art works.

"For the first time, you read the letters and at the same time you also see the visual world that he had in his head," said Axel Ruger, director of the Van Gogh Museum.

"As a self-trained artist he was constantly searching and trying to improve himself and that is reflected in the letters."

To time with the publication, the museum will display some letters, which are rarely on show due to their fragility, so visitors can gain insight into the artist's work in progress and compare sketches in letters to his paintings.

After studying Van Gogh's letters so intensely, curator Leo Jansen said they had unveiled a methodical, disciplined side to an artist more commonly thought of as a tormented soul who struggled with mental health problems during his life.

"It appears that he is really a very rational man, not the mad genius that we know," said Jansen. "He was very aware of what he was doing, he chose his aims and he tried to achieve them step by step."

Studying his letters alongside his paintings, drawings and sketches also helps to convey the close connection Van Gogh felt art and literature shared, Jansen said.   Continued...

<p>A letter written by Vincent van Gogh is pictured in this undated handout photo. Hundreds of letters Vincent van Gogh wrote to family and friends are combined with all the art he discusses in his writing in a new publication that paints the clearest picture yet of the Dutch artist's thoughts and work October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Van Gogh Museum/Handout</p>