20 Quotes from Vincent van Gogh

20 Quotes from Vincent van Gogh

2015 Update: Don't miss Van Gogh's work at the Denver Art Museum exhibition In Bloom: Painting Flowers in the Age of Impressionism on view July 19October 11.

Here are 20 of the quotes incorporated on the gallery labels, audio guide, and elsewhere in the Becoming Van Gogh exhibition as part of the only-in-Denver portrayal of Vincent van Gogh's progression to becoming one of the world's most recognizable artists.

Click the link on each quote to see an English translation of the original letter where the quote appeared, all courtesy of Vincent van Gogh The Letters, created from years of Van Gogh Museum and Huygens ING's research. The quotes also appear in graphics below.

  1. “I'm drawing a great deal and think it's getting better.”—Vincent van Gogh, Etten, November 3, 1881, to Theo van Gogh
  2. “I now consider myself to be at the beginning of the beginning of making something serious.”—Vincent van Gogh, Etten, on or about December 23, 1881, to Theo van Gogh
  3. “Occasionally, in times of worry, I’ve longed to be stylish, but on second thought I say no—just let me be myself—and express rough, yet true things with rough workmanship.”—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, March 11, 1882, to Theo van Gogh
  4. "I'll start with small things."—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, August 5, 1882, to Theo van Gogh
  5. “As you can see, I am immersing myself in color—I've held back from that until now; and I don't regret it.”—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, September 3, 1882, to Theo van Gogh
  6. “I long so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things require effort—and disappointment and perseverance.”—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, September 9, 1882, to Theo van Gogh
  7. “I assure you that there’s a lot involved in compositions with figures. ... It’s like weaving... you must control and keep an eye on several things at once.”—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, October 8, 1882, to Theo van Gogh
  8. “For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together.”—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, Sunday, October 22, 1882, to Theo van Gogh
  9. “I’ve never felt a desire (and I don’t believe I ever shall) to bring the public to my work... a certain popularity seems to me the least desirable of things.”—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, on or about October 29, 1882, to Anthon van Rappard
  10. "Sometimes I long so much to do landscape, just as one would go for a long walk to refresh oneself, and in all of nature, in trees for instance, I see expression and a soul.”—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, December 10, 1882, to Theo van Gogh
  11. "I haven’t got it yet, but I’m hunting it and fighting for it, I want something serious, something fresh—something with soul in it! Onward, onward."—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, January 3, 1883, to Theo van Gogh
  12. “Drawing is the root of everything, and the time spent on that is actually all profit.”—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, 3 June 3, 1883, to Theo van Gogh
  13. "... now I say it less in words and more silently in work.”—Vincent van Gogh, The Hague, on or about June 16, 1883, to Theo van Gogh
  14. “I’ve just kept on ceaselessly painting in order to learn painting.”—Vincent van Gogh, Nuenen, on or about November 17, 1885, to Theo van Gogh
  15. "The uglier, older, meaner, iller, poorer I get, the more I wish to take my revenge by doing brilliant color, well arranged, resplendent."—Vincent van Gogh, Arles, September 9 and 14, 1888, to Willemien van Gogh
  16. “Ideas for work are coming to me in abundance…I’m going like a painting-locomotive.”—Vincent van Gogh, Arles, on or about September 11, 1888, to Theo van Gogh
  17. "I exaggerate, I sometimes make changes to the subject, but still I don’t invent the whole of the painting; on the contrary, I find it ready-made—but to be untangled— in the real world.”—Vincent van Gogh, Arles, on or about October 1888, to Emile Bernard
  18. “One can speak poetry just by arranging colors well, just as one can say comforting things in music.”—Vincent van Gogh, Arles, on or about November 12, 1888, to Willemien van Gogh
  19. “It is difficult to know oneself, but it isn’t easy to paint oneself either.”—Vincent van Gogh, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, September 5 and 6, 1889, to Theo van Gogh
  20. “One must spoil as many canvases as one succeeds with.” —Vincent van Gogh, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, November 26, 1889, to Theo van Gogh

You also can see closest-thing-to-actually-being-there gallery video from Becoming Van Gogh along with a slideshow, podcast, and more in our fond look back at the exhibition.

Image: Vincent van Gogh, (Dutch, 1853–1890; Active in France), Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies, 1887. Oil on canvas, 311⁄2 × 263⁄8 in. (80 × 67 cm), Triton Collection Foundation.

Fairlight Baer-Gutierrez was digital communications manager in the communications department at the Denver Art Museum.

Read more on: quote Vincent Van Gogh