“I’d also like to see if I can’t make my own portrait in writing. First I start by saying that to my mind the same person supplies material for very diverse portraits.” ~ Vincent van Gogh, Arles, 1888
Vincent van Gogh’s life and work has been thoroughly studied by art critics, historians, and biographers. We know about the artist’s personal struggles and the development of his painting technique because he detailed much of it in letters to friends and family.
In fact, there are more than 800 pieces of correspondence written by van Gogh that have been collected and translated into numerous languages because they provide such a rich source of information about the mysterious and tumultuous life of the artist.
What makes the letters so interesting is not only what they reveal about van Gogh as a painter but what they reveal about the human condition.
As Patrick Grant, literary critic and professor emeritus of the University of Victoria, so eloquently states in his first book about van Gogh’s letters: “this remarkable correspondence exercises upon us the same kind of challenging and revelatory power as does a great work of literature.”
Patrick Grant has explored this great work of literature in two separate publications with AU Press, the first book, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh is a critical study of the letters and the second, more recent publication, My Own Portrait in Writing, is a theoretical analysis of the correspondence.
In these two books, Grant provides ample proof that this body of writing is much more than a footnote to van Gogh’s paintings, rather it should be regarded as a work of literature and yet another example of the man’s genius.