Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh (29 June 1888) ... of at once in a single half
After that, the only thing to bring ease and distraction, in
my case and other people's too, is to stun oneself with a lot
of drinking or heavy smoking. Not very virtuous, no doubt, but
it's to return to the subject of Monticelli. I'd like to see a
drunkard in front of a canvas or on the boards. It is too gross
a lie, all the Roquette woman's malicious, Jesuitical slanders
Monticelli, the logical colourist, able to pursue the most
complicated calculations, subdivided according to the scales of
tones that he was balancing, certainly over-strained his brain
at this work, just as Delacroix did, and Richard Wagner.
And if perhaps he did drink, it was because he - and
Jongkind too - having a stronger constitution than Delacroix,
and more physical ailments (Delacroix was better off), well, if
they hadn't drunk - I for one am inclined to believe - their
nerves would have rebelled, and played them other tricks: Jules
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh (c. 22 July 1888) ... my work, and
come up again with my studies; if the storm within gets too
loud, I take a glass too much to stun myself.
Cracked, of course; when you look at what one ought to
But in the old days I used to feel less of a painter, now
painting is becoming a distraction for me, like rabbit hunting
for the cracked-brained: they do it to distract themselves.
My concentration becomes more intense, my hand more
That is why I almost dare to swear to you that my painting
will improve. Because I have nothing left but that.
Have you read in de Goncourt's book that Jules Dupré
gave them the impression that he was cracked too?
Jules Dupré had found a collector fellow who was
paying him. If only I could find that, and not be such a burden
After the crisis which I went through when coming down here,
I can make no plans or anything; I am decidedly better now, but
hope, the desire to succeed is gone, and I...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh (c. 21 April 1889) ... the more; but I can't say it as I felt it.
Meanwhile you do understand that if alcohol has undoubtedly
been one of the great causes of my madness, then it came on
very slowly and will go away slowly too, assuming it does go,
of course. Or the same thing if it comes from smoking. But I
should only hope that it - this recovery [probably a word has
been omitted here] the frightful superstition of some people on
the subject of alcohol, so that they prevail upon themselves
never to drink or smoke.
We are already ordered not to lie or steal, etc., and not to
commit other crimes great or small and it would become too
complicated if it was absolutely indispensable to have nothing
but virtues in the society in which we are very undeniably
planted, whether it be good or bad.
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh (6 July 1889) ... as it seems to me - pretty
I live soberly because I have a chance to, I drank
in the past because I did not quite know how to do otherwise. Anyway,
I don't care in the least!!! Very deliberate sobriety - it's
true - leads nevertheless to a condition in which thoughts, if
you have any, move more readily. In short, it is a difference
like painting in grey or in colours. I am going to paint more
in grey, in fact.
Only instead of paying money to a landlord, you give it to
the asylum, I do not see the difference - and it is hardly any
cheaper. The work is a thing apart and has always cost me a
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Wilhelmina van Gogh (c. 20-22 October 1889) ... crises I have are of an epileptic nature. Consequently
alcohol is also not the cause, though it must be understood
that it does me no good either. But it is difficult to return
to one's ordinary way of life while one is too despondent over
the uncertainty of misfortune. And one goes on clinging to the
affections of the past.
So, as I told you, I feel a nearly irresistible urge to send
something of my work to Holland, and if you should succeed in
getting people to accept anything, it will be my duty to
You will probably think the interior of the empty bedroom
with a wooden bedstead and two chairs the most unbeautiful
thing of all - and notwithstanding this I have painted it
twice , on a large scale.
I wanted to achieve an effect of simplicity of the sort one
finds described in Felix Holt. After being told this you may
quickly understand this picture, but it will probably remain
ridiculous in the eyes of others who have not been warned.