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[book cover] The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Patrick Grant

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May 2014

9781927356746 (Paperback)
9781927356753 (PDF)
9781927356760 (ePub)


Cultural Dialectics

Literary Criticism & Theory



About the Book

When he died at the age of thirty-seven, Vincent van Gogh left a legacy of over two thousand artworks, for which he was justly famous. But van Gogh was also a prodigious writer of letters—more than eight hundred of them, addressed to his parents, to friends such as Paul Gauguin and, above all, to his brother Theo. His letters have long been admired for their exceptional literary quality, and art historians have sometimes drawn on some of the letters in their analysis of the paintings. And yet, to date, no one has undertaken a critical assessment of this remarkable body of writing—not as a footnote to the paintings but as a highly sophisticated literary achievement in its own right. Patrick Grant’s long-awaited study provides such an assessment and, as such, redresses a significant omission in the field of van Gogh studies.

As Grant demonstrates, quite apart from furnishing a highly revealing self-portrait of their author, the letters are compelling for their imaginative and expressive power, as well as for the perceptive commentary they offer on universal human themes. Through a subtle exploration of van Gogh’s contrastive style of thinking and his fascination with the notion of imperfection, Grant illuminates gradual shifts in van Gogh's ideas on religion, ethics, and art. He also analyzes the metaphorical significance of a number of key images in the letters, which prove to yield unexpected psychological and conceptual connections, and probes the relationships that surface when the letters are viewed as a cohesive literary product. The result is a wealth of new insights into van Gogh’s inner landscape.


About the Author

Patrick Grant, professor emeritus of English at the University of Victoria, is best known for his studies on literature and religion. He is the author, most recently, of Imperfection and of Literature, Rhetoric, and Violence in Northern Ireland, 1968-98.



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Copyright: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.5 CA). It may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided that the original author is credited.


Download the entire book

Select a Chapter

DownloadFront Matter

DownloadTable of Contents

DownloadPreface and Acknowledgements

DownloadIntroduction: Letters as Literature

Part I. Vincent Agonistes: Religion, Morality, Art

Download1. Religious Convictions, Moral Imperatives

เกมส์ยิงปลาออนไลน์Download2. The Artistic Life and Its Limits

Part II. Thinking in Images

Download3. Birds’ Nests: Art and Nature, Exile and Return

Download4. The Mistral: Creativity and Adversity

Download5. Cab Horses: Despair and Optimism

Part III. Exploring with Ideas

Download6. By Heart: The Creative Unconscious

Download7. A Handshake Till Your Fingers Hurt: Autonomy and Dependency

Download8. Something New Without a Name: Beyond Religion, Morality, Art

DownloadConclusion: “My Own Portrait in Writing”




“I found Grant’s arguments to be thorough, persuasive, and clearly presented… […] the book seems to have no flaws. It is a worthy read and a deserving addition to the libraries of literary and visual scholars alike.”

—Robert Belton, University of Toronto Quarterly