Essential words: Vincent van Gogh Dixit

“And so I go on like an IGNORAMUS, one who knows just one thing: WITHIN A FEW YEARS I MUST HAVE DONE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF WORK – I don’t need to RUSH, for there is no point in that, but I must CARRY ON WORKING in complete calm and serenity, as regularly and with as much concentration as possible… The world concerns me only in as far as I owe it a certain DEBT and DUTY, so to speak, because I have walked this earth for 30 years, and out of gratitude would like to leave some memento in the form of drawings and paintings – not made to please this school or that, but to express a genuine human feeling. So that work is my aim…”

excerpt from august 1883 letter to Theo)
(p. 229, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, Penguin Classics, 1996)

One of my prefered self portraits by Vincent van Gogh

The modesty, the beauty of his words needs no comment.Vincent said it when he turned 30…

I could say these words myself, word for word, changing only the 30 with 56. I certainly do subscribe to them and that is my credo too. Nothing fancy. No artsy-fartsy “démarche artisitique”

A wise man in a Andre Malraux novel was asked once “What can a man do best with his life?” and the wise man answered: “témoigner de son vécu” (not easy to translate that faithfully in English: “to give testimony of your personal, unique experience of life”, maybe? or “bear witness of his life experience”?)

Well, what other does an artist do than “bear witness of his life experience” while leaving “some memento in the form of drawings and paintings” ?

Danu, just after his 56 anniversary…

Note. The masculine form is use for simplification only and of course all this is equally true for women artists. The above text is revised post from my older blog “Danu’s Small World”. some good stuff there, I don’t see any reason to let it go to waste…



11 responses to “Essential words: Vincent van Gogh Dixit

  1. Thanks for that, Danu. You make me want to read his letters again and see them from the new angle of the ten years that passed, that changed me completely.

  2. Thanks, will check it out.

  3. Thanks again for another lovely post!
    I thank you also for being the human being you are: humble enough to share and appreciate other’s greatness!
    Thank you once again for reminding me Van Gogh’s letters that I, in a sudden, anxiously need to re-read. I was quite young (21) when I read them for the first time, probably not all, but a number enough to love and admire Vincent van Gogh even more!
    Keep on “witnessing your life’s experience” and share it with the ones you believe deserve being part of this “sharing”. That’s really the only “important” thing one can do, since we are so “tiny” particles of nothing, so ephemeral, so infinitely unimportant in this world of “ours”…
    Your work (being the eyewitness of your life) will make you somehow eternal. The person you are, the real “self”, Ivanu in flesh and body will remain eternal in the memory of those, and only of those who can love.
    And… don’t be sad nor disappointed! This is just what I believe in… And it is applied to everyone…
    I really think the best one can leave behind is “some memento”… and some good one(s), showing how human we were, how we felt, the way we felt… ‘Cause at least we felt!!! And that, through our work, others can feel, too. Maybe laugh, maybe cry… Maybe just stand still and think… or simply admire the beauty of colours and of the “games they played among them”. And relax for a while. And rest peacefully…
    Or that through our work they can read nice and quiet words or they can read others who make them think, react and fight… Other words may make them cry, or yell out of anger or rage… others, well, others probably will take them to places they have never dreamt of or to feelings they thought were definitely dead… And the words give them life, peace, quietness, empathy, companionship, whisper them “you’re not alone.”
    Exactly the same happens when your work is music and you allow people to fly, to fly away… to dream and dream, and dance…
    In a word, when your “mementos” relate to the “art of expression”, your work is not better than others, but it is somehow “nobler”: it comes from the mind/soul and is directed to others’ minds and souls. It is meant to fill/feed the spirit. Its aim is the human feeling, both from the author, to the ones who eventually will appreciate it. And the creator hopes for it, naturally!!!

    Sorry for being so long… I kind of “stole” your protagonism…but I kind of got too enthusiastic on the subject and lost in time…

    (Happy birthday! Too late, but…)

    Leave you a warm Portuguese hug


  4. Reblogged this on nós and commented:
    Mais um fantástico artigo do querido amigo “Ivanu”.

  5. P.S. Such a long comment the one of mine and I forgot to tell… that the noblesse of the “art de création”, of the art of expressing feelings of emotions lays on the fact that it “feeds” the most thirsty part of our body: the mind / spirit (whatever words you may use to define it). It allows us to enjoy life, to see and live it in a different angle, it exercises our hypothalamus, it gives us strength to carry on, gives us the best of the best sides of life, of beauty, of…of…
    Art is a sort of cure or therapy. Art is life.


  6. Long is good, Celeste! Thanks a bunch (as they say) for your visit and especially for your king, warm words. They warmed my heart because I see all my (our) work is not for nothing. Thanks also for rebloging this. You have my blessing for all the posts you like. Art is life, no doubt and art si therapy (no doubt there either, I have written some post about that too… there is a beautiful citation from Graham Greene somewhere on my blog…) I regret I cannot read and write and draw and paint all day long. Bloody bills and the trivial need to pay them! Sorry I cannot visit more often your blog. I’ll try anyway and I’m honored and very glad to have you as a fellow artist, friend, in the long but interesting path of art. Best wishes and muito obrigado!

  7. Dear Ivanu:

    I’m not really an artist. I’m more one of those who loves art and appreciates the creative side of life. I’m very creative myself in a wide range of aspects of my life / personality and I’d “die” living if it was taken away from me.
    Fortunately I’ve had a job that allowed me to be creative enough and to wake up and develop others’ creativity. (“””)

    I graduated to become a teacher and I’ve dedicated heart and soul to this job, that I always saw as a mission, till six years ago. I’ve studied English and German and I’m about to have to put an end to a 20 year old career. Life can be cruel sometimes, ’cause people are envious and mediocre. And when they want and have the so-called power (and you’re yourself too much), they can really destroy you.
    I didn’t lose my job 6 years ago, but my “bipolar disorders” have increased since then and something very deep inside me changed and died.
    At this very moment I’m giving up teaching, not ’cause I’m not able to do the job, but because my moods change a lot and I don’t always have motivation enough to wake up, to get up, to go to work. It’s not students’ fault (I teach teenagers between 13 and 18) and I do not want to harm them ’cause I miss lessons… I’m no guarantee for no one, that’s how I feel and it hurts so damn much, when you’ve always loved your job and the students, above all.
    It also hurts (and it is not new) and hurts when you’re a gifted human being (for a lot of things) and you feel “your legs are cut, and you won’t walk again.” And these legs are your inside; nobody sees them.
    I’ll keep on working at the same school for a while, doing other things, but not teaching. Then I’ll change my career. To what I have no idea yet. It’s not in my hands to decide. But if I could, I’d rather retire and do other non-burocratic stuff.
    The teacher in me is about to die. Or not. Maybe I wish to kill it not to suffer so much, ’cause I’ll be seeing students everyday.
    But someone once told me: “Once a teacher, always a teacher.”
    I’ll keep on writing as I use to do for more than 20 years. I’m 42. It’s too early to give up and die, although sometimes I feel like it. These last six years have sounded a bit like that: a constant threat, a constant fight, going down, going up… reacting like a beast in a cage, laying on the bed, crying for mum who passed away 4 years ago, without strength, feeling lost and lonely… And feeling helpless, scared, sick, “a lamb to the slaughter”.
    Then I started to paint, but I really can’t do it. I haven’t learnt how to do it. I can’t draw and I used to be the worst student in drawing and art in my class. But, all of a sudden, I found peace and quiet among the oil pastels and the canvas, among the colours and the forms that come to my mind and that I paint directly on the canvas… And I like it. At least it does me good and I don’t need to spend money on paintings to decorate my walls…
    I’ve offered some of my “paintings”, to some special people and they loved them, but I guess just because they came from me! They are simply too nice! I know I still have a very long way to go… Or maybe I’ll even get nowhere. It really doesn’t matter. It fills my mind and is another way of expressing my inside…
    Bloody bills, yeap! We work to pay them, as slaves.

    Send you all my love and my admiration! You are an artist… I’d like to be one… but my life will be resumed in a word: “almost”.



  8. You ARE an artist, C! In my opinion, an artist is not one who has “talent”, nor one with a formal artistic education (they can be, but it’s not the most important thing). I think to be an arrtist is a frame of mind, a certain vision and perspective you have on life. And you certainly are one.
    I cannot promise you regularity and prompt answers always (life being complicated and bills piling up) but if you send me on my private email some reproductions of your works I can give an opinion and some advice to improve, if you want. (I do that for a good friend from Spain, a very interesting blogger too – mainly art history – and he made great progress; but I,m kind of late, sometimes, answering him…) We could discuss more.
    Anyway, drawing and painting saved my life when I was about your age: I was so depressed you can, probably, imagine. But, just drawing and painting, I got out my demons (some of my depression drawings and paintings are pretty gruesome) and now I am relatively well. don’t see why not it cannot do the same thing for you… Doesn’t matter how successful or “beautiful” your works are (or become; and it’s bossible they would be…) Important is to do it and keep doing it, if you like it to do. Best wishes for the moment and write me more on

  9. Thanks for being such a sweet, human and understanding person!

    Certainly I’ll write you more often and I’ll try to send you some pics of my works. But don’t worry too much: take your time as I’ll take mine. First of all I need to re-organize my life and then I’ll think about it.
    I thank you again and again for your nice generous help. It’s not everyday one meets someone like you. Well, in fact you found me!

    Best wishes and take good care of you!



    • Good luck with the re-organization, C! it’s a sometimes an inebriating process, you feel this exaltation simplifying your life… it’s nice or, at least, interesting.
      You make me blush and I do not totally recognize myself in your words…I feel more like an old geezer artist, trying to be kind (Aldous Huxley, the British writer who was preoccupied with Philosophia Perennis, asked at the end of his long, creative life, what is the most important thing in life answered : “To be kind” and I was marked by this idea). Anyway, keep in touch and write me whenever you feel like. Cannot promise I would immediately answer (my life is pretty complicated) but I will always answer, eventually. Best wishes to you! Danu

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