Vincent van Gogh Quotes

Vincent Willem van Gogh, 1853 – 1890

Born: 30 March 1853, Groot-Zundert, Netherlands
Died: 29 July 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise, France

Vincent was the son of a preacher, but his unstable emotions and lack of self-confidence lead him to fail at several careers and two romances before he chose to become an artist. His early works, done shortly after his training in Belgium, were very much genre works, with a dark palette and sharp lighting. He left Belgium for Paris in 1886, where his brother Théo managed a gallery, studied with Cormon, and met Pissarro, Monet, and Gauguin. Their influence led him to lighten his palette and paint in short, Impressionistic brush strokes. Unfortunately, between his nervous temperament and night-long discussions, his health suffered and he decided to go south to Arles, where he hoped that the others would follow and help him found an art school. Gauguin did in fact follow him, but it was a disaster. In 1888, Gauguin left Arles, and Van Gogh pursued him with an open straight razor. Gauguin stopped him, but while they struggled, Van Gogh sliced part of his own earlobe off.

This trauma triggered massive swings between madness and lucidity, and he was sent to the asylum of Saint-Remy for treatment. He seemed to improve and by May 1890, he was released to live in Auvers-sur-Oise. Two months later, he shot himself, “for the good of all.” Van Gogh’s life was short, and his best works were produced in the last three years of his life, but his works, such as Starry Night, Wheat Field With Cypresses, and Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, are now among the most valuable paintings.

Vincent van Gogh quotes:

A good picture is equivalent to a good deed.
    Vincent van Gogh

A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.
    Vincent van Gogh

Ah! Portraiture, portraiture with the thought, the soul of the model in it, that is what I think must come.
    Vincent van Gogh

An artist needn’t be a clergyman or a churchwarden, but he certainly must have a warm heart for his fellow men.
    Vincent van Gogh

Art demands constant observation.
    Vincent van Gogh

As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed.
    Vincent van Gogh

Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.
    Vincent van Gogh

But are not this struggle and even the mistakes one may make better, and do they not develop us more, than if we kept systematically away from emotions?
    Vincent van Gogh

But for one’s health as you say, it is very necessary to work in the garden and see the flowers growing.
    Vincent van Gogh

Conscience is a man’s compass, and though the needle sometimes deviates, though one often perceives irregularities when directing one’s course by it, one must still try to follow its direction.
    Vincent van Gogh

Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.
    Vincent van Gogh

Don’t forget that little emotions are the great captains of our lives.
    Vincent van Gogh

Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.
    Vincent Van Gogh

Exaggerate the essential, leave the obvious vague.
    Vincent van Gogh

Gauguin says that when sailors have to move a heavy load or raise an anchor, they all sing together to keep them up and give them vim. That’s just what artists lack!
    Vincent van Gogh

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.

Vincent van Gogh
How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside me, what can it be?

Vincent van Gogh
How difficult it is to be simple.

Vincent van Gogh
How lovely yellow is! It stands for the sun.

Vincent van Gogh
I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things.

Vincent van Gogh
I am a man of passions, capable of and subject to doing more or less foolish things — which I happen to regret, more or less, afterwards.

Vincent van Gogh
I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.

Vincent van Gogh
I am always hoping to make a discovery here, to express the feelings of two lovers by a marriage of two complementary colors, their minglings and their oppositions, the mysterious vibrations of kindred tones.

Vincent van Gogh
I am crazy about two colors: carmine and cobalt. Cobalt is a divine color and there is nothing so beautiful for creating atmosphere. Carmine is as warm and lively as wine… the same with emerald green.

Vincent van Gogh
I am not an adventurer by choice but by fate.

Vincent van Gogh

1886 letter in The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Vol. 2 (1958)
I believe more and more that God must not be judged on this earth. It is one of His sketches that has turned out badly.

Vincent van Gogh

quoted by Albert Camus, “Rebellion and Art” in The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt (1951)
I believe that one thinks much more soundly if the thoughts arise from direct contact with things, than if one looks at things with the aim of finding this or that in them.

Vincent van Gogh
I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.

Vincent van Gogh
I can’t work without a model. I won’t say I turn my back on nature ruthlessly in order to turn a study into a picture, arranging the colors, enlarging and simplifying; but in the matter of form I am too afraid of departing from the possible and the true.

Vincent van Gogh
I devour nature ceaselessly. I exaggerate, sometimes I make changes in the subject; but still I don’t invent the whole picture. On the contrary, I find it already there. It’s a question of picking out what one wants from nature.

Vincent van Gogh

I do not know myself how I paint it. I sit down with a white board before the spot that strikes me. I look at what is before my eyes, and say to myself, that white board must become something.

Vincent van Gogh
I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.

Vincent van Gogh
I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.

Vincent van Gogh
I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful. I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.

Vincent van Gogh
I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can destroy oneself, go mad or commit a crime. In short, I have tried, by contrasting soft pink with blood-red and wine-red, soft Louis XV-green and Veronese green with yellow-greens and harsh blue-greens, all this in an atmosphere of an infernal furnace in pale sulphur, to express the powers of darkness in a common tavern.

Vincent van Gogh

describing “Night Café”
I have walked this earth for 30 years, and, out of gratitude, want to leave some souvenir.

Vincent van Gogh
I hope I shall be able to make some drawings in which there is something human.

Vincent van Gogh
I must continue to follow the path I take now. If I do nothing, if I study nothing, if I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it — keep going, keep going come what may.

Vincent van Gogh

letter to Theo van Gogh (July 1880)
I never get tired of the blue sky.

Vincent van Gogh
I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.

Vincent van Gogh
I put my heart and soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.

Vincent van Gogh
I sometimes think there is nothing so delightful as drawing.

Vincent van Gogh
I try more and more to be myself, caring relatively little whether people approve or disapprove.

Vincent van Gogh
I want to paint men and women with that something of the external which the halo used to symbolize, and which we now seek to give by the actual radiance and vibrancy of our colorings.

Vincent van Gogh
I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say, ‘he feels deeply, he feels tenderly’.

Vincent van Gogh

I will not live without love.

Vincent van Gogh
I wish they would only take me as I am.

Vincent van Gogh
I work as diligently on my canvases as the laborers do in their fields.

Vincent van Gogh
I would rather die of passion than of boredom.

Vincent van Gogh
If one is the master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things.

Vincent van Gogh
If one really loves nature, one can find beauty everywhere.

Vincent van Gogh
If the storm within gets too loud, I take a glass too much to stun myself.

Vincent van Gogh
If we study Japanese art, we see a man who is undoubtedly wise, philosophic and intelligent, who spends his time doing what? He studies a single blade of grass.

Vincent van Gogh
If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.

Vincent van Gogh
In a certain way I am glad I have not learned painting.

Vincent van Gogh
In an artist’s life, death is perhaps not the most difficult thing.

Vincent van Gogh
In spite of everything I shall rise again: I will take up my pencil, which I have forsaken in my great discouragement, and I will go on with my drawing.

Vincent van Gogh
In the end we shall have had enough of cynicism, skepticism and humbug, and we shall want to live more musically.

Vincent van Gogh
It always strikes me, and it is very peculiar, that, whenever we see the image of indescribable and unutterable desolation of loneliness, poverty, and misery, the end and extreme of things the thought of God comes into one’s mind.

Vincent van Gogh
It is a pity that, as one gradually gains experience, one loses one’s youth.

Vincent van Gogh

It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent.

Vincent van Gogh
It is good to love many things, for therein lies strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done with love is well done.

Vincent van Gogh
It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.

Vincent van Gogh
It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to…. The feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.

Vincent van Gogh
It is not the language of painters but the language of nature one should listen to.

Vincent van Gogh
It is with the reading of books the same as with looking at pictures; one must, without doubt, without hesitations, with assurance, admire what is beautiful.

Vincent van Gogh
It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly colored than the day.

Vincent van Gogh
Just dash something down if you see a blank canvas staring at you with a certain imbecility. You do not know how paralyzing it is, that staring of a blank canvas which says to the painter: you don’t know anything.

Vincent van Gogh
Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.

Vincent van Gogh
Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.

Vincent van Gogh

letter to his brother Theo (6 July 1889)
Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.

Vincent van Gogh
My great longing is to make those very incorrectnesses, those deviations, remodellings, changes in reality, so that they may become, yes, lies if you like — but truer than the literal truth.

Vincent van Gogh
One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever come to sit by it. Passersby see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on the way.

Vincent van Gogh
One must never let the fire go out in one’s soul, but keep it burning.

Vincent van Gogh
Only he can be an artist who has a religion all his own – an original way of viewing infinity.

Vincent van Gogh

Our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.

Vincent van Gogh
Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter’s soul.

Vincent van Gogh
People are often unable to do anything, imprisoned as they are in I don’t know what kind of terrible, terrible, oh such terrible cage.

Vincent van Gogh

letter to Theo van Gogh (July 1880)
Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it.

Vincent van Gogh
Still, there is a calm, pure harmony, and music inside of me.

Vincent van Gogh
Suffice it to say that black and white are also colors … for their simultaneous contrast is as striking as that of green and red, for instance.

Vincent van Gogh
The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storms terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.

Vincent van Gogh
The Mediterranean has the color of mackerel, changeable I mean. You don’t always know if it is green or violet, you can’t even say it’s blue, because the next moment the changing reflection has taken on a tint of rose or gray.

Vincent van Gogh
The more I become decomposed, the more sick and fragile I am, the more I become an artist.

Vincent van Gogh
The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.

Vincent van Gogh
The only time i feel alive is when I’m painting.

Vincent van Gogh
The thing has already taken form in my mind before I start it. The first attempts are absolutely unbearable. I say this because I want you to know that if you see something worthwhile in what I am doing, it is not by accident but because of real direction and purpose.

Vincent van Gogh
There are colors which cause each other to shine brilliantly, which form a couple which complete each other like man and woman.

Vincent van Gogh
There are so many people, especially among our comrades, who imagine that words are nothing — on the contrary, isn’t it true that saying a thing well is as interesting and as difficult as painting it?

Vincent van Gogh
There is no blue without yellow and without orange.

Vincent van Gogh

There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.

Vincent van Gogh
There is the same difference in a person before and after he is in love, as there is in an unlighted lamp and one that is burning.

Vincent van Gogh
Those Dutchmen had hardly any imagination or fantasy, but their good taste and their scientific knowledge of composition were enormous.

Vincent van Gogh
Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.

Vincent van Gogh
Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.

Vincent van Gogh

letter to Theo van Gogh (21 July 1882)
To do good work, one must eat well, be well housed, have one’s fling from time to time, smoke one’s pipe, and drink one’s coffee in peace.

Vincent van Gogh
What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.

Vincent van Gogh

letter to Theo van Gogh (21 July 1882)
What is true is that I have at times earned my own crust of bread, and at other times a friend has given it to me out of the goodness of his heart. I have lived whatever way I could, for better or for worse, taking things just as they came.

Vincent van Gogh

letter to Theo van Gogh (July 1880)
What molting time is to birds, so adversity or misfortune is … for us humans.

Vincent van Gogh

letter to brother Theo, quoted by Robert Wallace in The World of Van Gogh (1969)
What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?

Vincent van Gogh
When I have a terrible need of – shall I say the word – religion, then I go out and paint the stars.

Vincent van Gogh
Whoever lives sincerely and encounters much trouble and disappointment without being bowed down is worth more than one who has always sailed before the wind and has only known prosperity.

Vincent van Gogh
Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do. With such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.

Vincent van Gogh

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