The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has the world’s largest collection of paintings and drawings by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). It is also the custodian of almost all the surviving letters to and from the artist. Of the 902 letters that have been preserved, the museum has 845. These letters contain a wealth of information. It is fascinating to read about Van Gogh’s development, from the first steps in his artistic career to his later crises.
In Van Gogh’s day, letter-writing was the primary means of exchanging news. For Van Gogh, however, it was more than that. He also used writing to express his ideas about subjects such as art and his development as an artist. Van Gogh had a rich and evocative style not only in Dutch but also in French, a language he began using in his letters in 1888, when he lived in southern France.
Around 350 letters written by Van Gogh and others are now accessible in the Memory of the Netherlands, along with a selection of his paintings and drawings, various documents, and many photos, all from the collection of the Van Gogh Museum.
The scholarly edition of the complete correspondence of Vincent van Gogh, with detailed notes, can be found at www.vangoghletters.org. A six-volume book edition is available in three languages (Dutch, English and French): Vincent van Gogh – The Letters. The Complete Illustrated and Annotated edition. Edited by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker. Published by the Van Gogh Museum, Huygens Institute-KNAW, Mercator Fund and Amsterdam University Press. International co-editions with Thames & Hudson and Actes Sud (2009).