The Letters of Vincent van Gogh: A Critical Study by Patrick GrantThe Letters of Vincent van Gogh: A Critical Study by Patrick Grant

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh: A Critical Study

byPatrick Grant

Paperback | May 1, 2014

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When he died at the age of thirty-seven, Vincent van Gogh left alegacy of over two thousand artworks, for which he is justly famous.But Van Gogh was also a prodigious writer of letters—more thaneight hundred of them, addressed to his parents, to friends such asPaul Gauguin and, above all, to his brother Theo. His letters have longbeen admired for their exceptional literary quality, and art historianshave occasionally drawn on some of the letters in their analysis of thepaintings. And yet, to date, no one has undertaken a criticalassessment of this remarkable body of writing, not as a footnote to thepaintings but as a highly sophisticated literary achievement in its ownright. Patrick Grant’s long-awaited study provides such anassessment and, as such, redresses a significant omission in the fieldof Van Gogh studies.

As Grant demonstrates, quite apart from furnishing a highlyrevealing self-portrait of their author, the letters are compellingboth for their imaginative and expressive power and for the perceptivecommentary they offer on universal human themes. Through a subtleexploration of Van Gogh’s contrastive style of thinking and hisfascination with the notion of imperfection, Grant illuminates gradualshifts in Van Gogh's ideas on religion, ethics, and art. Byanalyzing the metaphorical significance of a number of key images inthe letters, he draws out unexpected psychological and conceptualconnections, while also probing the relationships that become visiblewhen the letters are viewed together, as a cohesive literary product.The result is a wealth of new insights into Van Gogh’s innerlandscape.


A mature scholar and established literary critic, Patrick Grant is professor emeritus of English at the University of Victoria. He is the author of Imperfection (nominated for the Canada Prize), Literature, Rhetoric, and Violence in Northern Ireland, and Personalism and the Politics of Culture among other works.
Title:The Letters of Vincent van Gogh: A Critical StudyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:225 pages, 9 × 6.03 × 0.6 inPublished:May 1, 2014Publisher:Athabasca University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1927356741

ISBN - 13:9781927356746


Table of Contents


Preface and Acknowledgements

Introduction: Letters as Literature

Part I   Vincent Agonistes: Religion, Morality, Art

Religious Convictions, Moral Imperatives

The Artistic Life and Its Limits

Part II  Thinking in Images

           Birds’ Nests: Art and Nature, Exile and Return

           The Mistral: Creativity and Adversity

           Cab Horses: Despair and Optimism


Part III Exploring with Ideas

           By Heart: The Creative Unconscious

            AHandshake Till Your Fingers Hurt: Autonomy and Dependency

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


Conclusion: “My Own Portrait in Writing”