CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Van Goghs brieven: de kunstenaar aan het woord

Van Gogh’s letters: the artist speaks Exhibition: 9 October 2009 - 3 January 2010

From the museum website, 22 September 2008

2009 sees the culmination of fifteen years of research into Van Gogh’s correspondence with the launch of an academic website detailing the complete results of the research, the publication of a five-volume book in three languages, and a special exhibition in the Van Gogh Museum.

The exhibition Van Gogh’s letters in the Rietveld building offers a multi-faceted and penetrating view of Van Gogh as letter-writer and artist. Quotations from his letters guide the visitor through his paintings and those of his contemporaries, offering insights into Van Gogh’s views on art and the role of the artist.

The exhibition will also feature a considerable number of original manuscripts of his letters, containing wonderful sketches of works he was busy with or had recently completed. These important documents have seldom or never been on public display due to their extreme fragility and sensitivity to light. The exhibition offers visitors a unique opportunity to compare the letter sketches to the paintings and drawings on which they are based.

The letters of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) left to the world one of the most fascinating bodies of artistic correspondence. The 900 letters, around 820 by and 80 to Van Gogh, narrate in a direct and compelling style the story of his eventful life, his close ties with his brother and confidant Theo, and the development of his work.

‘There are so many people, especially among our pals, who imagine that words are nothing. On the contrary, don’t you think, it’s as interesting and as difficult to say a thing well as to paint a thing.’ (Vincent van Gogh to Emile Bernard, 19 April 1888)

New scholarly edition

Over the last 15 years work on a new scholarly edition of the correspondence of Vincent van Gogh has been undertaken in collaboration with the Huygens Institute in The Hague. The result will be published in October 2009: a comprehensive, up-to-date edition for an international audience that reflects the current state of scholarship in the field, rendered both digitally and in book form. For the first time, all the works to which Van Gogh refers will be shown alongside the letters: not only the paintings and drawings on which he himself was working but also the works of art by others of which he wrote. In this way the rich visual world of Van Gogh is brought to life.

Web edition

The English-language web edition contains all 902 letters to and from Van Gogh in their original languages (Dutch and French) with new English translations and images of the authentic manuscripts. The letters are furnished with extensive annotations and illustrations of all works of art mentioned in the correspondence. The web edition also offers extensive search possibilities and will be freely accessible from 8 October 2009.

Book edition

Vincent van Gogh – The Letters: The complete, illustrated edition
Compiled by Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakker
2,180, six volumes, hardcover, ca. 4,300 illustrations
Van Gogh Museum/Huygens Institute/Mercatorfonds/Thames & Hudson. International co-editions: Actes Sud (French) and Amsterdam University Press (Dutch)

To be published in October 2009.


The Vincent van Gogh Foundation
The Turing Foundation
The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Linea d’Ombra
and others

Related events

News about this exhibition